The Struggle to Retain Employees In a Freelance Economy

  • September 30th, 2017
  • Melissa Zehner

Freelancing. Side hustling. Moonlighting. Whatever you call it, more and more workers are doing it.

In fact, it’s estimated that freelancers make up 35% of America’s workforce, and a substantial portion of employed workers are also playing weekend warrior these days. Our independent workforce will continue to increase, as 41% of non-independent workers plan to join the gig economy in the next year and 53% plan to join within the next 5 years.

But freelancing presents considerable challenges for independent workers. Freelance work isn’t accompanied by the pensions, retirement matching plans, healthcare benefits, and social security contributions that an employed position is. And let’s not overlook the bane of all freelancers: sending an invoice on a completed project only to have the client cop out on the payment.

It’s no easier for small business owners, who struggle to attract qualified, committed workers as more and more people opt to freelance. Job switching is at an all-time high: a whopping 27% of workers change jobs annually. This throws many business owners into a constant cycle of recruiting, hiring, and training, which leaves them precious little time to focus on growing the business.

While part of this tendency to jump ship is due to our low unemployment rate, the increasing acceptability of job-hopping also plays a part. Business media leaders like Forbes and Fast Company even encourage workers to leave their jobs every three years.

So what’s a small business owner to do? Experts recommend offering regular feedback, nurturing leadership skills, and creating opportunities for promotion as a means of cultivating loyalty. Today’s workers are focused on growth and support – which could be good news for small businesses who can’t offer sky-high salaries but are willing to invest time in professional development.

Work-life balance is also more important than ever. If small business owners want to drive employees up through the ranks rather than out the door, they should strive to offer perks like flextime and telecommuting.

Perhaps most importantly, it’s crucial to hire employees who share a passion for your business and have a meaningful connection to the work they do for you: “when times are bleak, the deeper someone’s alignment with your company’s mission and values, the more likely they stay on board and help you fight through.”

About the Author

  • Melissa Zehner

Melissa Zehner is a writer and content marketing manager. She’s written for wealth management organizations, venture capital firms, credit unions, and more than 40 small businesses. When she’s not playing wordsmith, you can find her reading, cooking, or hiking with her dog Spencer.

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