Quinyx CEO | What businesses can learn from the gig economy to build a happier workforce

What businesses can learn from the gig economy to build a happier workforce

Quinyx recently held its third UK Workforce Management Day – an event focused on employee engagement and the importance of putting frontline workers at the heart of business strategy.

In his keynote speech at the London event, Quinyx CEO Erik Fjellborg highlighted some astounding figures relating to frontline/deskless workers:

  • There are 2.6 billion frontline or deskless workers worldwide

  • 90% of organisations rely on deskless staff – there are more deskless workers than office-based employees (so why do we seemingly prioritise the latter?)

  • In the US last year, roughly 47.4 million people voluntarily left their jobs for better work during the pandemic and the period afterwards known as ‘the Great Resignation’ – and workers in the UK are following a similar pattern

Job vacancies continue to increase, as the impact of staff shortages are felt everywhere (just ask anyone trying to board a flight). Quinyx’s own State of the Deskless Workforce report found that more than half of UK frontline staff (57%) have considered quitting for new roles over the past 12 months, and two thirds (67%) are confident of finding another position quickly based on their skills.

As Erik outlined, we shouldn’t be shocked that deskless workers aren’t staying put.

“[Frontline staff] were the ones who felt the hardship of the pandemic the most – they were furloughed, they faced bad working environments, they had health risks at work… it shouldn’t be a surprise that they’ve left or are looking elsewhere. People moved out of metropolitan areas, they left hourly jobs to retrain as something different. When we locked down society, we made office work a lot more attractive - they could enjoy full flexibility [whereas deskless staff couldn’t]”.

On the plus side, Erik believes staff retention isn’t wholly impossible for employers – as long as they’re prepared to be agile and take the lead from a controversial model: the so-called ‘gig economy’.

The gig economy has faced significant criticism for zero hours contracts and a lack of employee benefits or job security. Yet Erik believes that the flexible model has vast potential to increase the happiness and job satisfaction levels of millions of deskless staff, if adopted by larger organisations as well as by start-ups and smaller companies. Here’s how.

How bigger business can adapt a ‘gig economy’ model

1. Steer clear of rigid scheduling and looking too far ahead

Erik said: “Gig companies are bringing a labour model with full flexibility, where staff have the opportunity to work whenever they want, how much they want - and they have the opportunity to cancel at short notice.

“It’s unrealistic to think that a more traditional business will be able to go full ‘gig economy’ overnight, but what [they could do] when looking at schedules, say six months in advance, is only book 50% of the shift, rather than 100% of it. Plan half and let the other 50% be booked by employees, therefore offering much more flexibility for them.”

2. Remove negativity around staff changing shifts last minute – and consider offering such flexibility as a benefit

Quinyx’s State of the Deskless Workforce study found that 39% of the UK’s deskless workers have no control at all over their work patterns, and almost a third (32%) say they feel that asking to change a shift for personal reasons would be perceived negatively by bosses.

Additionally, we found that the process of requesting shift changes is often awkward and time-consuming.

Compare this with an example cited by Erik of how ‘big business’ in the US is already utilising the flexibility of the gig economy to offer workers much more ownership over their schedules. He said: “In North America, Amazon and Starbucks are giving hourly wage workers much more flex – allowing them to cancel a shift 16 hours before it begins, making it an attractive option to parents, for example. Now this might seem super difficult for local managers, if you have people cancelling shifts at such short notice, but with the right tech you can find people to fill that shift within an hour or so.”

3. Make full use of tech capabilities – and communicate with your team while they’re connected

Apps and AI-powered technology are a great way of removing the stress from scheduling. Another important takeaway from the gig economy model is to utilise such tech to its full advantage, specifically using it to reach employees while they’re already engaged and connected.

Erik said: “Employees using the Quinyx app can check it four to five times a day. We can use that time when they’re logged on to communicate and engage with them.”

This communication could be related to their work tasks, their pay and rewards, or even staff surveys to gauge opinion. In Erik’s words, “when it comes to employee communication, having an intranet where people log in once a month is just not good enough anymore.”

And while apps shouldn’t ever be a substitute for regular face-to-face exchanges with staff, they allow for daily or even hourly two-way interaction, which is vital for a happy, engaged workforce (and one that’s in control of its own schedule). Maybe not so controversial after all.

Head to Quinyx to find out how workforce management tech can help your business go ‘more gig economy’.

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