Taking Advantage of the Gig Economy

by Jay Ramos
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I have two nieces, both Millennials, who are registered nurses. These girls worked very hard to put themselves through college and, along the way, accumulated a lot of debt to pay for it. Now they are working professionals, but they have a strong desire to also see the world. Because there is a shortage of nurses, these two don’t work full time with a direct hospital. They work as contract/travel nurses through a staffing agency. They rent a small, low-cost apartment as their home base, but they’re rarely there. With their contract jobs, they travel to different cities and states to work at different hospitals for three to six months at a time. Because of their low cost of living and flexible work schedule, when they’re not on contract, they get to travel the world for a month at a time. In the last two years, I have seen these ladies travel to Abu Dabi, Thailand, Europe, and Australia–not a bad life! My nieces are truly taking advantage of the gig economy!

What is the gig economy, and is it a good thing or not? The BBC gives two definitions that reveal the conflicting facets of the same term:

According to one definition, it is “a labour market characterised by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work, as opposed to permanent jobs.” And – taking opposing partisan viewpoints – it is either a working environment that offers flexibility with regard to employment hours, or… it is a form of exploitation with very little workplace protection.

Some people, like my nieces, enjoy being able to craft the lifestyle they want by accepting temporary, flexible jobs. Others, according to Investopedia.com, believe that the “gig economy undermines the traditional economy of full-time workers who rarely change positions and instead focus on a lifetime career.” There is also a danger of misclassifying independent contractors if you’re not up on all the rules. (You may recall our warning to employers that, since 2016, The Department of Labor has increasingly been investigating misclassification of workers.) But if Intuit’s recent study is correct and 40 percent of American workers will be independent contractors by 2020, perhaps the concept of traditional full-time workers is becoming a thing of the past.

In fact, an increasing number of U.S. employers are taking advantage of the gig economy. How can using contract workers and offering flexible job opportunities benefit you? We’ve observed several tangible ways that employers stay competitive by using temporary professionals provided by a staffing agency partner:

Improve Productivity

Bringing in temporary workers to handle work overload can prevent employee burnout of full-time staff. When work schedules are overloaded, employees can quickly become unmotivated and overwhelmed. This can increase mistakes made as well as decrease productivity. Increased absenteeism is often a side effect when this occurs. By bringing in temporary staff to handle the extra work load, full-time employees can continue to focus on their main job tasks while maintaining their productivity.

Try Before You Buy

Temporary employees give your organization a chance to try out an employee before making a permanent offer of employment. In some cases, a person may have the experience and education for a job but simply does not mesh well with the business environment. Having the opportunity to have the person work on a temporary basis first gives your business a chance to evaluate how the person will fit in with your corporate culture and other employees. It also provides time to identify any weaknesses that would not typically be evident in the interview process.

Decrease Costs

Temporary staff persons are employed by the staffing agency, not the business that is using their services. This can decrease the overall costs of the employee since your business does not have to provide benefits to a temporary staff member. In addition, bringing in temporary staff may reduce other overhead costs such as overtime for regular, full-time employees. While the per-hour cost may be more than the per-hour cost of a full-time employee, temporary staff can be used as needed without a commitment of a 40-hour workweek even if the work exists to support it.

Avoid Unemployment Claims

Because the temporary staff person is an employee of the staffing agency and not your business, there is no concern about the person filing for unemployment when you no longer need their services. This can also reduce your overall operating costs as your business’s unemployment claims rate will not be raised due to letting go of temporary staff. Human resources costs may also decrease as your HR managers will not be spending multiple hours dealing with unemployment claims and the Department of Labor.

Increase Flexibility

Temporary employees allow businesses to use staff as needed. Temporary employees can be brought in to cover the vacation of an employee or maternity leave. Many staffing agencies can provide employees in a wide variety of disciplines to meet all of the needs of your business. You have the flexibility to use the services of the temporary staff as needed, whether you need help for a few hours a week or on a full-time basis. Using a staffing agency can avoid the permanent commitment that a full-time employee requires, saving both time and money.

Employers, it looks like flexible workers are here to stay–at least for the near future. Are you ready to jump on board? Taking advantage of the gig economy could make your team more productive, improve your bottom line, help you avoid legal problems, and allow for scalability in your staff. Even if just one of these facts were true, engaging the services of a contract professional through your employment agency partner might be your smartest move of 2017.

Do you need help acquiring top contract or direct hire professionals? Let Amtec find you the best candidates, set you up to successfully interview them, and assist with offer negotiations, reference checks, and background checks. Click here or call (714) 993-1900 to start your search.

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