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December 22, 2021

Why you may not want to push side hustles to the side

Employees — especially younger ones — recognize they have valuable, marketable skills

We’ve all heard about The Great Resignation, the unexpected phenomenon where millions of employees have chosen to leave their current jobs and even the workplace. For some, particularly women, the reason was lack of good child care and the feeling that family life was more important than work.

In some cases, many of these employees had come to the realization that they didn’t have to accept a bad job or an awful culture anymore. They had options

The pandemic has accelerated this movement — but it was already here…and growing.

Many employees have decided they needed three fundamental experiences from work to feel fulfilled and engaged.

  • Autonomy — “I want more control over how I do my job.”
  • Mastery — “I want opportunities to develop my skills to help me succeed.”
  • Clarity — “I need to believe in what this organization is doing.”

Employees who weren’t satisfied that those three needs were being met left the corporate world to build something of their own. Or they developed a “side hustle” that delivers what they need, including a better opportunity for major financial success.

According to a LinkedIn poll, more than 50% of all employees want their next job to be self-employed — entrepreneur, contractor, freelancer or content creator.

  • It isn’t just those who choose to start their own enterprise who want more control. A Harvard Business Review study discovered that 59% of respondents said “flexibility” is more important than salary or benefits, meaning more autonomy over how and when they did their jobs.
  • 74% of employees surveyed in a long-term research project commissioned by Middlesex University for Work Based Learning feel they aren’t reaching full potential at work due to lack of opportunity to develop mastery of their skills — and that erodes engagement. 
  • In a study conducted by Strategy&, a paltry 28% of respondents felt connected to their company’s purpose. Only 34% thought they strongly contribute to their company’s success. And more than half weren’t even “somewhat” motivated, passionate, or excited about their jobs.

Do you have to give away the store to give employees what they need?

Although employees generally want all three “satisfaction factors”, how they’re fulfilled may differ from generation to generation — particularly the autonomy/flexibility factor. Gen Y and Z are more concerned with “net freedom” than they are with net worth. It’s a matter of providing “positive liberty”, the freedom for employees to control and shape their own lives. Once again, one size fits all probably doesn’t fit anyone.

The Creator Economy has its problems

According to a survey done by Paychex, a human capital management company, employees with side hustles are spending an average of 52 hours a week on their projects — and that can’t help but have some impact on productivity. It has resulted in employees turning in late work (23%), poor quality work (17%) and missing meetings (12%).

These employees aren’t trying to cause problems or produce inferior work — they’re just trying to give their future a measure of certainty.

The Paychex study found that employees are so afraid of being laid off, 52% haven’t told their employers about their side gigs. Only 12% reported being caught doing freelance work during the workday.

So how do you move forward? The choice comes down to finding ways to accommodate what’s happening or ban employees from having other jobs or businesses on the side.

Even employees without side hustles may see that edict as being negative to the work culture. But is it possible to effectively incorporate this new way of working and still maintain a great working culture?

Reimagining your relationships with talent

How do you make sure work gets done on time and done well? Will you be seen to be giving preferential treatment to a certain group of employees? Can you develop a workable benefit solution that satisfies everyone?

Other companies have found ways to overcome the negatives to make the Creator Economy work for their organization. Here’s where you can start:

  • Measure productivity and outcomes, not activity
  • Work at developing trust — both ways
  • Create more effective, ongoing communication
  • Work with your broker to develop the right combination and level of benefits
  • Shift your thinking about turnover — don’t think of it solely as a cost; see it as a standard way of doing business and find ways to make it work

In other words, you need to rethink how you approach managing talent. You are no longer dealing with a monolithic workforce that thinks alike; you don’t have employees who expect — or even want — to work for you the rest of their careers; and you have employees who are perfectly comfortable getting your work done in their own ways and then diving into their own.

The trick is to anticipate change and get on top of it before it gets on top of you.

MMA can help you develop more effective approaches

Marsh & McLennan Agency has the tools to help you think through the issues of working with the Creator Economy without losing your footing. We’ll work with you to continually refine the employee experience and your relationship to your most important asset — your talent. We can help with establishing working arrangements, communication, benefits and dealing with turnover. To find out more, contact your MMA representative.