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Can the Gig Economy Actually Improve Employee Well-Being and Company Culture?

The term “gig economy” has been thrown around a lot lately, especially with so many employers growing concerned about how it might affect retention, engagement, competition, and overall employee well-being. 

But what if the “gig economy” could actually improve those things and effectively enhance employee well-being?

That’s what Jeffrey Moss, CEO of Parker Dewey, believes. Parker Dewey matches highly-motivated college students and graduates, or what they refer to as “career launchers,” with employers for micro-internships, in which they can demonstrate their skills to land the right full-time role or internship. 

Moss believes micro-internships can make a significant impact on employee wellness—and more.

What Are “Career Launchers”?

Teamstage’s Gig Economy Statistics: Demographics and Trends 2022 report features data on gig workers across all demographics. Since 2005, the gig economy has grown up to 36% in the U.S. 

By 2027, over half of all workers in the U.S. are expected to be “gigging” in some way or another.

What’s more, nearly 63% of current gig workers are Gen Z and millennials, and most of the work they do falls under technology or innovation of some kind. When asked why they pursue this type of work, 57% of gig workers claim it helps them earn more money and additional income, when combined with full-time employment. 

This connection between a lack of income and the rise of gig work is corroborated in Deloitte’s Global 2022 Gen Z and Millennial survey, which reported that almost half of Gen Z and millennial employees are currently living paycheck to paycheck. And with many younger employees worrying about covering monthly expenses, over a quarter also report working two or more jobs, with over 73% working 40+ hours every week.

While many of us assume gig work is limited to ride sharing and other personal services, more professionals have recognized the opportunity to engage giggers and career launchers for support on real, short-term, professional assignments. Beyond providing on-demand support for busy professionals, this type of gig work helps companies engage and assess potential future employees, while allowing gig workers and career launchers to lend their talents and gain valuable experience.

“The gig economy serves as a pathway to driving other benefits, whether it's hiring effectiveness; employee retention; or improvements to diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies.”

– Jeffrey Moss, CEO, Parker Dewey

How to Turn Micro-Internships and Gig Work into an Engagement Engine

Moss and Parker Dewey differentiate micro-internships from traditional internship programs by being more scalable, easier to implement, and better able to create a pathway into a company’s existing internship and full-time hiring programs.

The same differentiation can apply to gig work, which allows companies to hire more skilled employees with niche proficiencies and take smaller tasks off full-time employees’ plates. On the other side of the coin, gig workers have the opportunity to try different, low-stakes roles to supplement their income, maximize their productivity, and improve their overall well-being.

What makes gig work and micro-internships unique? Moss highlights three characteristics that distinguish them from other types of positions—they’re flexible, they’re low-risk, and they add value.

Flexibility

Small, short-term gigs make it easy to add an extra set of hands to projects across sales, marketing, technology, HR, finance, and more—basically anywhere work needs to be done. Plus, they don’t require a long-term commitment, so gig workers and career launchers can be in and out of each project quickly.

Consider your seasoned employees and the list of projects on their plates that don’t make the best use of their time. These “We should …” and “I shouldn’t …” projects add value and need to be done, but  aren’t as intellectually stimulating and could easily be handed off to someone else. That can take a toll on employee well-being and even lead to increased turnover as employees look for work worthy of their time and skills.

Instead, qualified gig-based workers can absorb some of those minor projects that bog down employees. Not only do those employees have more free time for more relevant projects and their career development, but gig workers can lend their expertise where it’s needed.

“By engaging highly-motivated individuals on these short-term projects, it makes the employee’s life easier because he or she is getting support from someone who's inherently motivated to do a great job.”

– Jeffrey Moss, CEO, Parker Dewey

Low Risk, High Reward

Gig work and micro-internships provide excellent previews for hiring managers by allowing employers to audition talent efficiently and cost-effectively. They also give potential candidates a view into your company culture and processes, which makes for better retention and onboarding if they’re hired full-time.

When companies bring in career launchers for gig work or micro-internships, those roles essentially serve as a trial run for both the company and the gig worker. Moss uses the analogy of a date, where the micro-internship is the courtship: Both sides can assess mutual fit without having to enter into a full-time commitment.

Gig workers and career launchers are doing real, paid projects, and the nature of these arrangements can foster better hiring outcomes, enhanced retention, and a greater sense of well-being for candidates, full-time employees, and hiring managers.

“98% of individuals who work on micro-internships before taking a full-time role stay at the same company for at least two years, compared to the approximate 55% of recent college grads who leave their first job in the first year. This is because they were able to explore and know for certain that this role is what they want.”

– Jeffrey Moss, CEO, Parker Dewey

Valuable Productivity

Another advantage of gig work and micro-internships is they add tremendous value for all parties in a short amount of time. Gig workers are given an opportunity to show what they can bring to your organization, and at the same time, your teams get the help they need on big projects (or ones that have been put on the back-burner), making everybody more productive. 

But there are other ways in which gig work and micro-internships can positively impact your organization.

They Make Your Managers Better

One challenge that can affect employee wellness is your managers being well-trained. Some companies promote employees with no management experience to leadership roles … often to the detriment of their teams’ happiness and well-being at work.

That’s where gig work and micro-internships come in. Not only does this demonstrate your commitment to existing employees by providing an initial “managerial” opportunity, but you can also test out your management candidates by placing gig workers in a “quasi-team” under their direction. 

With a low investment and risk, you can gain a quick window into understanding what type of management training your employee needs and how they can be mentored to be a better, more effective manager. (For extra insight, be sure to ask gig workers for regular feedback on what’s going well and what could improve.)

 

They Help Strengthen Your DEI Initiatives

According to Parker Dewey’s research, 80% of students hired for micro-internships come from underrepresented backgrounds. As such, the makeup of these workers can have a positive impact on a company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, especially as companies look to hiring gig workers or career launchers full-time.

Given this, your employee resource groups (ERGs) can play a huge role in illustrating how gig work and micro-internships foster a more diverse workforce. This is where companies can put their words into action and create equitable pathways. 

“Companies can use gig-based work as a way for an ERG member to give a small paid professional project to a gigger or career launcher with a similar background. If that member really likes that individual, they can easily fast-track them to a full-time role. In this way, DEI becomes more than just a banner or a T-shirt. It’s an actionable policy.”

– Jeffrey Moss, CEO, Parker Dewey

Leveraging the Gig Economy Can Be a Win-Win

There are direct business benefits to leveraging micro-internships and the gig economy.

Employees become more productive and free to be more creative as their workloads aren’t clouded with projects they “should be doing” that aren’t a good use of their time. On the flip side, hiring managers find themselves with a much more robust—and trained—pipeline of talent. And your entire organization benefits from wiser, more seasoned managers and improved company-wide diversity.

Sounds like a good gig to us.

For more creative tips on how your company can improve employee well-being, contact one of our Wellness Consultants today. At WellRight, we’re here to help.

 

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