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Managing teams in the gig economy

A diverse team of employees can bring on management challenges

Katy Tynan

Today’s workforce is the most diverse in history. While most people think of diversity in terms of age, ethnicity and gender, one of the other types of diversity that impacts our workplace is diversity in how people are working.

In the last decade, we’ve seen tremendous growth in the so-called gig economy — people who are working independently as freelancers and free agents, rather than as employees. While the flexibility that this workforce brings has been beneficial to businesses, there also are some management challenges to consider. With a variety of compensation plans and work schedules, how do you keep everyone motivated and working together?

Ultimately, getting a diverse workforce of freelancers, contractors, vendors and employees to work well together requires a change in mindset and daily habits. As with every major shift in process, transitioning from a team that works together full time in one place to a more varied set of work schedules can present some challenges. No matter how well your communication tools work, there are some things that get lost in translation. Here’s what you need to do to make it work:

  • Shared goals: If your team members are being judged solely on their own performance and allowed to create a totally flexible schedule, it can put a big damper on teamwork. If I’ve finished my work for the week and am planning to head out for a long weekend, why should I stop and help a team member with a project that doesn’t actually count toward my own goals? You still will need to foster a sense of teamwork and collaboration, and reward people for supporting one another wherever possible.
  • Shared rewards: If you plan to use financial incentives to encourage collaboration, make sure everyone shares in the rewards. A team that wins together works together.
  • Virtual community: Working with people in different locations and with varying schedules can make it hard for a true sense of community to develop. Create a space where people can share some information about their hobbies, their kids or other aspects of their lives so you can all get to know each other beyond just the deadlines of the day.
  • Staying connected: Remote teams are highly dependent on technology, and sooner or later a time will come when something disrupts the flow of information. Whether it’s an outage in the main office or some other situation that causes one or more people to be without their tools, contingency plans are a must for remote teams.
  • Addressing issues: Don’t let frustration fester. Address issues quickly and clearly to prevent a small irritation from becoming a big mess.

Managing a hybrid team of employees and contractors is both art and science. As with any teambuilding process, the focus is on clear goals, open communication and a strong sense of respect and alignment among team members, no matter how their jobs are structured.

Katy Tynan is an expert on how work is changing. She is the author of the new book Free Agent: The Independent Professional’s Guide to Self-Employment Success, from Productivity Press. She is a founding partner of Liteskip Consulting Group and MindBridge Partners. Visit Tynan’s Amazon page, her website, indieworking.com, or connect with her on LinkedIn @KatyTynan