Organisational Transformation: Gig Workers for Seasonal De-stress

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Organisational Transformation: Gig Workers for Seasonal De-stress

Manage and plan for seasonal peaks to reap the benefits of gig workers all year round

The Dutch Keukenhof gardens lure over a million visitors each spring, and zero visitors the rest of the year. It’s a massive enterprise supported by a 40-strong staff that expands to 1,000 workers just for the blooming season. Though Keukenhof was built around a unique model of scaling up for a seasonal peak with temporary workers, any business can transform to seamlessly employ a gig workforce and cope with fluctuating market demands.

In the first article of a three-part series, we suggested a new perspective and progressive strategy: Pro-actively manage and methodically plan for seasonal peaks, to reap the benefits of gig workers all year round. In the following article, we delve into the organisational transformation that is needed. Chances are, you will need to make some fundamental changes to structure, culture, processes, and technology before you can achieve a successful scalable organisation. The good news is, the transformation will be worth it.

 

Success at Scale: How a Gig Workforce Saves Time and Costs

Organisations in the transportation, hospitality or services industries arguably benefit the most from using gig workers to cover seasonal peaks. But any company subject to predictable market changes stands to see results. Here is how:

  1. Reduced costs: Scaling up the workforce with temporary workers, then scaling it back down, saves the cost of retaining permanent workers in roles that would otherwise present an imbalanced workload. Also, temporary workers usually don’t receive full company benefits, and their dismissals don’t demand the same costs as terminating permanent roles.
  2. Faster and easier recruitment: In the first article of this series, we encouraged building a network ‘ecosystem’ with other companies that have seasonal peaks at various times of the year. Such cross-organisational collaboration can potentially lead to a database of gig workers shared with other companies, which could save time searching for available workers.
  3. Faster and safer time to performance: A dependable and trained pool of gig workers who are eager to return each season will hit the ground running, saving you time in onboarding and training – not to mention correcting risky rookie mistakes.
  4. More capacity for managers to coordinate tasks: With returning temporary workers, managers spend less time directing them – and directing permanent staff how to work with them. Everyone knows what their responsibilities look like once a seasonal peak begins.
  5. Flexibility to respond to shifting needs: Gig workers tend to adapt faster to change; they are used to taking on unfamiliar jobs and they are comfortable with the volatility a freelance lifestyle brings. This means they are often happy to accept changes to schedules or tasks.
  6. Control during peak season: Organizations will gain more control of their workforce by collaboration in an ecosystem that shares a pool of gig workers; you will be more assured of a gig worker’s seasonal return as that worker moves from one employer to another within the transparent ecosystem.
  7. Workplace innovation: A gig worker brings with them experience in alternative ways of working at other companies; if leaders can harvest ideas stemming from this experience, they could identify and implement innovations faster.

A Strategy for All Speeds

The benefits are clear, but it is up to each organisation to zero in on necessary changes to maximise the gig workforce. To eliminate the rush and stress of hiring temporary workers for seasonal peaks requires a strategy that focuses on flexibility, inclusivity, and collaboration. Adopting those three key elements in all areas of the business will ensure the right conditions and culture to adapt to the needs of the market.

Flexible and Adaptable

Adaptability is key in an organization that loses part of its workforce at least once a year, and is not assured of any gig worker returning. We recommend a ‘multi-speed’ model of organisation, as shown in the figure below. Think of everyday business as the core ‘speed’, performed by the ‘stable core’ of permanent supporting functions, like HR and finance. Peak seasonal periods constitute the top speed, performed by temporary workers. In between is the dynamic speed, during which certain permanent teams – such as sales – work at a variable pace as the business ramps up or down, before or after a seasonal peak. This model ensures efficient transitions among the speeds, without the chaos that can often accompany such changes.

Inclusivity and Appreciation

The multi-speed approach requires buy-in from all leaders and staff. But for it to really succeed, you also need to cultivate a dependable and quality gig workforce. This is best achieved by creating a culture of inclusivity and appreciation of those temporary workers. As we covered in the first article of this series, gig workers respond well to being treated as respected members of staff; finding ways to reward them and communicate your value of them will breed loyalty and productivity.

Collaboration

Collaboration is the final key element needed to achieve this transformation, especially building a network with other companies that have seasonal peaks. If each organisation shares the details of their seasonal needs and gig workers, wouldn’t it be easier to find reliable temporary workers? A gig worker in the Netherlands, for example, might easily transition from sorting packages for PostNL during the Christmas season to helping manage crowds at Keukenhof, to selling ice cream at the Efteling theme park in the summer – all aided by a central database that enables each of those companies to see that worker’s availability and the quality of their experience.

Steps Toward a Scalable Workforce

So what fundamental changes are needed to the company’s structure, culture, processes and technology? That depends on how well your leadership team is already supporting the transformation via the ideal procedures and behaviours outlined below.

Supporting the Organisation

  • Ensure that business policies and your people strategy prioritise adaptability, inclusivity and collaboration. Policies specifically related to gig work should engender an organisational culture that supports temporary and flexible work, and outlines how collaboration happens. (Look for more about policies in our next article of this series, about HR transformation.)
  • Make flexibility a must, when it comes to seasonal peaks and a rotating workforce. Regard seasonal volatility as business as usual, and adapt processes accordingly.
  • Design a gig-friendly organisational structure to avoid an impact on everyday business and systems when the temporary workforce rolls in. For example, rather than changing reporting lines for the whole organization at peak times, organise gig workers as a kind of ‘plug-in’ that supplements the permanent structure.
  • Set the tone for how all staff should treat gig workers and interact with them; leaders play a crucial role in shaping a transparent, inclusive and accepting company culture. Managers and the executive team should clearly communicate to the core team how gig workers’ contributions complement the organisation’s strategy and goals.

Supporting Gig Workers

  • Nurture a long-term relationship by showing appreciation for new gig workers, and foster a team-oriented sense of belonging. Welcome them on their first day, and introduce a purpose or message that they will share with you and all other members of the organisation.
  • Continue that sentiment throughout their tenure: Listen to their concerns, develop their skills through training opportunities and publicly recognise them for outstanding contributions.
  • Reward a gig worker’s good efforts. This could be by operating a token-reward system with an ecosystem database. Assigning a valuable worker a token ensures they will earn a higher rate at their next gig and incentivises them to remain within the ecosystem.
  • Champion a ‘one team, one task’ approach, and provide each team with clear and transparent communications about the responsibilities and timelines for each task.
  • Enable knowledge sharing, enhanced by a feedback loop and a ‘buddy system’ that pairs knowledgeable workers (such as a permanent employee or returning gig worker) with new and/or inexperienced gig workers.

Supporting the Stable Core

  • Show equal appreciation for the core team as you do for the gig workforce. Your permanent employees’ acceptance of gig workers will make or break your response to seasonal demands, so support them to be flexible and accommodating.
  • Manage permanent employees’ expectations about what happens at each speed of the multi-speed organization. Unless they know exactly what to anticipate, these core workers can’t ensure that operations are functioning smoothly at each speed. The stable core is the driving force behind the success of the scalable organization.
  • The core team must accept the temporary ‘layer’ of the business and demonstrate a welcoming and patient attitude toward gig workers.
  • Collaboration is essential between the core team and temporary workers; a siloed approach to upscaling the workforce invites miscommunication and error.

 

Companies with a ‘flatter’ structure will likely find transformation the easiest, having fewer layers to adapt. But any organisation can shed its traditional skin in favour of a more flexible body. From staff roles to rotas, from infrastructure to influence, deliberate changes can make all the difference in the smooth integration of a gig workforce.

Interested in learning more about maximising a seasonal workforce? Look for the next article in this series about HR transformation, or re-read our first one introducing a pro-active approach to gig work.

 

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Statista, “Number of visitors to the Keukenhof in the Netherlands from 2011 to 2023,” August 31, 2023,

Keukenhof Holland, “Keukenhof Concludes a Successful Season,” May 16, 2023.

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