The “E” Word: What Does Engagement Look Like in an Unbounded Workforce?

a group of people holding hands over a wooden table

If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck…is it a duck? From a human resources perspective, these times are a significant opportunity for us to question truisms that we have accepted as common best practices. One of these areas is about how critical it is to not treat an independent contractor or consultant as we do full-time permanent employees.

We understand the compliance risk, such as co-employment or misclassification, that we work to avoid. Today, more than ever, companies need to ensure that they mitigate that risk by working with consultants and contractors that are vetted as legal entities with proper business licenses and applicable insurance. These consultants should also have multiple clients and meet various compliance related factors such as working autonomously, completing background checks and general policy adherence. All that said, once someone is working with your team, whether to deliver a time sensitive project or possibly in an interim role, there are some things we should rethink around how we engage this new expanded workforce.

Call it what you want, unbounded, gig, elastic, independent workforce, this is a trend companies can’t afford to ignore. According to Paul Estes, “There are approximately 60 million Independent workers in the United States, representing $1.5 trillion in U.S. GDP and growing. Projections estimate that 50% of our U.S. workforce will be independent workers by 2025- 2030. The Gig Economy represents a trend that will digitally transform how organizations engage with talent.” So as business, talent, and HR leaders, we need to create a strategy to do this effectively.

Here are three steps we can do to engage this segment of our workforce. Note that they aren’t all that different from how we engage employees or anyone else but are likely counter to how we have behaved in the past or behave today.

Set Expectations

While the commitment to a gig worker of any kind is less than hiring a full-time resource, it is still important to set expectations. Most companies are pretty good at doing this from a work deliverable perspective, but many forget to also manage the behavioral expectations. We always recommend clients interview any potential resource for fit. This can show up in lots of ways – work ethic, attitude, values alignment, communication preferences- and these factors are equally important for your gig workers. Remember, we not only want them to bring their “A” game, but also want them to contribute to the broader work environment in a positive way to the extent they are engaging with the rest of the team.


You have likely seen how people respond to feeling excluded from meetings or not receiving certain information and how this affects their ability to deliver exceptional results without having the full context around the project or task. Yet, all too often, we forget to include our extended workforce on certain emails and meetings that might be very relevant based on their work. Sometimes, this is done unintentionally because they are not included in an all employee distribution list. There are many procedural ways to solve for this. The point being you should address this issue. Consider something as simple as not calling it an “All Employee” meeting and adding a separate distribution for contractors and just inviting both. This is an area where our operational habits are lagging behind talent trends. Think about what else these workers need to know to both be excited about the work they are doing and contribute at their best. Who knows, providing context may bring about additional ideas from their past experiences that will help your company achieve better results. Leverage the full value of these talented resources while you have them on your teams.

Build Relationships

Even though you may not be inviting these workers into your “permanent” work family, it is a good investment to build relationships with them. If they are excellent, you will likely want them to come back for a similar project or need. You’d like them to select your opportunity versus others that might come their way. One of the most effective ways to do this is to build genuine relationships with them as people. Get to know them. What’s their background? What led them to join the gig economy? What else do they care about?

There are many benefits of this; one is pure engagement and maximizing the value they deliver to your organization immediately while the other is the future value of creating a sense of loyalty and preference to chose to work with you in the future.

Ways for Leaders to Engage Their Gig Workforce

Below are easy tips to implement to engage your consultants.

  • Share your vision for the team or project
  • Discuss their background and how they like to work
  • Ask them for observations and feedback as a “new set of eyes”
  • Introduce them to the team and extended key stakeholders
  • Ensure that they are included in proper communication channels
  • Set a regular cadence of engagement and check in

There are going to be many impacts to the way we work with the integration and pace of changes in our workforce. This presents rich opportunity for organizations to innovate and create competitive advantages in how they engage and leverage talent. Consider how you are currently engaging your full workforce and if you are leaving a growing segment out either intentionally or not. We are always looking to optimize any operating expense spend, we can’t afford to overlook this opportunity to maximize the short- and long-term return with our unbounded workforce resources.


At Gig Talent, we understand the importance of creating a successful business structure and keeping consultants engaged in the changing workforce. If your organization is looking to evolve and you want to build your team with the best talent, we have amazing consultants who can help. Send us an email at info@gogigtalent for more information.