The very concept of the gig economy is built on trust — everything from getting into a stranger’s car (Uber and Lyft), to staying in their home (Airbnb and VRBO). Customers expect a good experience, and it takes a lot of effort to consistently meet customer needs. Many organizations leverage independent contract workers to help deliver an outstanding experience that will ultimately earn customer trust.
While it’s important for companies to focus on earning customer trust, it’s just as necessary for companies to facilitate trust amongst their multigenerational workforce. Organizations that rely on independent contractors, or gig workers, can elevate their team culture by working to earn this workforce’s engagement and trust.
Organizations, across a variety of industries, have relied on independent contract workers to help with projects when a specific skill set is needed or to assist during a seasonal influx. In 2019, Gallup found that 36 percent of the workforce is classified as an independent contractor. Contract workers can be deployed across a variety of services, from driving for Uber, to developing backend code for Google. Many contract workers provide professional services and will work on projects directly with an organization’s employees. Among teams where employees have developed rapport with one another, a contract worker may not be perceived as a “trusted” team member. There can be a couple of factors contributing to this:
- A contract worker may not have had the opportunity to engage with team members in a way that builds comradery and, ultimately, trust.
- Contract workers may sit in another section of the office, separate from their team, so their opportunities to engage in conversation beyond work are limited.
Employees may feel that because an independent contract worker will only be involved with their organization for a limited time, they don’t want to invest in a long-term relationship. The full-time employee may be hesitant to provide information, additional assistance, or reach out to get to know a contract worker better.
As a result, a contract worker may feel a disconnection with the team culture, not be able to fully contribute to a project and may become disengaged.
Many employers focus on building employee engagement among their own teams, but creating an environment that engages contract workers also pays off. Teams with a positive team culture, that are engaged and trust one another — regardless of team member's employment classification — are up to 50 percent more productive.
While there are limits on how workers who are classified as non-employees can be included in various programs, there are types of organizational culture that will allow them to be welcomed and acknowledged for the contributions they make.
Here are 4 ways to recognize and include your organization’s independent contract workers.
1. Create social “onboarding” opportunities
When onboarding a new contract worker to your organization, it’s not only important to bring them up to speed on the organization and their role, but also to allow them to connect with others. Provide a chance for contract workers to get to know their colleagues more personally during weekly group meetings through ice breakers or by allocating the first five minutes for attendees to share personal updates with the rest of the team. This gives everyone a chance to get to know the newest member of the team — without singling them out — and creates inroads to build rapport while working together.
Facilitate opportunities for contract workers to meet and get to know other departments that regularly interact with your team. All of this gives contract workers the chance to get to know their colleagues, better understand how multiple teams work together and understand where they fit into the team culture of your organization.
2. Encourage recognition
While contract workers may not have access to your organization’s recognition program and resources, this doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be recognized by you and your team for what they contribute. Set an example for your team by including contract workers in any of the team’s “wins” and showcase how their efforts helped the team. Foster peer-to-peer recognition by encouraging your employees and contract workers to regularly acknowledge one another during team meetings and during their everyday interactions. Consider this icebreaker conversation in team meetings: ask each team member, “How do you like to be recognized?” Although some of your employees may already know this about some of their coworkers, it’s an opportunity for contract workers to learn this about everyone, and vice versa. This can create a meaningful team culture where everyone can recognize each other in a way that resonates, which will build rapport and trust among the team.
3. Reward the team as a whole
Even though contract workers likely don’t have access to your organization’s recognition program and resources, this doesn’t mean that they can’t be included in rewards that are for the entire team. For example, if your team completes a major project ahead of schedule, acknowledge the whole team’s efforts by rewarding them with something fun. If your team is working onsite, bringing in coffee and bagels for breakfast can be a nice pick-me-up that everyone can enjoy. If your team is remote, consider hosting a virtual “happy hour” on a Friday afternoon where everyone can take some time to unwind before the weekend or send everyone a digital gift card. Gestures like this boost morale and demonstrate an inclusive team culture.
4. Extend an invitation
If there are company events and group gatherings that a contract worker can attend, personally let them know they are welcomed. For example, a contract worker may not be allowed to attend an organization’s official holiday gathering, depending on policy, but they may be able to attend the holiday pot-luck lunch or participate in your department’s informal gift giving. Specifically outline what contract workers can participate in and invite them so they know they are welcome to attend.
Building engagement and trust amongst a multigenerational workforce that blends contract workers with employees can be a constant work in progress. Yet, simple gestures of acknowledgement can help contract workers feel that they belong and foster trust and engagement among all members of your team.