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How to grow your company in times of gig economy and digital nomadism – TechTalks

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By Lukasz Karwacki

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Companies face many challenges in their mission to grow. One of them relates to recruitment, or more precisely, to the cultural changes that impact the needs and preferences of talents.

Let’s make one thing clear:

To grow your company, you need top talent. And you need those people to stay with the company for more than just a few months.

Otherwise, there simply won’t be enough time for them to get in sync with the company goals and culture, move along the learning curve, and start being truly productive.

The trouble is, sourcing skilled employees is harder than ever. And even if you manage to find and hire talents, keeping them on board is really difficult.

Problem: Getting talent on board

Most companies (including mine) deal with one or more of these problems:

1. Recruitment difficulties:

  • A general shortage of talent – the demand for skilled workers is growing, but the number of these workers isn’t growing equally fast. That forces companies to explore outsourcing opportunities (which can be incredibly beneficial, but present another set of challenges).
  • Employees are more demanding than ever – enterprises and well-funded startups compete for the most talented workers. In this environment, highly-skilled workers can be picky, and that makes sourcing them even more difficult.
  • Lack of skill on the market – if you run a tech company, you probably realize that technology is evolving so quickly that no school or university can effectively prepare juniors for the reality of the job market in the tech industry which experiences an increasing pace of innovation.

2. The Gig-economy mindset:

Some employees prioritize independence and flexibility over loyalty and long-term commitment. Some even believe that one should be changing the workplace every few months to get diversified experience. As you can imagine, it’s more difficult to inspire these workers to commit, contribute to common objectives, and add value to the company sustainably over a period of time. But trust me, you can accomplish that with the right approach (more on that below).

3. Digital nomadism

Digital transformation and workforce globalization made remote work a new standard and a popular preference among workers:

  • 76% of workers prefer to do important tasks in places other than the office,
  • 82% of them claim they would be more loyal to their current employer if they offered flexible working arrangements,
  • the trend is particularly strong among Gen Y/Z workers – 69% of millennials will trade other work benefits for flexible workspace options.

Remote work presents companies with another share of challenges: efficient communication and collaboration, building bonds between team members, and building a company culture that lasts.

Here’s what all founders need to acknowledge

You won’t change the market

These new workforce trends will only become stronger with time. So you better spend time thinking about how to adjust to and leverage these trends. Business success comes to those who have an open mind and are willing to adapt their operations to new circumstances.

Human nature doesn’t change from generation to generation

We’re still the same creatures with the same behaviors, needs, and desires. What changes is the world around us. It’s important to remember that temporary hype and speculative bubbles can easily lead us astray; they distort our perceptions of the world, especially when we talk about the needs of Gen Y/Z workers. They essentially have the same needs as other generations, just want to fulfill them in new ways.

The world is increasingly polarized

Even though the barriers of entry in certain sectors seem to be decreasing (one only needs a laptop to work in IT!), the growing sophistication and complexity of the challenges we face as organizations require more effort and higher operational efficiency.

It’s much easier to start a company than it used to be in the past. But it’s much more challenging to grow a business and maintain a substantial competitive advantage.

So we better get used to these challenges and think of new strategies to counter them. Here’s how.

How to grow your company despite these challenges

teamwork

Here are three strategies that helped me to grow my company. During the last two years, Sunscrapers grew from 15 to 32 people.

1. Improve your recruitment tactics:

  • Articulate and showcase your company’s mission, vision, and values. It’s not only money that counts here. Especially for Gen Y/Z workers, the purpose and values they can identify themselves with are particularly important. For example, one of our values is “never stopping learning and self-improving” and we translate that into reality by offering our workers “growth budgets” they can spend on books, courses, or conference participation.
  • Find your employer differentiator; something that makes you different from other employers in your field. It’s like a Unique Selling Proposition, only formulated for your employer brand, not your product or service. It can be company culture, your approach to doing businesses, your unique processes or activities.
  • Adjust your processes, so they become more employee-oriented. Be responsive and deliver on your promises. If you say that you’ll get in touch with candidates within three business days, do that. Show how their future role is embedded within the company mission.
  • Provide value at every recruitment stage. For example, develop a method for speedy application processing. Acknowledge that you’ve received an application and thank the candidate for reaching out. Provide meaningful feedback.
  • Learn how to differentiate between talkers and doers when recruiting for critical roles in your team (which basically means every role). The culture of social media inspires people to look good, causing them to sometimes exaggerate when talking about their skills.

2. Improve your operational efficiency

  • Invest in your onboarding process to help new employees get up to speed quickly and start adding value to your company. Here’s how:
    • Prepare the right materials and the training process,
    • Set very clear goals (most companies find that problematic, we’re just starting to get it now),
    • Prepare a detailed plan and tasks for the first weeks of work,
    • Provide supervisor support.
  • Prepare processes and tools for remote collaboration. “The best are everywhere,” and there’s no reason your company shouldn’t take advantage of talent just because it’s located elsewhere.
  • Manage by values. That doesn’t mean abdicating from management, especially when it comes to supervising junior employees. But here’s another approach to managing a company:

Management by values ​​is based on developing a working process that meets the company’s business needs, as well as the employee needs.

In practice, it means focusing on building self-organizing teams where team members are empowered to make mission-critical decisions. Such teams usually deliver an excellent quality of work, identify with the company’s objectives and express loyalty to the company.

Another management by values technique is articulating company values and referring to them in the daily work (feedback, rewards – we use Bonusly for that), as well as company events and evaluations.

3. Decentralize the structure and decision making

  • Gather and organize all the relevant knowledge within the organization. This is especially important in the onboarding process where the immediate availability of insight is essential for process productivity.
  • Invest more in establishing processes but avoid complexity. Break roles and processes into standalone, manageable, and often-updated chunks and assign the owners to each process, role, or responsibility. Such owners need to be 100 percent aligned with the company’s culture and vision.
  • Always be grow replacements for critical people in the organization, so that events such as emergency incidents, health problems, holidays or simply parting ways doesn’t hurt your operations.
  • Create local leaders and tribes. Instead of a fixed hierarchy, group people around specific competencies or responsibilities. That approach worked well at my company – for example, we group developers not only by technology (like frontend or backend), but also by their role in a team (team lead, architect, DevOps, etc.) or their involvement in in-house processes recruitment, marketing, or sales).

Company growth happens over a long-term basis.

To follow Ray Dalio, it will still take for a team member at least 1.5 year to become aligned and fully productive! Out of the people who decide to leave the company, most will do that during their first year of employment. Fewer of them do that in their second year and even fewer in their third year. So do what you can to keep talents on board for the first three years, and you’ll position your company for success.

Over to you

Have you used other strategies to address these challenges and grow your company with top talent?

Please share them in the comments section; I want to start a conversation about what founders can do to leverage the latest workforce trends to their advantage.

Lukasz KarwackiLukasz is a co-founder and CEO of Sunscrapers. He’s got his background in computer graphics (graduate of Kingston University London) and has started his career as a web designer in a creative agency. He currently manages Sunscrapers, leads the business development team and does client consulting. Throughout the last 10 years, Lukasz managed, supervised and consulted over 100 projects for startups, SMBs and enterprises across different industries and locations.

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Gig economy companies ‘systematically perpetuate inequality’ in America: Aquent CEO – Yahoo Money

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Coronavirus puts gig workers in spotlight. Will that help them?

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As more than 17 million American workers are out of a job, Sharon Goen, a former hospitality worker in Las Vegas, is having the opposite experience.

“I work six gigs,” she says.

These include delivering meals for Grubhub, moving parcels for Amazon Flex and Shipt, picking up groceries for Instacart, and, before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, pouring drinks for Tend. 

And yet despite all the options for work that populate her smartphone screen, Ms. Goen like many gig workers is still feeling squeezed financially.

“We’re not making a living wage,” she says of gig workers. “With the pandemic, the pay is just lower and lower and lower.”

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

The coronavirus economy isn’t providing any easy answers. Yes, a gradual reopening from lockdowns has partially reversed this spring’s historic spike in joblessness. But even as the Labor Department reports that the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 11.1% in June, many places including Ms. Goen’s home state of Nevada are seeing COVID-19 caseloads rise. On Wednesday, over 50,000 new cases were reported nationwide, the highest since the pandemic began. 

Despite the widespread slogan “we are all in this together,” the coronavirus has widened many class fissures. It has also prompted some soul-searching about how our society treats the gig workers who bag our groceries and deliver our essentials, often with no sick pay, protective gear, or job security.

As one Instacart customer put it on Twitter, at the very least it may be time to tip generously, given “the risks they’re taking to bring you food.”

Even as socially distanced lifestyles prompt Americans to rely heavily on some app-based platforms, many others in the contingent workforce are now jobless. That very juxtaposition – the burdened Instacart shoppers and the sidelined Uber drivers – could create a moment ripe for reassessing the rules underlying the gig economy. 

Several trends may already be pointing in this direction. Gig workers are more organized than ever. New laws are being drafted that make it harder for companies to treat their workers as disposable. And new digital platforms are emerging that give workers a bigger share in profits and decision-making. 

“In moments of great upheaval, things that seem unimaginable suddenly become commonsense,” says Trebor Scholz, a professor of culture and media at The New School who studies the digital economy.

Forming a movement

Ms. Goen herself epitomizes one of the labor market trends – growing collective action by workers themselves. A year ago, along with 10 other women around the United States who work for Instacart, Ms. Goen founded the Gig Workers Collective to advocate for stronger worker rights and protections. Now the GWC boasts 17,000 members nationwide. 

Instacart is perhaps the most iconic gig platform of the coronavirus era. The app works by connecting customers with “shoppers,” that is, gig workers who go to supermarkets to buy groceries on their behalf in exchange for a fee and, usually, a tip. The platform experienced a massive surge amid the coronavirus outbreak, hiring some 300,000 shoppers between mid-March and mid-April. 

Sharon Goen, a former worker in the hospitality industry, makes an Instacart delivery in Las Vegas on April 16, 2020. She says that her earnings with Instacart have declined by 60% to 70% over the past three years.

For the workers, one particular sore spot is the default tip setting. Instacart sets it to just 5% for first-time customers (it subsequently defaults to your last tip; if you tipped below 5%, it resets to 5%). Ms. Goen, a former Las Vegas bartender, is well aware of the psychology of tipping. She knows that the default setting plays a huge role in how customers will behave. “For Instacart to … leave it at 5% is just crushing.”

On March 30, in response to its members’ concerns over low tips, no sick pay, and the lack of protective equipment, the GWC organized a nationwide walk-off, an action that drew national media attention. To protect workers from retaliation, the GWC doesn’t keep track of how many people participated.

Instacart said the work stoppage had “absolutely no impact” on its operations, but the company did begin offering more resources, including reusable face masks and hand sanitizer. Earlier, the company offered 14 days of sick pay for shoppers diagnosed with COVID-19.

“As part of our unwavering commitment to prioritize the health and safety of the entire Instacart community,” read a statement from the company, “we’re working closely with the CDC, public health officials and retail partners to make sure we’re taking the appropriate precautionary measures to keep our shopper community and customers safe.”

But according to a report by CNET, Instacart shoppers have faced steep bureaucratic hurdles getting their sick pay approved. As of May 20, just one worker is known to have been approved for sick pay.

“There is absolutely zero transparency,’ says Ms. Goen. “Every time we have a strike action, they would act like they are giving us something, and [then] they would take it away.”

Still, Ms. Goen remains hopeful that actions by the GWC will bear fruit.

“We just want to be heard and acknowledged and appreciated,” she says. “We are the face of Instacart.”

Past work stoppages by gig workers have also shown results. The Uber and Lyft strikes of 2019, for instance, resulted in higher wages and improved working conditions for some drivers. 

These actions are occurring in a larger context of labor flexing its strength. The past two years have seen remarkably forceful worker revolts, from teachers protesting benefit cuts to tech workers walking out over law enforcement and military contracts. Indeed, the 2018-19 government shutdown finally came to a halt thanks to the efforts of a handful of air traffic controllers.

Legislation and legal battles 

A parallel trend: Lawmakers and judges are increasingly influencing the gig landscape, in some cases affirming the idea that contractor status doesn’t offer enough protections for gig workers. 

Instacart found itself under pressure on this front, too. Early in June, as part of an agreement with the attorney general of Washington, D.C., the company agreed to offer its workers paid sick leave nationwide.

In another important case, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the National Labor Relations Act does not prevent a state from adopting its own collective bargaining law, one that includes provisions for independent contractors.

Last September, meanwhile, California passed Assembly Bill 5, a law that classifies app-based gig workers as employees, entitled to minimum wage guarantees and other basic protections. 

The law codifies the so-called ABC test, which sets three criteria to determine whether a worker ought to be classified as a contractor or an employee. According to this standard, a worker is a contractor if (a) “the individual is free from direction and control,” (b) “the service is performed outside the usual course of business of the employer,” and (c) the “individual is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession, or business of the same nature as that involved in the service performed.”

This law was tested in May at the California Supreme Court, with the state prevailing against Lyft and Uber. 

“A huge landmark deal,” says Brian Chen, an attorney at the National Employment Law Project. “Other states are going to look at that, and hopefully these state laws will be a model for the federal government eventually.”

In January, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo hinted that his state would be pursuing a law similar to AB 5. Speaking in his State of the State address, Mr. Cuomo said, “A driver is not an independent contractor simply because she drives her own car on the job. A newspaper carrier is not an independent contractor because they ride their own bicycle. A domestic worker is not an independent contractor because she brings her own broom and mop to the job. It is exploitive, abusive, … and it has to stop here and now.”

Mr. Chen describes the battle over worker classification as a first step, not an end goal. “That fight really is to set a floor,” he says. “Strong employment laws are a precondition for workers building power.”

Rise of the co-op platform

In addition to what’s happening in the realms of labor activism, legislation, and the courts, some experts see another trend that could help reshape gig work: the rise of new, worker-friendly structures for digital-platform businesses.

Platform co-ops are worker-owned entities that rely on shared ownership and democratic decision-making. These include Up & Go, a cooperatively owned housecleaning platform in New York City, Stocksy United, a stock-photo platform based in Victoria, British Columbia, that’s owned by nearly 1,000 photographers, and Green Taxi Cooperative, an 800-person enterprise that has made significant inroads into Denver’s ride-hailing market.

The concept of platform cooperativism was introduced in 2014 by The New School’s Professor Scholz, who was researching the digital economy. 

“I don’t think I’ve met anyone who does not think this is a good idea,” he says. “It’s a question of do you want cosmetic change or do you want structural change?” 

Owned by the workers, who guide their businesses democratically, platform co-ops typically take a much smaller cut for overhead costs than do their Silicon Valley counterparts. For instance, the housecleaning and handyman platform Handy says that it takes about 20% from each transaction; Up & Go takes just 5%.

Professor Scholz sits on the board of a co-op called Fairbnb.coop, an Airbnb alternative that sends half the booking fees from short-term rentals to projects that promote social welfare in the host communities. 

“It’s not about destroying Uber or about destroying Airbnb,” says Professor Scholz of platform co-ops. “They can coexist with corporations.” But, he says, “it shows you that it can be different.”

Shifts in public opinion

Even before the pandemic struck, public attitudes about digital gig work – and Silicon Valley more generally – were beginning to sour. When apps like Uber gained popularity in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash, they were seen as an opportunity for workers to make money via their smartphone apps while setting their own schedule. 

But by 2018, workers were reporting feeling squeezed. A study that year by JPMorgan Chase found that for Uber and Lyft drivers, monthly earnings fell from $1,469 in 2013 to $783 in 2017, a decline of 53%. Also that year, a study by the Federal Reserve found that 58% of full-time gig workers said they didn’t have an emergency $400 on hand, compared with 38% of those who didn’t work in the gig economy.

Ms. Goen’s experience reflects this downward pressure on pay. She says that her earnings with Instacart have declined by 60% to 70% over the past three years.

Instacart shoppers can make as little as $7 for a grocery run, but Ms. Goen doesn’t accept every run that pops up on her phone. “It’s 110 degrees in Vegas. I’m not starting my car for less than $20,” she says.

“Gig workers have been free falling,” she says. “It’s time for some laws to be put in place.”

The shift in attitudes is perhaps best illustrated by Governor Cuomo’s change of heart. Less than three years before calling the gig economy a “scam” and a “fraud,” he vigorously defended Uber against attempts by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to regulate it.

“Uber is one of these great inventions, startups, of this new economy,” Mr. Cuomo said in July 2015. “It’s offering a great service for people, and it’s giving people jobs. I don’t think the government should be in the business of trying to restrict job growth.”

Mr. Chen says the mood in 2020 is very different. 

“This is a moment when the companies’ ideological spin is starting to run out,” he says. “The bloom is off the rose.”

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

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HR minister: Malaysia shares 5R approach, gig economy capitalisation during MCO at ILO regional event | Malaysia

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Datuk Seri M. Saravanan speaks during a press conference at Umno’s headquarters in Kuala Lumpur February 25, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Datuk Seri M. Saravanan speaks during a press conference at Umno’s headquarters in Kuala Lumpur February 25, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

PUTRAJAYA, July 2 — Malaysia shared its 5R approach and the growing gig economy during the movement control order (MCO), at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Global Summit on Covid-19 pandemic and the World of Work regional event which was held virtually today.

Human Resource Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan who participated in the event as a panelist shared Malaysia’s thorough efforts in addressing the negative impact of Covid-19, as well as the 5R approach namely redeployment, repatriation, reemployment, reconciliation dan reskilling during the MCO.

In a statement issued in conjunction with the event, the Human Resource Ministry said Saravanan had also emphasised on green jobs as one of the measures to promote a resilient economy and ensuring a sustainable and continuous recovery from the pandemic.

“The minister also highlighted Malaysia’s desire to continue this effort at the Asean level through a regional green job programme in September,” it said.

The ILO regional event serves as a platform for representatives from the government, employers and workers to hold high-level discussions on the social and economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It also discussed the response of ILO member countries in supporting the industries and providing protection to workers in the Asia Pacific region as well as the challenges faced by them, which would be summarised and presented at the ILO Global Summit scheduled to be held from July 7 to 9. — Bernama

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