Just as your business needs to build an attractive employer brand to engage with your permanent employees, it’s more important than ever to make sure you do the same to attract the best gig economy talent. Randstad’s employer branding experts look at how to reach out to this increasingly critical workforce.

Gig economy (sometimes known as contingent, flexible, or freelance) talent can no longer be seen as a supplementary form of staffing or an adjunct to the permanent workforce. While precise estimates vary according to the definition of contingent or gig workers, they now make up between 15-25% of the global workforce, and will account for 35-40% by 2025.

This is a talent cohort that largely defies generalisation, stretching from temporary and contract workers to a growing breed of highly paid and highly mobile specialists. Their motivations also range widely, from people looking to fit work around other commitments such as caring or studying to people who’ve adopted portfolio careers in which they can enjoy more pay, flexibility, and varied challenges by working on a contract or freelance basis.

For businesses, the rise of the gig economy reflects a number of drivers including the acceleration in digital transformation, the growing skills gaps, and the move to total talent management models. Gig workers also form part of the wider development of commercial ecosystems. This might be seeking ideas for innovation from crowdsourcing platforms or tapping into the expertise of start-ups and other third-party partners.

failing to keep pace

Are talent engagement and sourcing strategies keeping pace? Do they reflect the particular demands of gig talent? In many cases, the answer is no.

Research indicates that most ‘non-traditional’ workers are still hired on a tactical basis by procurement departments rather than gig talent being integrated into the workforce planning, employee value propositions (EVP) and employer branding strategies developed and managed by HR.

EVPs and employer branding strategies also tend to focus on permanent employees rather than bringing gig talent into the fold. Underlying debates centre on whether or not there should be a separate EVP and employer brand for gig and permanent employees.

boosting talent attraction

In our view, it’s perfectly possible and indeed preferable to create a compelling EVP and employer brand that appeal to both gig and permanent employees. For a start, separate EVPs and brands are costly to develop and have often delivered mixed results. Where they do work is when they augment rather than diverge from the overall approach.

Moreover, the debate over one or distinct approaches may miss the point. An effective EVP and employer brand recognises that all employees and potential recruits, permanent and gig alike, have varying and often quite individual aspirations. All talent should therefore be engaged and nurtured with their particular interests in mind. As such, gig talent shouldn’t receive special treatment. Rather, everyone in your talent ecosystem should get special treatment.

forging a connection

So, how can you make gig talent feel that their aspirations are being met and they that belong to your team in the same ways as permanent colleagues? Drawing on our own experience and insights from the Randstad Employer Branding Research, five priorities stand out:

1. build a thriving talent community

Create a community of talent that you can develop a long-term relationship with and draw on when needed. Rather than just being a pre-identified source of talent, this is an engaged community that is interested in your business, and a potential advocate. They might be people who’ve worked with you or applied in the past. They could also be followers on social media. It’s important to establish and maintain regular and targeted communications as part of the relationship.

2. your brand matters

The corporate mission and values of your company are the same when addressing all talent populations. However, there are ways to stand out among gig talent and foster a sense of belonging by offering attractions that other companies may not such as training, holiday pay or healthcare benefits. These are the clear differentiators for gig talent, not only in themselves, but also in signifying that they are valued by your business.

3. support career development

Gig talent may not prize particular aspects of your EVP such as career paths or job security. But they still want to develop their employability. Your EVP should reflect this. Alongside training, this include offering opportunities to take part in projects that will enrich their experience.

4. make relationships last

Today’s gig worker could be a great candidate for a permanent position in the future. It’s therefore important to nurture relationships over the long-term, and make sure your recruiters consider them first for any permanent position. This may save you time and money since you’re already familiar with this candidate.

5. look further afield

The surge in remote working in the wake of COVID-19 has broadened the pool of gig workers by demonstrating that talent can work from almost anywhere. For example, we might see people who would in the past have left rural areas to work in the city opting to stay closer to their roots. A compelling employer brand can help you to connect and build relationships with these new sources of extended talent.

discover our solutions

Our annual Randstad Employer Brand Research report can help employers understand more about what great gig talent wants and how to attract them.