8 Keys to Finding and Maintaining Talent in the Gig Economy

While a ‘gig’ used to be synonymous with musicians, many organizations and workers alike are now singing its praises. Known as the gig economy, freelance or contract jobs are the backbone for many organizations and a long-term career choice for talent. As this workforce expands – now at 35 percent of Americans according to Upwork – the question becomes how do human resources teams find and maintain gig economy talent? We’ll give you a hint: it isn’t using the same staffing strategies as for your full-time employees. Here are eight tips.

Finding the Talent

As with any hire, it’s about finding the right talent for your organization. But that’s pretty much where the similarities between recruiting traditional full-time employees and gig economy contractors or freelancers end.  To find them, you must understand who gig workers are – primarily Gen Z, but also Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers according to Upwork – and what they’re looking for – we’ll get to that.

  1. Define a clear scope of work – Of course, your human resources team would never be guilty of this, but we’ve all seen those long, vague job descriptions. For gig work, one of the main benefits is speed, so be as clear and concise as possible about the work needed and the results you seek. It will save you from the hassle of sifting through unqualified applicants and gig workers from losing precious time.
  2. Get eyes on the opportunity – Surprisingly, one of the best ways to find gig talent may be the easiest and most cost-efficient as well. Reach out to your organization’s network of alumni, existing employees, and vendors. You’ll also have more confidence in the hire if it’s someone you’ve already worked with or someone you trust can vouch for them. Another option is to engage a temporary staffing company or a labor platform to help you identify and vet qualified talent. Often these agencies and sites specialize in specific areas of expertise such as creative, design, manufacturing, healthcare or technology for example.
  3. Evolve how you evaluate talent –Human resources teams should place less weight on corporate fit and a stronger focus on proven ability to get results. To vet this, contract and freelance workers often have online portfolios available and if not, ask for a sample. Check with some of their past clients as well to determine whether they delivered quality work, met deadlines, stayed within budget and how well they communicated. You could even ask the applicant to complete a sample assignment, but be careful here to ensure it either doesn’t require a large amount of uncompensated time or offer to pay for the work being done.


Basically, you want them to want you too. We mentioned earlier that gig talent often chooses to be part of this specific workforce. Primary reasons to do so include work/life balance, flexibility, and autonomy. Plus, with more organizations buying-in that means you face more competition as independent contractors and freelancers can be choosier with the gigs that work best for them. To attract this talent, human resources should:

  1. Know what you’re getting – Again, many of these workers have chosen to leave traditional roles in order to have more flexibility in their schedule, the type of work they do and where they work. You know this going in, so don’t think you’re going to be able to then ask them to follow the traditional 9 to 5, in-the-office routine. It will backfire. The technology is there – video conferencing, shared documents, online project management tools – to make remote work seamless so take advantage of it.
  2. Make the experience better – Automate the onboarding process for gig workers and let them know you’ve made it quick and easy to conduct background screening and verify qualifications as well as to manage assignments and track invoices and payment. Beyond that give them an easy way to communicate with you on any issues they may have during their time with your organization.

Maintaining the Gig

Once you’ve found quality gig talent why let them go? While their positions may not be full-time, there’s no reason the gig can’t go on if the work is there. It’s simple, workers who are satisfied with what they’re doing and the client they are doing it for will clearly have less motivation to switch gigs.

  1. Pay them on time – Duh, right? But you may not realize how often organizations don’t. In fact, the New York Freelancers Union found that 44 percent of their members have had issues getting paid, averaging $10,000 in unpaid invoices. Gig workers have bills to pay and families to care for too. Don’t forget that and they’ll love you for it.
  2. Include them in training and development – If you’re already doing this for your current employees, why not include your gig workforce as well? You’ll benefit from enhancing their skillset and it can go a long way in increasing engagement as well as team-building between them and your full-time employees.
  3. Shatter the silos – Gig workers aren’t simply a means to an end. They can offer tremendous value to your organization. As such, don’t treat them less than just because they may only be working there temporarily. Show them you appreciate the quality of their work and what they offer by adopting a partner versus a vendor mindset. You can do this by encouraging collaboration, establishing lines of communication and by building a culture of mutual respect between your traditional and gig workers.

Bonus Tip for Human Resources

If we’ve learned anything about the gig economy, it’s that it’s changing all the time. One such moving part is how new legislation could impact the way you hire and retain this workforce. For example, there have been recent laws in New York and California that affect everything from freelancer payment to the classification of contractors. There will surely be more to come as the gig workforce increases making it increasingly important to pay close attention to legislation in each state in which you hire.

See how Vetty has helped companies just like yours with onboarding, applicant communication and compliance automation in the gig economy.

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Photo by Victor Xok on Unsplash

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