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Q&A: Expanding talent management strategies to embrace the gig workforce

Colin Brennan of Alight Solutions shares his advice for employers looking to expand their use of gig workers.

Written by Colin Brennan, President, Global Solutions and Services, Alight Solutions

The gig economy has been a steadily growing force in talent management for a number of years. But the disruption to the economy and the workforce caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has had many employers rethinking their business and talent management strategies in the past few months, and the switch to a work-from-home model also opened the eyes of many businesses to the possibilities beyond the traditional work arrangement.

Colin Brennan, president of global solutions & services at Alight Solutions, recently shared some thoughts on the increasing role of the gig economy in traditional business models, and what employers can do to attract and leverage talent.

Why is gig work a critical capability for employers to accommodate, and how has the pandemic played a role in shaping this?

The pandemic displaced many highly skilled workers who turned to “gigs” while waiting for the economy and job market to improve. When the pandemic subsides, we’ll see a dramatic redistribution of talent across industries, and these workers will join employers that will likely still be establishing the right resources and technology infrastructure to support a workforce that’s returning to the workplace, remaining remote, or a combination of both.

But gig work is hardly a new phenomenon, as the economy has been reorganizing itself around freelancers and independent contractors for many years. What the pandemic did was force employers to reimagine their businesses and workplaces so they’re more adaptable and resilient in the face of disruption. In situations like these, gig workers give employers the flexibility to scale their workforce up and down based on the demand for goods and services and the skillsets that are needed to deliver them. Jobs that can be performed on an on-demand basis will be a huge part of employers’ talent management strategies moving forward.

How can employers leverage cloud-based HR systems to unify organizations’ people-related data and processes, especially when it comes to effectively managing gig workers?

Employers should be focused on being proactive, fast and lean, especially when it comes to operations. In order to meet the needs of a contemporary, agile workforce, they should evolve their approaches to pay and talent while implementing the right systems. Traditionally, HR systems are not made to effectively manage gig workers — especially when it comes to rapid onboarding and offboarding. As gig workers play an increasingly important role in their operations, employers need nimble processes that run in a paperless fashion during the recruitment and application stages; glean workers’ past employment experiences; leverage mobile as a channel to bring people into the organization and keep them engaged; and help make data-driven decisions around skillsets.

As a result of the pandemic, HR leaders hesitant towards automation may finally make the switch due to the positive correlation with cost and time savings. Cloud-based HR systems can unify employers’ people-related data and processes. By providing a broader view of the workforce, employers can strategically allocate resources, hire the right people at the right times, start programs that nurture talent and, ultimately, elevate the employee experience.

What’s the advantage of offering gig workers diverse options for pay, and what kind of options exist?

In this digital age where information, goods and services are accessible from mobile devices and transactions are seamless, workers expect the same level of convenience when it comes to compensation. That’s why it’s critical for employers using the gig model to ensure quick and stress-free methods of payment for those workers, on their channel of choice.

With more people digitizing their wallets using mobile pay and banking apps, employers should find payroll solutions that can fit seamlessly into that experience. Fortunately, many employers are adopting new processes and technologies — and they’re already “paying” off. They can calculate compensation as time-related data is collected, allowing for more frequent payments that go directly to workers’ digital wallets, much like Apple Pay or Alipay. Alight’s DailyPay on-demand payroll service, for example, allows workers to transfer accrued but unpaid wages to any bank account or pay card in advance of their next paycheck.

Specific to gig workers, they generally expect to be paid for the work they do, as it’s completed, rather than on a typical pay period cycle. This growing trend only adds to the need for employers to have faster and more efficient methods of conducting payroll. That’s where AI and machine learning come in — those technologies can take all the important inputs (e.g., salary, commissions, taxes, travel, expenses, bonuses, etc.) as well as years of historical payroll data, to more accurately assess whether a worker’s paycheck is correct or not.

In addition to pay, are there other benefits employers should consider offering when it comes to attracting the gig workforce and creating a great gig experience?

Employers that can provide engaging experiences that will cultivate gig workers and their skills will be in an advantageous position. While the actions taken and administered will be different, providing additional HR administrative services such as benefits will allow employers to attract and retain the best possible extended workforce.

In today’s experience economy, workers expect to have valuable data and information at their fingertips that can be applied seamlessly across their digitally-driven lives. We believe improving health outcomes and maximizing benefits dollars starts with empowering people to take charge of their total wellbeing with on-demand support from their employers.

AI-powered, person-centric platforms can help connect the dots between people, work and life to drive smarter decisions, navigate choice and create impactful experiences. Consider the possibilities for the workforce if employers use AI to optimize workforce management, pay people faster, provide them with personalized and customized retirement and financial solutions, or even anticipate their healthcare needs, like using biometric data to nudge them to seek care before health issues arise.

Originally published by BenefitsPRO on January 21, 2021.

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