Training Gig Workers: Employee Training in the Gig Economy

by Anita Bowness | Posted | Learning

Training Gig Workers: Employee Training in the Gig Economy

The gig economy is causing seismic changes that are shaking the world of work. There's been a serious shift in the relationship between organizations and the people who work for them. It's all been typified by disruptive digital businesses like Uber, Airbnb and more.

"Uberization" is now a thing. This emergence of non-traditional workforce solutions and models is growing rapidly. More and more people are choosing to opt out of (or supplement) full-time working contracts and instead make their living working on multiple jobs or "gigs." This trend, most commonly known as the gig economy, means that training gig workers needs to become a priority for organizations that want to make the most of this employment paradigm shift.

The growing gig economy – by the numbers

This growing movement indicates people's increasing desire to cultivate a flexible approach to their working lives. They want to work on their own terms, choose where they work, and do so without the restrictions of formal, direct supervision in an office setting.

The Harvard Business Review reported that 150 million people in North America and Western Europe are members of the gig economy, and that number shows no signs of slowing down. By 2020, approximately 50 percent of the working population will be millennials, who are already particularly comfortable with this model. Even now, 57 million workers in the U.S. are part of this gig economy. They see it as a lifestyle choice and research indicates they would rather take a pay cut than compromise on flexibility.

So how do you train your gig workers?

The gig economy now needs to be a focus in the world of Learning and Development (L&D); employee learning is moving in a new direction and organizations need to respond now, owing to the accelerated and pervasive nature of this change.

With so many people turning to the gig economy as an alternative to, or supplement for, traditional employment, L&D teams need to be prepared when it comes to training this new class of employee.

Here are four ways L&D teams can prepare to train their gig workers:

1. Prepare gig worker training on a task-by-task basis

In the gig economy, companies will hire individuals to work on everything from complex, high-level work such as data processing services to project-based tasks. The challenge for L&D is evolving into how to provide just enough learning to the individual who needs to perform a specific piece of work, such as customer insights or the culture of an organization.

It will be necessary to offer training in tandem with the task, rather than the large-scale onboarding and development programs more usually delivered to full-time employees. Combining bursts of microlearning that gig workers can access in their moment of need while compiling learning playlists, will keep their learning organized, optimized and help them to quickly get up to speed on a particular topic.

Consider creating and curating different learning playlists for onboarding, as well as task or project instructions so that this training can be scaled and delivered to any number of gig or contract workers.

2. Personalize and localize contingent worker learning content

The challenge of how to manage self-driven learners becomes even more pressing when we consider that the gig economy will facilitate a more autonomous and flexible workforce dispersed around the globe. Employees already want to learn when, where and how they want: 58 percent of employees prefer to learn at their own pace and 48 percent prefer to learn at the point of need, according to LinkedIn's 2018 Workplace Learning Report.

Personalization holds the key to engaging self-directed learners, as well as boosting employee performance. Personalized learning is already the norm at 62 percent of high-performing organizations, while 35 percent of organizations make it a priority, according to a recent study by Brandon Hall Group on the link between learning and performance.

So with all the benefits that come from personalizing training for traditional employees, then efforts to personalize learning for gig workers will also need to consider the need to localize; such as embracing the different cultures around data privacy (such as the European Union's GDPR legislation), learning culture, and even attitudes to deference that exist in these increasingly dispersed learner populations.

3. Boost learning flexibility to increase learner satisfaction

Two of the reported benefits of flexible working, according to a study of working families conducted by Cranfield University School of Management in the UK, are higher levels of organizational commitment and job satisfaction. Using this logic, companies that create a truly flexible learning approach (where learners can access learning from anywhere, anytime, using multiple devices) may experience higher levels of employee commitment.

As gig workers (and many traditional employees, for that matter!) kiss the 9-5 goodbye in favor of flexible working arrangements, increasing numbers of employees will be accessing their learning on the go, which means organizations need to help employees figure out how to get the most out of online, on-demand learning activities.

4. Prepare managers to be flexible with gig workers

Managers are one of the key enablers when it comes to successfully implementing flexible working within their organization. Yet, crucially, it's those managers with limited experience of flexible working who can play a pivotal role in flexible working adoption rates, including whether it gets implemented within their organizations at all. In the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) report, Flexible working: Goodbye Nine to Five, 27 percent of managers in this situation say it wouldn't benefit their business at all.

Culturally, there is still somewhat of a resistance to flexible working; the ILM report shows that 31 percent of respondents heard colleagues make derogatory comments about those working flexibly. Managers can turn this around with training on how to manage flexible working, focusing on performance outcomes rather than hours.

One excellent way to do this is to ensure that your managers hold regular, ongoing 1:1 meetings to build strong manager-employee relationships and to ignite employee engagement. Instead of managing gig workers from a top-down, command-and-control perspective, managers should seek out opportunities to coach and develop their direct reports, and remove obstacles that prevent employees from doing their best work.

Reap the benefits of properly training your gig workers

Including gig workers as a part of your organization's L&D strategy means that you're taking concrete steps to ensure that your organization is well-prepared for the modern world of work in the gig economy. These contingent workers will gain the skills they need to perform the tasks they were hired to do, especially when you personalize the content and localize the experience to their language and culture.

By creating a flexible learning environment and a management style focused on outcomes instead of hours worked, your organization becomes a more appealing employer to gig workers and will become more attractive to the best talent.

This all adds up to a positive learning experience for both your gig workers and full-time employees, boosting engagement and driving positive business outcomes. You can learn more about using learning experiences to drive results in our eBook, Using the Learning Experience to Drive Business Outcomes, created in partnership with the Brandon Hall Group.

Using the Learning Experience to Drive Business Outcomes

See how learning leaders can connect parts of the learning journey to support employee development.


Download Now
Cover of the book
Cover of the book

Using the Learning Experience to Drive Business Outcomes

See how learning leaders can connect parts of the learning journey to support employee development.


Download Now


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