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

5 min read

By Lukasz Karwacki

gig economy remote worker
Image credit: Depositphotos

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.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.