It seems the gig economy is inevitable. The COVID-19 crisis and the lockdown have paved the new path for gig workers. Companies have come to realise that going the gig way is mutually beneficial for both the parties. Therefore, they will soon have to come up with new ways to engage with the gig workers. And more importantly, they will need to rewrite the rules of engagement.
According to Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report, 41 per cent of executives report that prepping for engagement with gig workers is important.
Not just the research reports, even HR practitioners are of the opinion that it is necessary to engage gig workers. “An employer desirous of incremental productivity, will have to engage. Anybody who is engaged will always give a higher return, be it a student, permanent or gig worker,” says Lakshmanan MT, CHRO, L&T Technology Services.
workers seek employers who enable them to perform better at work
At the outset, Lakshmanan mentions that compensation or benefits are not the only form of engagement that organisations can provide. Workers need to feel connected to the higher purpose of the organisation. This can be ensured by helping them understand the culture and values of the organisation so that the work becomes meaningful for them.
In Indian workplaces, workers want to know what the company is incurring on them and whether they are being paid fairly for their time and effort. However, the benefits or salary paid to the employees can be modular or customised according to the workers’ needs. So, if a worker costs Rs. 10,000 then Rs. 8000 can be paid in cash and the rest in benefits, such as medical or PF.
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“The worker will want to look at a cafeteria approach. Whether he wants food coupons or medical benefits is up to the worker to decide,” explains Lakshmanan.
A customised approach towards providing benefits makes sense as there are different groups of workers who can be classified as gig workers. For instance, in management and consultancy companies, there are experts or specialists hired for specific and complex tasks at the highest level. These workers may not be looking for any special benefits apart from their generous compensation. However, a gig worker at a lower level, let’s say, middle management, may look for other benefits that permanent employees in his team are already receiving.
Better facilities for better productivity
Ravi Mishra, SVP-HR, Epoxy Business, Aditya Birla Group, says,”workers seek employers who enable them to perform better at work.”
For instance, in the manufacturing sector, every large organisation employs housekeeping staff who are in charge of cleanliness for the entire building or a plant. If these workers are provided with automated machines, which can reduce their effort while enabling them to perform their task better in a shorter span of time, they will be more likely to return to work for that employer.
Moreover, the added cost of buying extra equipment can be met in the near future. Instead of paying a regular employee, organisations will be paying a gig worker fixed wages for a fixed amount of time without incurring added overhead costs, which would otherwise be incurred with regular employees.
This is one avenue, which is applicable for all types of workers whether contractual or permanent. Apart from direct benefit in terms of compensation, providing workers with added benefits, such as learning will add to their sense of pride in working for the organisation.
An employer desirous of incremental productivity, will have to engage. Anybody who is engaged will always give a higher return, be it a student, permanent or gig worker,
In today’s day and age, organisations are looking towards new avenues where they can deploy automation, to a large or small degree. Mishra, taking the example of workers in the plants, mentions that such gig employees can be trained in new machinery or systems before starting work. Organisations can add a clause asking the employee to work for a fixed period of time in exchange for the training received. The worker will not mind doing so, as the training will lead to an increase in his market value.
Speaking specifically for the manufacturing industry, Mishra says that industry may see a shift in hiring more gig workers rather than keeping the contract labourers of today. With unions and strict labour laws, companies cannot remove these workers even if there is no work happening. Moreover, with increase in wages, the costs are increasing as well.
“Especially with COVID, companies will face the issue of profitability where they will look to reduce manpower costs. Here, organisations will look at hiring gig workers for a limited time and limited cost, thereby reducing the expenses for the company by a large margin,” elaborates Mishra.