HRM for a Blended Workforce: Gig HR

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HRM for a Blended Workforce: Gig HR

Welcome to another exciting episode of All About HR! This is the series for HR Professionals and business leaders who want to future-proof their organization and learn about the latest trends & insights from industry experts, CHROs, and thought leaders. 

How can HR help the organization thrive in the gig economy? In this episode of All About HR season 2, we talk with Rochelle Haynes — Founder @ Crowd Potential Consulting — about the challenges and best practices for managing gig workers. 

Rochelle is a Gig HR expert who is passionate about building leadership and management strategies suitable for all types of businesses and workers.

In this episode, we’ll discuss: 

  • HR’s role in helping companies embrace gig workers 
  • How HR can be the champion for all types of workers 
  • Four key components of the Gig HR framework 

Watch the full episode to discover how you can use the Gig HR framework to ensure the success of both your organization and gig workers! 


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Rochelle Haynes: So I think gig HR, one of our biggest roles, is working on that mindset transformation. There’s an element of digital transformation in there. But often the biggest thing that we face, the biggest pain point that we often have to address, is the mindset change, especially at the top of the organization. There is still a clinging to the old mindsets, and that often stops innovation at different levels of the company. So where we say: Okay, this is a tool that you can use to ensure that you can work with these employees, or work with these different types of individuals, but still feel that you do that in a way that you feel that your company is safe and protected. And also to ensure that you’re getting the best and that you’re engaging the best people globally, then the rule of gig HR really is to facilitate that experience, and ensure that companies are truly transforming, rather than trying to replicate the office remotely, because that is not the experience. That’s not the new work experience.

Neelie Verlinden: Hi, everyone, and welcome to a brand new episode of All About HR. My name is Neelie. I’m your host, and on today’s episode, I speak with Dr. Rochelle Haynes. She is, among many other things, a good work advocate, a gig HR expert, a career coach, a lecturer, a global speaker, and as I said many other things. Our conversation touched on gig HR, a topic I’m personally very excited about. We talked about the gig HR framework as well a framework that she herself developed and many other very interesting things. So I think now it’s time for you to go check out this episode straight away. And I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. And before we do so, do not forget to subscribe to the channel, hit the notification bell, and like this video. Thank you and see you soon for another episode.

Neelie Verlinden: Hi, Rochelle, welcome on the podcast and how are you, first of all? 

Rochelle Haynes: Thanks for having me, I really good. I’m excited to be here.

Neelie Verlinden: Maybe before we really dive into the conversation, you can tell our audience a little bit more about yourself, about the work you do, and the journey that you’ve been on.

Rochelle Haynes: So I’m originally from Barbados, and I moved to England about 13 years ago, to do a Master’s in HR. And then my intention was to work in HR as well. But one of the things I realized about myself quite early on is I don’t like a nine to five, I don’t like the office setting or that structure. So after I finished my Master’s and my Ph.D., I also got into academia. And through my academic research, I started also consulting with companies. So one of the things that got me really interested in the area was just that experience of working in different structures. So I think I have a bit of a nomadic mindset. I guess we’ll talk about that later. But yeah, my background is in HR and psychology. And I just like working with people. So that’s where that’s kind of where my heart lies.

Neelie Verlinden: Nice. Nice. Thanks for that. And I like that nomadic mindset. And yes, I do think that we will probably touch on that later as well for our listeners. So you specialize in the emerging field of gig HR. And I believe that’s also a term that you coined to describe using HRM to help companies enhance their working relationships with contracts or gig workers. The first thing that comes to mind is perhaps, Rochelle, why is gig work such a burning topic for organizations at the moment?

Rochelle Haynes: I think the pandemic has really pushed it to the forefront. But my interest in this started a lot earlier because I noticed over the years through teaching, but also through my consulting work, those work expectations were changing. So even before the pandemic, I noticed that for example with my students, with the jobs that they were going after, they no longer wanted to work with large companies and slot into graduate schemes. But all of a sudden, they were coming to me and saying: Well, can you show me how to develop my own app, I want to create my own online company. And also just in terms of the way that they thought about work. So one of the things that we’ve been seeing is that even before the pandemic, a lot of people have been opting into working remotely, to work location independent, and also their demands on work have been changing, which a lot of HR practitioners have been complaining about, especially in terms of the younger generation, saying this younger generation, their expectations are so much more different. So now the pandemic kind of forcing everybody online, and a lot of our priorities are changing as a result of people are realizing: Well, I don’t necessarily like working in the office. I don’t necessarily like working in one place or working for one company, or I don’t like work being my be-all and end-all. The only thing we can make better is: do I want more balance in my life? And I think with that there’s a real danger that a lot of companies have been experiencing in terms of losing key talent. We’re choosing to work in a different way. Our presence, we’re choosing not to set jobs that are remote. Our persons want more portfolio careers on multiple careers at once. How do you keep a person engaged? So in that sort of setting, gig HR becomes a priority, because if companies want to maintain and attract key talents, whose work expectations are changing, then they have to create an environment where they can adequately attract and manage their performance in a way that’s beneficial to both how that person works, and also to the organization. 

Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, I think that’s a very good point there immediately, Rochelle, that becomes a priority for HR. Now. Were there any particular developments that led you to the decision to specialize in the field of gig HR?

Rochelle Haynes: Yeah, I think it was a bit gradual because I finished my Ph.D. and I was consulting and through the consulting, and I guess I’m at a juncture where I’m in academia. So that’s the very theoretical side of HR. And then I’m also a practitioner, it turns to the consulting. One of the things I was noticing was that what we were teaching in the classroom was not quite matching up with the pace of change in the workplace. So then just listening to my students and just listening to my client’s pain points, one of the things I decided to do was I partnered with Jeremy Blaine at a consulting company called Performance Works International. We conducted a global study just to see if this feeling that we were having, these expectations, and the differences that we were observing, if it was more widespread. So that’s what really directed us to the big HR line. So through going to travel into like Thailand, and Indonesia, and the Caribbean, and Europe and living in that and working in that digital nomad setting, we got a full-on experience for the pain points that gig workers face with companies and companies also experience with working with someone who’s not necessarily a part of the company. So it’s through all of that and observing all of that, and also having personally the experience for ourselves that we thought there’s a gap here that needs to be filled, you know, there’s something that these companies need that they’re not quite fully addressing just yet. And that’s where the idea of gig HR came from, to really address the pain points that contractors and companies face when they decided to partner 

Neelie Verlinden: I love here as well, how you were literally living this nomadic life when you were conducting this research. I love that element about it. And I would actually love to talk about all your travels. But that’s not the podcast for it. But you briefly mentioned here as well, Rochelle, that you know, through the different experiences all over the world, you notice some of the pain points for organizations when it comes to working with contract workers or freelancers or other types of contingent employees. So could you perhaps share some of the biggest challenges that you see companies deal with when it comes to gig HR or when it comes to managing a contingent workforce?

Rochelle Haynes: Sure, one of the main ones that we see is problems with alignment and conflicting goals between that independent contractor who might not see themselves necessarily as an employee, but see themselves more as an entrepreneur or someone that hires people as well. So when you have this independent person working within the working for this company, but the company is treating them kind of like an employee, sometimes there’s a lack of alignment in how they see their roles, which causes conflict in terms of how the job should be done, how much autonomy should be given any role. And also the amount of communication also going to communication is one of the other biggest pain points where you have, for example, a lot of companies, they hire contractors as experts, so they expect them to deliver expert information. However, in order to do that, the contractor needs to reach certain people within the company, at certain times, to fulfill the project that they’re delivering. But because of their independent nature or non-physical role, they don’t always have immediate access to those persons. So what was happening is that we’d see a lot of contractors who were being punished or, for example, given a bad reference or reputation, because they didn’t fulfill the job in the way that it should have been. Whereas the problem was that the company didn’t provide the access to the resources in the company that they need to adequately fulfill the job. So that along with contractual terms, along with, in some cases, tax queries or confusion around that, and also the payment. A lot of gig workers were saying they’re not paid on time or at all, but also miscommunication in roles. A big example we saw once was a marketing executive who was hired by a firm as a social media content manager or something, the role was of this nature. But then when they actually got into the company, what they realized the company actually wanted from them was a virtual assistant. I wanted to pay them like a virtual assistant as well. So those are the complex are some of the main issues we tend to come across.

Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, and I think you briefly mentioned contractual terms. That’s something I was wondering about as well, Rochelle, is like gig workers, they often do not yet maybe seem to have the same rights and privileges as traditional employees in terms of medical aid, pensions, benefits, and so on. Now, this is obviously what you do. So what is in your opinion, the responsibility of organizations when it comes to working with contingent workers, for instance, regarding all these kinds of things like contractual terms?

Rochelle Haynes: Yeah, it really comes down to the nature of the relationship with that gig worker. If it’s a one-off project, and both the gig worker and the company understands that this is a very short term relationship under the expectations of you’re clear from the beginning, then, in that case, you would be very cognizant that, well, this person isn’t looking necessarily to be fully engaged in your company, this person isn’t looking necessarily for these long term benefits and training and development. But if that’s the case, with that worker, it might not necessarily be the case with other gig workers, who might be looking for future opportunities, who might want a longer-term relationship with the company on various projects. So I think you first need to understand what the gig worker wants. And once you have that, understanding that while this is someone that we might use their skills, again in the future, or recommend them for future jobs, then you can look more into pastoral care and the well-being of that individual. And I think that’s where a lot of companies come into conflict because they think: Well, this person is not part of our company. So really, we shouldn’t have any pastoral care or anything for them. But at the end of the day, this person is still fulfilling the job role for you. So in some ways, you should still be ensuring that they’re adequately engaged and they have the resources, they need to complete the job. And even if it’s not in-house training, perhaps you can provide access to a trading platform at a discounted rate, whatever the case may be. But I think the main thing is to find out what the gig worker wants. So having that open line of communication, because another assumption that often decides what sort of contractual terms that we offer is understanding what the gigster wants. I know that every single person that works as an independent contractor is different. They don’t work the same, and they don’t necessarily want the same things. So once you have that communication, understand what they want, the nature of the relationship, and whether or not your goals align, then from there, you can decide, okay, what is it? How do I best cover the nature of this relationship?

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Neelie Verlinden: I mean, that is a very common-sense approach, I would say, but when you think of it, it makes total sense. Something else I’m wondering about, I’m curious about, I should say, is how can you as an organization go about making sure that gig workers, even if they stay for a relatively short period of time within the company, that they really feel part of the company? Because I do think that is an important part of the success as well that somebody who is temporary doing a gig for an organization still feels engaged and still feels connected to the people who are maybe more traditional employees within the organization? What are your thoughts on that? Or what have you may be seen companies do?

Rochelle Haynes: Yeah, it really comes down to how you set the nature and set the terms from the very beginning. So one of the things I would advise after speaking to that individual, you decided, this is the person you want to hire, and you have a clear understanding of the expectations and the role, then it’s worth having a bespoke onboarding process where you perhaps introduce them to the key persons that they might need to work with while they’re on that project. In terms of engagement, it might come down to not only those introductions, but also having the right platforms that allow them to tap into the resources they need, especially human resources. So in terms of the right people, when they need to, so whether that is a project management platform, whether that is more traditional like email or WhatsApp, whatever the case, understanding that you have to provide them a means through which they can engage any company, but in different ways. And sometimes that can cause a clash where you have full-time workers, and there’s not necessarily the demand for them to be online all the time because as they are in-house, and they’re surrounded by everybody else on the team, so then maybe it becomes down to understanding how you use these specific tools for the job that you haven’t played. So if it is that you’re putting communication tools in place for engagement, then have some sort of expectations about which tools will be used for what level of engagement for the individual. The other thing as well is to make sure that the contribution of that person is known among the team. So often, what happens with gig workers is their contribution isn’t fully recognized, or usually, the credit goes to somebody else who is in-house full time. So they’re seeing almost as casual, a cog in the background almost. But really recognizing the contribution of that individual and making sure the team knows and the wider organization knows, that also helps with engagement and commitment and the willingness for them to want to work with the company again. So that’s just one or two things.

Neelie Verlinden: I think the recognition part there is also so important. And I mean, I can also completely see how gig workers do not always get the credit that they deserve. So I think that’s a really good one to mention. Maybe if we take one step back, or no, if we zoom out a little bit. And I mean, I guess it’s difficult to speak in general terms, but how do you see the role of HR in helping organizations embrace gig workers?

Rochelle Haynes: I think HR is really in a transformational space at the moment. And I think HR has to be that linchpin or that chain that connects the two that really helps the organization to engage with these employees. And I think what’s happened in the past, which is partially why there’s a lot of confusion in gig roles, or with what gig workers are expected to do. Often, HR isn’t necessarily seen as having the responsibility for gig workers. So sometimes the gig workers might be hired by procurement or external firms. And they’re just seen as okay, that department deals with that. But I think as the world of work evolves, and as this becomes the norm, then HR really has to think about creating that valuable people experience for everybody. So they have a role in how their policies reflect their values, and how their policies actually make space for persons to work in a way with the organization. That might be in some time, in some cases, more casual or less permanent, but HR really has a role to play in creating not just the organizational environment, but it might be the online environment or just the overall people experience that enhances that relationship.

Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, I mean, could I then just say that maybe HR here has the role of being a sort of driving force to create this environment in the broadest sense of the term? Because it’s both offline and online often now. So that’s maybe up to HR to also really be the ambassador, actually, for that.

Rochelle Haynes: Yeah, they should be the people champion for all types of workers. So how engaged that gig worker feels within the company will very much be down to HR. So just for example, where we spoke before about that very bespoke onboarding process that suits the way that individual works, but also connects them to the company.

Neelie Verlinden: Okay, so now, I’m very excited about this one as well, because I know that you worked on a so-called gig HR framework, perhaps we can start first with why did you develop this framework Rochelle? 

Rochelle Haynes: Yeah, I think it is going back to that gap that we observed. Because just speaking to companies alone, like in our research, we spoke to a lot of managers. And this was pre-pandemic. So we released our results, wrote a white paper, and released it that February 2020. So just one month before I went fully remote, but at the time where we released it, and even after, and even still now talking to a lot of clients, there’s more openness to remote work, but there’s still a bit of a push back around fully engaging independent contractors and treating them more like a member of the team, whether those are independent contractors that are working at a lower skill level or whether those are working at the higher level. So we really design gig HR as a means or framework of helping companies understand how they can create an atmosphere that allows them to fully engage and enhance their relationship with contractors, location, independent remote persons, without feeling like they’re giving up their level of autonomy, or there’s a danger of information security, whatever the case. So the framework we design in gig HR, we designed it like a house. The shape of it was a house with four rooms, and why we use the structure of the house was because we really wanted to convey the organization or workspace, whether online or offline, as a safe space or a space that felt welcoming and just engaging to everybody who was working with it or working within it. So in that post, we had four key components that the gig HR strategy or framework, which were gig rules, gig tools, gig skills, and gig thrills. And gig rules is really a tongue biter, that one. Gig rules really addressed the type of policies, the work experience, and the work habitat that really suits different types of workers and how you navigate that. So we help companies in that element of it. Then you have the tools, which address the touch and the tech ecosystem that you create to make this sort of independent and remote work and engagement possible. So that’s done from creating your digital information systems, making sure you’re well protected with the right due to diligence and compliance tools. The tools aspect of the framework deals with that. And then we have the skills, just introducing and onboarding your employees, so your gig workers won’t be enough to make sure that things go smoothly, especially if your team isn’t very used to working in this sense, in this more casual, with persons that are not necessarily part of the company. So that was around how you upskill our reskill persons to work effectively in this way. We’ve heard a marketing word in that room, which we call figital skills. So equipping your team with a mix of digital, and also the human skills, human physical skills, or the softer skills that would make them work well and more agile and adaptable in a setting our team like that. And then the final room, big skills, that really addressed the engagement side. So making sure you can communicate and connect, and fully engage with gig workers in a way that they feel most as a DNA part of the firm, rather than just someone who’s passing through. But again, it depends on whether or not that is what that particular worker wants. So those are the key components of our framework, which has been, of course, determined by the nature of the mindset and the culture in the company and the well-being of that worker, which is also in the framework.

Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, I find it super interesting. And I mean, we will make sure that we will share the framework with our audience. I think we can do that probably in the show notes, or something that for everybody who’s watching or listening, we make sure to somehow give you access to it so that you can take a look at it. I had a look at it and it looks awesome. So yeah, we’ll make sure to share that. Now, if we go back to that framework, Michelle, how could you perhaps give an example of how HR departments can use that?

Rochelle Haynes: Sure. So we’ve had a lot of companies or clients, HR clients, well, HR persons from our client companies, who we’ve helped to navigate this space, where they’re thinking about working with persons on a more remote or independent basis. And a good example would be a company that was losing a lot of key talent because people were retiring. And they were retiring and wanting to keep working. But the company wasn’t quite equipped to have them work in that independent contracting way. So what was happening was that they were either leaving and going to other companies or just retiring. So they wanted to keep those expert skills in. So what we work with that company is to help them create the right policies, that help them to leverage the relationship and keep those skills and expertise within the organization rather than have that worker share that with somebody else. So whether that is helping the company to adjust to how that person that wants to work and making sure they have the right policies in place that they feel protected. Often, that’s helping companies create entirely new contracts or even entire categories that a lot that work it can fit into. So they know within this category of workers, this is how we manage the nature of that relationship. So we help companies in that setting, but also we work with the individuals or help companies advise them. If we don’t have that direct contact with their employees, we advise them on how to prepare the individual to work with them in a way that they want to and in a way that they still feel a part of the company engaged with the company. So whether that is through the appropriate platforms, or whether that is just showing the company how to make that person still feel like a valued part of the company, regardless of where they choose to work from. So that’s just one of the samples that we would have done in the past.

Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, thanks for that. I think that the beauty of this is that it opens up so many possibilities and so many ways to try and find what works for the specific person and for the company as well. And I think this is exactly what we need in this time where it’s difficult for a lot of organizations to find talent, that we have so many different ways of getting people to join us for a little while, or maybe for a long while. We also see I think, older workers sometimes joining this, let’s call it the gig revolution if we can still say that, because even if they are retired, and they still want to continue to work, as you just mentioned, this could be a great way for them to do it right as a gig worker.

Rochelle Haynes: Absolutely. And the thing about it is that there are so many categories of gig workers. And when I say gig working in this context, I’m referring to someone who wants to work location independent on a contract basis. You have those that might choose to work while traveling, and they’re doing it with their families. So their needs might be very different to let’s say, someone who is retiring and just traveling on their own or maybe just working from a cafe, around the corner from the organization. So you have different categories, whether that is the retiree, whether that’s the person working and traveling with their family, whether that’s the jetsetter who wants some more dynamic experience and relationship with the company. So depending on which category of gig worker or contractor that you are approaching, or that’s approaching you, then you have to make sure that for that experience, you have the right protocols, you have the right tools and resources to cater to the needs of just the dynamism within a contract that gave contractor space.

Neelie Verlinden: Now, Rochelle, I’m thinking, a lot has happened in this space already, and a lot of these things only accelerated even more, of course, during the past two years. But if you were to have a crystal ball and look in it, how do you see the role of gig HR going forward?

Rochelle Haynes: I think gig HR as a guide for companies to ensure that companies remain constantly adaptable and open, but also that there is a full mindset shift. Because one of the things that we’ve seen is companies are more open to remote work. Companies are more open to working with independent contractors, and a lot have done that in the past. But sometimes the way in which they do it is still very, I don’t know, uncultured for lack of a better word, or not in a way that everyone really fully benefits from the experience. So I think for gig HR, one of our biggest roles is working on that mindset transformation. There’s an element of digital transformation in there. But often the biggest thing that we face, the biggest pain point that we often have to address is the mindset change, especially at the top of the organization, there is still a clinging to the old mindsets, and that often stops innovation at different levels of the company. So where we say: Okay, this is a tool that you can use to ensure that you can work with these employees, or work with these different types of individuals, but still feel that you do that in a way that you feel that your company is safe and protected. And also to ensure that you’re getting the best out of that and that you’re engaging the best people globally, then the role of gig HR really is to facilitate that experience, and ensure that companies are truly transforming, rather than trying to replicate the office remotely, because that’s not the experience. That’s not the new work experience.

Neelie Verlinden: I like it now. And we’re at one of my favorite parts of each episode, which is the part where I get to ask our guests a few questions that are a little bit different. So now the first one here would be what do you believe is the biggest cliche that exists about HR?

Rochelle Haynes: I think I would say in many ways, HR is still seen as almost like an admin or a punisher role. And I think often we don’t quite see HR as fully human, which is a bit ironic given this is human resource management. But I think HR is still seen in a very sort of punitive way. And I know a lot of people when they think HR, they think paycheck, they think admin. So I think that’s one of the biggest sorts of cliches I see around HR. HR is meant to take care of the company and people in that sort of admin way. So I think I’d like to see more, I think we’re getting a lot of progress, where a lot of people are moving past that mindset, which is good, I think, in many ways. I’ve still spoken to a lot of people that think, okay, we only go to HR, we need a paycheck.

Neelie Verlinden: That’s I think that’s still true for a lot of people. And then would you mind sharing an epic win and an epic fail with our listeners and our viewers?

Rochelle Haynes: Okay, um, I can tell you probably one of the most pathetic traveling scenarios I’ve been in. I was in Brazil and I was in Rio and I went to see that big Cray statue. And I didn’t quite anticipate how long the line would be. And I had to wait for hours. And I finally got to the top. And I only got to take a quick snap of it, then I had to turn around because my flight was two hours later. So I went to the person because you have to take these bags to get to different levels of the mountain to go back down. And I went to this guy and asked him: Can you let me go to the front? And he wouldn’t let me go. And I asked him again, I said: I’m going to miss my flight. He wouldn’t let me go. And then I just completely burst into tears and caused a big scene. And it was just really pathetic, like, please, I don’t want to miss my train and be stuck here. And then this guy had to take me down the mountain on a motorcycle where I cried all the way because I was never on a motorcycle before. And I was scared. So I was back in this motorcycle holding onto the guy crying: Please don’t kill me. It was just really, really pathetic. I made the flight, which is good, but just by the scratching my nose. But yeah, I felt pretty pathetic. The guy was looking at me and being like: What is wrong with you?

Neelie Verlinden: And is there an epic win that comes to mind?

Rochelle Haynes: I think a recent one would have been being featured in Forbes for gig HR. Because when I first started gig HR, I had no idea where it would lead me. I had no idea where it would go. And to have a lot of people interested and curious and endorsing it, and wanting to implement it. I don’t know, I think sometimes I still see myself as a small island girl from Barbados. So actually coming over here and having this goal in mind where I wanted to be a global consultant that transforms this space. And then having steps along the way that kind of affirms that. I think that gives me a sense of pride.

Neelie Verlinden: Definitely. Definitely. And rightly so, if I may say so. And I was wondering as well, is that maybe another epic win coming this year? Because I do remember that we talked about a book that you were writing. 

Rochelle Haynes: Yeah. So we’re currently writing a book on gig HR, myself and my business partner, Jeremy Blaine. So we just really wanted to put all of our experience – we’ve been speaking a lot in forums, we’ve been working with companies – but now we want to bring those experiences together and offer a very practical how-to book to companies that also gives them the experience of other companies that have tried and implemented it as well. So yeah, that should be coming later this year.

Neelie Verlinden: Nice. Nice. I can’t wait. Alright, so I think that brings us to the end of this conversation. Where shall I want to thank you very much. I really enjoyed it. So thanks for joining us. 

Rochelle Haynes: Thanks for having me. Pleasure. 

Neelie Verlinden: And thank you everyone for tuning in to this episode of All About HR. If you enjoyed the episode, do not forget to give it a thumbs up and share it with a friend. Thank you very much for watching, and I hope to see you soon for a new episode.

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