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Independent contractors, freelancers, 1099ers, temps or consultants—whatever you call them, they are revolutionizing the way we think about work and radically changing the face of business today. They have a different perspective of what a “career” looks like and how they build trust and loyalty within an organization. With this unique mindset, they’re shifting how companies and recruiters communicate their employer brand and hire in the gig economy.

Today, more than 160 million people across the U.S. and Europe have joined the gig economy. Also known as the on-demand economy, it’s the labor market marked by short-term or freelance “gigs” as opposed to permanent work. And by 2020, more than 4 in 10 American workers are expected to regularly be working as providers in the gig economy. So what does this mean for your talent acquisition strategy?

Leading companies recognize the importance of devoting time and resources to developing a powerful employer brand. In 2016, 59 percent of companies invested more in their employer brand than the year prior. And 83 percent of employers believe their brand has a significant impact on their ability to hire top talent. With the rise of this contingent labor force though, an employer brand that speaks only to traditional 9-to-5’ers is going to cause you to miss out on an increasingly large and highly skilled talent pool. By creating an employer brand that also appeals to remote and gig workers, organizations stand to gain a powerful competitive advantage in the fight for the right fit talent.

Here are three tips for engaging and retaining star talent in today’s gig economy:


Understand Their Motivations

In one recent survey, 86 percent of independent contractors said that they intentionally chose freelance work, and the top 3 reasons cited for freelancing were flexible hours, the ability to choose their work and control over their own destiny. For these workers, it’s not your 401K matching or unlimited vacation policy that’s going to make you the employer of choice in their eyes. Autonomy and flexibility are what today’s on-demand workers really are pursuing when they choose to enter the gig economy. So, how can you as an employer market to these motivations?

A strong employer brand engages the minds and hearts of candidates. Putting a spotlight on your culture of independence through the use of employee stories is critical. Workers in the gig economy are always candidates, so get social with them! Use your company’s social channels to highlight how individuals within your company have the freedom to pursue their passion projects or coach their kid’s soccer team on Tuesday afternoons. Share how you’re empowering workers to be their own boss and make a great living while also setting their own schedule. Gig workers are looking for companies that practice the belief that work is not a place you go, but a thing you do.


Highlight People & Purpose Over Perks

Building trust is paramount in a gig economy, given many of these workers may never step foot in your office or even meet a single colleague face-to-face. To compensate for this lack of physical interaction, your employer brand needs to feel even more personal and meaningful. These workers have a different view of what success means—after all, they entered the gig economy to control their own destiny—and they want to work for companies that help them fulfill their sense of purpose. As incredible as your fully stocked kitchen and on-site gym are, it’s your company’s people, culture and values that are going to attract the best and brightest to your company.

To make your employer brand compelling to gig workers, give it a personality. A voice. Make your brand come alive for them, so that it feels more human and less “faceless corporation.” Focus on growing your employee advocacy programs. Share those personal employee stories not only across your corporate social channels, but encourage your employees to share across their networks as well. Incorporate video content into your communications to further personalize and add authenticity to your brand in the eyes of these candidates.


Nurture to Retain

Just as important as developing an employer brand that resonates with workers in the gig economy, is delivering on that brand promise. Unfortunately, this is where many organizations today fall short. Just 30 percent of organizations use employer branding for employee retention purposes. In the quest for using employer branding to attract new talent, many forget to consider how employer branding can also be used to retain existing talent. In the gig economy though, workers can very quickly and easily leave to work for your competitor. They can literally be working for a company on the other side of the world by tomorrow. Why should they stay with you? And, as you build out your roster of top freelance talent, why should they come back to you or refer other talented candidates in their network to you? 

When considering your internal communications strategy, don’t exclude contingent workers. Everybody working for your company, whether they get a 1099 or W2 at tax time, is working toward a shared purpose. How can you communicate in a way that ensures everybody working for you—regardless of employment status—has a positive experience, is respected, and feels valued for the contribution they are making? Communicate frequently and honestly, sharing as much company information with contingent workers as you can. They’ll appreciate it and feel supported, and who doesn’t want to work for a company that makes them feel that way?


The gig economy is reshaping the recruiting landscape, and there are tremendous benefits awaiting companies that develop an employer branding strategy geared toward contingent workers. Hiring from this unique pool of people enables companies to rapidly scale to meet business demands, access wider and more diverse talent, and receive an injection of fresh ideas and skill sets.

By marketing to their desires for autonomy and flexibility, putting a spotlight on your people and culture, and building trust through transparent communication, you’ll be well on your way to attracting and retaining the best agile talent in this new world of work.

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