Embracing the Gig Economy: What Your Company Needs to Know

The gig economy is here to stay and will inevitably impact your company. Here’s what you should consider before engaging with gig workers, and how you can maximize your company’s potential for success in this evolving work landscape.

Understanding the Gig Economy

The gig economy marks a significant shift from the traditional workforce model of permanent, full-time employees. In this new paradigm, companies hire workers on a temporary basis to perform specific tasks or complete projects. The duration and scope of the work are usually defined by a contract.

Gig work spans nearly every industry and job type, from lower-wage delivery or driving services to high-wage white-collar professions and even medical services. Workers of all ages are participating in this dynamic employment trend.

The gig economy encompasses:

  • Freelancers
  • Independent contractors
  • Temporary workers
  • Full-time employees

What Drives the Growing Gig Economy?

Several key factors contribute to the expansion of the gig economy, making it an essential consideration for modern businesses.

1. Technology Transformation and Remote Work: Over the past decade, technological advancements have revolutionized the way office workers connect, collaborate, and produce efficiently from any location. It’s now easier than ever for individuals to access numerous desirable opportunities online, enabling them to work with multiple companies simultaneously without geographic constraints or the need for a physical office presence. Similarly, companies can now find flexible talent on short notice with ease.

2. The COVID-19 Pandemic and the Rise of Gig Work: The COVID-19 pandemic led to widespread layoffs, forcing many full-time employees to seek alternative income sources. They turned to gig work and found it met their needs better than traditional employment. Others reassessed their priorities and embraced gig work for its flexibility and improved work-life balance. People now prefer living life on their terms, without the fear of sudden job loss. The pandemic also pushed companies to rely heavily on technology to maintain operations, adopting digital platforms that enable remote work. This shift has accelerated the acceptance of remote and flexible work arrangements, further propelling the gig economy.

In the wake of reassessing their preferences and priorities, many individuals have opted for gig work to achieve the flexibility and work-life balance they desire. They seek to avoid the unpredictability of traditional employment and instead choose to live life on their own terms.

The pandemic accelerated the reliance on technology, enabling companies to maintain operations with minimal disruption. As a result, businesses have increasingly adopted digital platforms that support remote work. Over time, this shift has made companies more accepting of remote and flexible work arrangements, thereby accelerating the transition to the gig economy, a trend that was already gaining momentum before 2020.

Several factors contribute to the rise of the gig economy:

  • Economic Uncertainty: Ongoing economic instability has heightened job security concerns, prompting employees to seek alternative income streams as a safety net. High inflation rates have also driven individuals to find ways to enhance their earning potential.
  • Generational Shifts: Younger generations, particularly Generation Z, are redefining career norms. They prefer not to be solely identified by their jobs, view their potential as limitless, and pursue multiple passions. They value freedom and flexibility and are accustomed to job hopping to quickly gain experience and career growth, making gig work a natural fit.

How Does the Gig Economy Impact HR?

The gig economy is reshaping HR practices, offering both opportunities and challenges. Here’s how:


  • Flexibility in Workforce Management: HR departments can tap into a broader talent pool for specific projects or tasks, enhancing business agility and scalability.
  • Access to Specialized Skills: Hiring gig workers allows companies to bring in specialized skills for short-term needs, leading to increased efficiency and innovation.


  • Compliance with Labor Laws: Ensuring gig workers’ adherence to labor laws can be complex and varies by jurisdiction.
  • Remote Workforce Management: Effectively managing a dispersed workforce requires new strategies and technologies.
  • Maintaining Company Culture: Preserving a cohesive company culture among gig workers can be difficult.

To thrive in the gig economy, it’s essential to adapt your recruitment, onboarding, and retention strategies to meet the unique needs and expectations of gig workers. Balancing these with your organization’s overall objectives and values is key to success.


  • Less Commitment for Businesses: Hiring gig workers is less risky from a legal perspective and makes it easier to let go of underperforming workers compared to full-time employees.
  • Cost Reduction: Businesses save on long-term salaries and expensive benefits. Additionally, there’s no need for significant investment in prolonged training and development.
  • Access to Specialized Talent: Companies can hire experts with the precise skills and experience needed for specific jobs, minimizing the need for extensive training.
  • Geographical Flexibility: Businesses can tap into a vast and diverse talent pool without being restricted by location.
  • Scalability: Hiring gig workers allows businesses to efficiently scale their workforce up or down based on changing needs.


  • Lack of Loyalty: Gig workers typically have less loyalty and commitment to any one company, making it easy for them to leave quickly.
  • Challenges in Maintaining Culture: A distributed workforce of gig workers can make it difficult to sustain company culture and team cohesion.
  • Continuous Recruitment Cycle: Depending on work frequency and duration, companies might face a constant cycle of recruiting, which can drain time, funds, and resources.

HR’s Crucial Role in Thriving within the Gig Economy

The rise of the gig economy has necessitated significant adjustments in workforce management for business leaders. To help your business navigate and excel in this evolving landscape, while fostering strong relationships with gig workers, consider these ten essential strategies.

1. Demonstrate Respect

Gig workers often choose this career path due to the freedom and opportunities it presents, not out of necessity. With many options at their disposal, it’s crucial to earn their loyalty by showing respect. Here’s how:

  • Understand Their Motivations: Learn why they chose gig work and what drives them.
  • Treat Them with Courtesy and Professionalism: Always engage with them in a respectful and professional manner.
  • Honor Their Work Boundaries and Policies: Respect their work preferences unless they conflict with your company’s core values or practices.
  • Ensure They Feel Supported and Valued: Make sure they know they are an integral part of your team.
  1. Ensure Proper Worker Classification to Avoid Legal and Financial Issues

Are your gig workers truly independent contractors, or are they employees in practice? It’s crucial to understand the guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Labor and Internal Revenue Service, as well as state laws where your business operates, regarding the classification of workers as contractors versus employees. Misclassifying a worker can lead to significant legal and financial consequences.

Why does this matter? How you classify workers impacts:

  • Their payment structure
  • Eligibility for benefits
  • Employer tax obligations

To mitigate risks, make sure you’re not misclassifying workers as contractors when they should be employees. The government is increasingly vigilant about these errors, viewing them as attempts by businesses to avoid obligations and treat workers unfairly. Consequences of misclassification can include payment of back taxes, wages for misclassified employees, and substantial fines.

  1. Focus on Culture and Community for Gig Workers

Gig workers often spend limited time in your office, which can lead to feelings of isolation and disconnection. Since they are not full-time employees, their attachment to your company may be minimal, and they might not feel heavily invested in your company’s success. This can weaken your culture and teamwork unless you actively work to preserve them.

To help gig workers feel integrated and connected, even for a short time, you must build a cohesive team and maintain a positive workplace culture. Your objectives should be:

  • Ensuring all workers feel your company is a special place where they want to stay affiliated for as long as possible.
  • Providing all workers with a positive employee experience.

Additional Tips:

  • Offer gig workers an orientation and onboarding session to introduce them to your company’s values and culture, fostering a sense of belonging.
  • Practice inclusivity by inviting gig workers to company events and meetings.
  • Introduce them to team members and encourage collaboration, knowledge sharing, and the use of communication tools to enhance teamwork.

4. Embrace Flexibility and Prioritize Work-Life Balance

For many gig workers, flexibility is a key benefit of this type of work. They seek:

  • Greater control over their workday
  • The ability to balance work with personal obligations and adjust their schedule as needed
  • A working environment that promotes health and wellbeing, reducing stress and burnout

Typically, gig workers do not want a rigid schedule or excessive constraints on when, where, and how they work. To attract gig workers, ensure your company offers a flexible workplace. This often means allowing remote or hybrid work arrangements and enabling workers to set their own schedules.

Additionally, it’s crucial to classify workers correctly. Overly dictating a worker’s schedule and environment can lead the government to classify them as employees rather than contractors.

5. Develop a Recruiting Strategy

When hiring gig workers, your company will likely need to:

  • Recruit more frequently
  • Recognize that traditional recruiting methods for full-time employees may not apply
  • Make quicker hiring decisions to secure talent before they accept other gigs

You should:

  • Review, update, and streamline your recruiting processes
  • Create job descriptions that appeal to gig workers and their interests
  • Clearly define the ideal candidate for each job, considering the specific skills and experience needed

• Utilize job platforms that cater specifically to gig workers or those seeking short-term, flexible work

6. Offer Competitive and Fair Compensation

Attracting and retaining gig workers requires offering fair and competitive pay. When setting compensation rates for contractors, consider:

  • The specific role, skill level, and experience required.
  • Current market rates.
  • The value they bring to your business.

Be transparent about payment terms and methods from the start.

Note: Contractors and freelancers typically earn more than full-time employees for the same work due to:

  • Paying their own taxes.
  • Procuring their own benefits.
  • The short-term nature of their work.

7. Give Gig Workers a Voice

Engage gig workers by showing that you value their input and trust their expertise. Here’s how to give all workers a voice:

  • Communicate that your company has a speak-up culture.
  • Ask for their ideas and feedback.
  • Actively listen and follow up on their suggestions.

8. Recognize and Reward Gig Workers

Recognition and rewards are essential for motivating gig workers, just as they are for full-time employees. Include gig workers in your employee recognition programs and consider providing testimonials for their services. Positive word-of-mouth can help gig workers secure future jobs and foster their loyalty to your company.

9. Communicate regularly

The non-employee status of gig workers means that they can easily fall through the cracks when it comes to workforce communication. Don’t let this happen!

Regular communication is important not only for engaging gig workers, but for giving them the information and resources they need to do their jobs. It’s also critical for aligning expectations around their role, work output or deadlines, and preventing any misunderstandings.

Some tips:

  • Establish preferred methods of communication and schedule availability at the outset.
  • Set up a regular time for the gig worker’s main point of contact to check in with them and discuss project work, as your company would with any other employee.
  • Use project-management platforms to monitor the progression of work.
  • Include gig workers in company announcements or news.
  • Encourage collaboration with team members.
  • Promote open discussion.

10. Rethink performance management

Gig workers likely won’t be around long enough to conduct formal annual performance reviews. Instead, here’s how you can manage their performance:

  • Regularly share feedback on their performance throughout the course of their engagement with your company
  • Focus on clear, short-term objectives
  • Perform project-based assessments in which you evaluate the outcomes they achieved and the value they brought versus focusing on key performance indicators

Of course, don’t forget to solicit feedback from them about your company, too.