It was a sunny Friday morning in Singapore, and Janice, a team lead in an e-commerce company, was ensconced in a sofa at a Starbucks outlet. She was on a video call with her team members located in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. After the pandemic, she had chosen to give her team more flexibility to work in the safety of their own homes. With her fingers moving fast, and while still on the call, Janice took a quick screenshot of her team and posted it on social media with trending hashtags, that got her few instant likes and shares!
The focus of organisations for long has been to motivate, engage and keep their employees productive while simultaneously strengthening organisational culture and value systems. Most organisations were still working out conventional ways to engage and motivate Gen-Z employees when the pandemic struck. The operating planes shifted altogether towards digital transformation, remote working, adaptability, mental health and employee motivation. There was mass transition towards working remote with the young and the old, uniformly subject to the same pressure to adapt.
Workspaces are changing and there is no stopping it.
We all have arrived at an equilibrium now and are better prepared and equipped to manage remote work settings, employee wellbeing and mental health issues. The pandemic and global economy however is still evolving, and it will be a tough task to maintain this equilibrium for long. To match this evolution, companies will need to constantly change and adapt. One such change is fast picking up across industries - that of flexible and more on-demand workforces, that many of us call the ‘gig economy’.
Gig workforce represents the other ‘interesting’ side of the coin. These are the mobile employees who typically ‘do not belong’ to permanent workspaces, a team or a defined organisational culture. In spite of the nature of their work relationship, they haven’t proven to be unstructured in most business models.
Is it meant for my business?
Maybe. Maybe not.
It does lend flexibility in operations and access to services at a much lower cost. But, it’s not a model that works best for all organisations; especially those that focus and thrive on culture and values. This does not imply that businesses cannot leverage this model to derive benefits. In fact, gig economy is fast picking up as the future of workforce.
This brings us to the most important question:
What makes this bunch of employees, who work remotely, in disjoint setups, aligned to the organisational objectives and culture?
Here are a few tips…
Let them own it
Work from home and digitisation have enhanced employee accountability. They have also led to the creation of multiple power centres with more and more employees taking ownership of their work and being highly self-directed. Much like entrepreneurs within their organisation, they are driving the weight of the brand on their own shoulders.
This trend will be more evident in the new-to-workspace employees who come with high energy, DIY approach and agility. It’s an immense opportunity if you use it well.
Keep it simple
The best way to engage with these young and fast-paced employees is keeping things simple. Be it your brand mission and vision statement or the anthem, it must be direct, free of jargon and seemingly achievable.
Uber's mission is to bring transportation — for everyone, everywhere. Period.
Play… by the rule book.
Entrepreneurship brings along autonomy. And therefore, having a rule book in place is utterly important. No business has survived without a value system driven by the company philosophy, ethics and a bunch of rules to adhere to.
It is understood that imbibing organisation values is by far one of the most complicated tasks to achieve - it’s a change in behaviour. To those of you who have kids, revisit the toddler years and you would know what it feels like.
Storytelling and scenario building have been working wonders in behavioural modelling (in kids as well as adults 😉) and in setting the rules of the game, too. So, set the rules and make them fun. Give your employees a ‘dry run’ through real life scenarios and ‘mystery setups’ and let them be the decision makers, learning from their own mistakes.
More strings attached.
A gig workforce is mostly considered as a flexible arrangement on a lot of fronts – including the care, support and resources that a permanent employee is privy to. Most of these gig workers do not get equivalent employee benefits.
Well, the ‘new normal of corporate culture’ will involve more dependency on these contingent teams and therefore, you must make amends to make these employees feel included and benefited.
Create a more enhanced employee benefits-communication-wellbeing structure to lend a sense of belongingness as well as security. Attach a few more strings.
Customize to win hearts.
You must realise that the environment in which your regular employees work is different from what the contingent employees work in. Take liberty to experiment and change your communication, while still adhering to the company tone and philosophy.
Moving into the new normal will be transforming for a lot of organizations. The likes of Twitter, Unilever and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) have already started their transformation journey. The future of workplaces is all about empowerment. It’s important for companies to ensure that their transformation brings more empowerment to their culture and their employees – both permanent and temporary. Long-term and flexible; sustainable and thought-through strategies will be needed; with far more involvement of the leadership.
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