Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the term ‘gig economy’ was synonymous with Uber drivers, but throughout the crisis, we’ve also seen other types of gig crowds gathered in large numbers, many of which were dedicated to supporting essential services such as grocery order pick up and food delivery. Beyond Instacart, Uber-Eats and Deliveroo gig crowds helping to keep food accessible, in the pandemic, the gig model has also extended to other important services, including couriers, and customer service agents taking queries on an on-demand basis.

The flexibility of the gig has worked well during the pandemic and for these companies as by nature, the gig economy can flex with demand for periods of higher and lower volume. It can be big (hence the common term ‘gig crowd’) during holiday rush periods, or it can scale down with ease, which is why many large companies have been adding gig crowds alongside their traditional employee base.

But as the gig economy expands, how is managing a gig crowd different from managing employees? And what can companies do to manage these people successfully, so that they can improve upon what is often painted as a negative picture associated with the gig economy?

Provide Good Guiding Principles for Those Who Gig

Becoming over reliant on any one gig is a top concern: most employers using gig models don’t position their offerings as a replacement for full-time work, but when the model works well, it’s tempting to dedicate more time to the gig that seemingly just keeps giving. Ideally, companies should not be encouraging this type of ‘sole gig’ career type of work, as it creates dependency in an environment where traditionally, availability of work can fluctuate.

High entry costs are another area of concern: think Uber – you need a car. This is why many people are looking at different types of gig tasks, such as gig customer service, where all you need is a mobile phone or a computer and sufficient product knowledge to start earning money. If the gigger chooses to move on, they can do so quite easily without running up any debt associated with the opportunity.

Create a Community

Online community management skills are essential: your gig crowd may never meet those invested in the operational side of the business, but they need to feel as though businesses are investing in them, and providing them with instantaneous support and all the tools and coaching they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability. Businesses need to keep their gig crowds engaged in order to retain them, which can be done by creating status levels to promote progression, or even gamification and rewards.

Pay Per Gig, Pay On Time

There are many ideals associated with the gig economy, and companies need to ensure they are upholding its values. While some people may gig for supplemental income, others do it because they are financially strapped and unable to secure permanent work. Regardless, companies should be treating all categories of people who gig the same: people should not only have choice in setting their shift and schedules – they should have complete flexibility, with no schedules, commitments or penalties.

This means that companies will need to adapt payroll so that will satisfy the on-demand nature of the gig model, and that the distribution channels for routing gig tasks are in place, separate to the operational processes of full time employees. Pay also needs to be adapted to local markets and paid in local currencies, and people need to be protected through local, gig-compliant T&Cs.

Make Them Feel Valued

The best way to make those who gig feel valued is to connect them with their end customers so that they can get direct feedback on the service and support they’ve provided, and also see how they have made a difference to someone.

Attitudes towards the gig economy have changed in the past decade, and continue to evolve quickly in the time of the pandemic. Businesses seem to have learned tentatively from the experiences of the pioneering gig companies and as such are taking steps to embrace more sustainable and responsible models of operation.

Some people may think that a gig workforce is less reliable than a contracted one, but really, giggers are at least as equally reliable, and the gig crowd can be expanded to soak up more work like a sponge. Ultimately, the gig economy has gone a long way to proving itself during the time of COVID-19 and if we want to see it continue to evolve, we need to adopt a ‘good gig’ model that naturally embraces practices which positively impact the lives of the gig crowd, the end-customer, and the businesses involved.