Regardless of company size, today’s workforce looks and behaves very differently from the workforce of twenty years ago. Generational changes, as well as advances in technology, have shifted worker preferences and priorities, creating an increased bias toward workplace flexibility. The vast majority of companies today must understand and accommodate these shifts or risk losing the battle for talent, and fail to brush up against their potential.
Employee preferences are more clear today than ever before. Ninety-two percent of millennials, which now make up the largest demographic in the American workforce, prefer jobs that allow them to work remotely. Recent research shows that 80 percent of today’s workers, if given two similar offers, would choose to take a job that includes flexible hours and the ability to work remotely. This next generation of workers will vote with their feet.
CEOs are slowly but steadily accepting the fact that the workforce today no longer looks and acts like it once did. Currently, more than one third of American workers are part of the gig economy — meaning they rely on short-term contracts or freelance work rather than permanent full-time jobs. As this trend progresses as is predicted, management teams are becoming more inclined to take a boundaryless approach — hiring regardless of location, full or part-time, job sharing, etc. — to recruit the best talent. This change in recruiting strategy is creating a new challenge: building and cultivating a workplace culture that caters to every employee, in a personalized way when possible, even if they don’t sit in the same building, in the same time zone, or have a company issued email. These trends are not limited to tech companies or certain geographies. Instead, this is a defining dynamic that reflects the new world of work.
Within their respective companies, non-full-time workers tend to lose out. They’re often excluded from all-hands meetings and off-site events, which can create a culture of incohesion among staff. Often, they are such an after-thought that even basic training and employee onboarding programs either don’t contemplate the needs of the part-time employee, or they exclude them altogether. An effective freelancer is one that feels fully ingrained and integrated in to the organization, and feels like a natural extension to the team. They understand the company’s mission, they embody the company values and they ensure this shines through in their work. That’s hard to pull off if you’re treated differently than everyone else.
There’s a variety of actions that business owners and leaders can take to make gig workers, contractors, freelancers, and part-time employees feel just as engaged, included and a part of the overall company culture as the full-time staff. One is simply knowing and understanding your workforce data. There are measurable ways to see how all kinds of employees are engaged within the company: attrition rates, survey results, performance feedback, the dynamics around volunteering for new projects, PTO, to name just a few. Having this information as a guide to assess how effectively you’re engaging the whole team is crucial.
At Zenefits, we provide a variety of tools and training aimed at making sure everyone is on the same page and understands our priorities. We also make it possible for employees to work remotely and work during the hours that fit their schedules. This helps all members of our team feel like they have both the freedom and the accountability required to do their best work. It requires an additional investment on our part in the form of video conferencing, field offices, and travel budgets, but it’s a relatively small price to pay to be able to attract, retain and leverage outstanding employees who value flexibility in their work life.
Given that the new world of work now has substantially higher numbers of non-full-time employees as part of the overall workforce, it makes sense to do what’s needed to be as competitive and compelling as possible in attracting great talent to your company. Providing benefits, and otherwise creating a culture where everyone who is part of the team is made to feel engaged, included and part of the culture is critically important.
At Zenefits, we’ve created a boundaryless environment where full-time employees seamlessly collaborate with the rest of our workforce. We provide all of the expected employee-related investments to our gig workers — from benefits to career development to a flexible workplace — ensuring we get more than our fair share of the emerging talent in the gig economy.
By removing the barriers of geography and demographics, or even traditional and non-traditional full or part-time roles, we create a talent pool that is bigger, wiser and more diverse. And as the workforce continues to evolve in favor of increasing flexibility, we plan to keep helping small and mid-size businesses across the country adapt to this new world of work as well.
Jay is Chairman & CEO at Zenefits. He brings more than 20 years of experience in leading both public and private technology companies. Previously, Jay served as CEO of Ooyala, and Agile Software. Before that, Jay was a senior executive at both PeopleSoft and SAP. Jay is a member of the Global Leadership Council at the Lucas Graduate School and College of Business at San Jose State University.