After spending 13 years abroad, when Chitwan Sidhu, 45, came back to India, she found it quite challenging to find freelance projects. Sidhu, a designer, relied heavily on personal recommendations, and she slowly built up a portfolio. Two years ago, she finally joined Livspace, a home design and renovation platform, as a design partner.

“After I got interviewed at Livspace, I took a test, underwent training and did a mock project. Only when I passed these, did they allow me to work on actual projects. But it helps me now, even in my freelance career to have Livspace in my work experience. For a gig worker, it is important to let their work show. That is how our clients will choose us," says Sidhu, who continues to also practice as a freelance designer out of Gurugram.

The gig economy has grown beyond anyone’s imagination. According to a 2016 McKinsey report titled Independent work: Choice, necessity, and the gig economy, 20-30% of the working-age population in Europe and the US engages in some form of independent work.

For the employer too, the importance of a gig worker is increasing. “The war on talent has changed. In fact, these days, workers are taking more control over their careers than ever before. And this includes everyone from millennials to Gen-Xers. The contingent workforce is continuing to grow, leaving organizations no choice but to follow their lead in terms of accommodating potential talent hires," says Ketan Kapoor, chief executive officer (CEO) and co-founder, Mettl, an assessment and skill-measurement company.

One of the Big Four accounting firms, EY uses the open site GigNow to advertise short-term openings and invite applications from gig workers.

“In our organization, we are very clear about what kinds of profiles we are looking at. Are we taking a gig worker, or are we outsourcing to a third party or are we employing a full time employee. In the past, for many specialized, short-term skills we have hired full time employees and later not been able to deploy them optimally. It makes more sense to have gig workers with us for these specific projects," explains Sandeep Kohli, partner and talent leader, EY India.

Making the match

But choosing the gig worker can also be tough. One must remember that the gig economy survives on fast and competent talent—but how do you make sure that the one you are employing for a particular project, is actually going to be all that he/she says on paper?

Hiring of gig workers is usually very quick. There is little downtime, which means background screening needs to be swiftly done as well. In most cases, there aren’t any formal processes in place, which can be risky. According to Neha Bagaria, CEO and co-founder, JobsforHer, an online connecting portal, “Employers need to establish a strong background screening policy as checking their backgrounds should be just as important as vetting a regular employee. Employers should hire from a verified source and partner with an experienced background screening provider, especially when dealing with sensitive data."

Background checks however are expensive, says Sanjay Lakhotia, co-founder of Noble House Consulting Pte, an HR talent marketplace. Most companies do not want to incur that cost for a short, one- or two-month project. The process that a company follows for a gig worker should be pretty much what it follows for a normal hire, believes Lakhotia. When companies hire from platforms such as Noble House, they get certain documents signed, such as code of conduct, non- disclosure agreement, or even something like a self declaration, etc. The same should be done for gig workers.

In addition, Noble House often does the first cut filter when companies tell it what kind of gig workers they need. As the talent marketplace evolves, it plans to develop other mechanisms, such as scoring of individuals or giving badges and certifications. All of this should help a company choose their gig worker. “An individual freelancer, if he works with company A, company B will never get to know what he did, or how he performed on it. But if we introduce something like client scores—over a period of time, they can build their profile," he adds.

Ramakant Sharma, co-founder and chief operating officer, Livspace, recommends productivity measurements for all gig workers as well. “The measurements have to be method driven— for example, even when you book a cab and rate the driver—they get to know the ratings. No manager comes and tells him you have to do such and such. Similarly in a white-collar occupation, there can be customer ratings and a measurement to see how much he/she is contributing to the company’s earnings," he says. Sharma suggests further that commissions and bonus can be attributed on the basis of the productivity measure as well.

Kohli believes choosing the correct gig worker is not too difficult. Whether it is a gig worker or a full-time employee, the hiring process at EY remains the same. The background verification is done as stringently. “We clearly ask for references of the last 2-3 projects they have done in different organizations. The final thing that helps is that we have very strong contractual bindings—in terms of our confidentiality, information sharing, dual employment etc. These are steps not just for the gig worker, but everyone. And that is important to make them feel like they are part of the ecosystem, and buy in to the company’s vision and mission—no matter how short their tenure is," he explains.

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Signing on a gig worker?

■Always define the role and responsibility clearly.

■Define the financial aspects as well. If there is an incentive structure, explain it at the onset so that the gig worker knows that he or she stands to earn a maximum of this amount.

■The target structure must be practical. Do not give them a target that is not achievable.

—Ramakant Sharma, co-founder and COO, Livspace

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