Just when you think you've put in place your company's best training program ever, modern business reality strikes: Every day seems to come with yet another challenge for businesses trying to train workers to be intellectually competitive within the workforce.
One of the newest obstacles facing training industry professionals is how to design and implement a program strategy for one of the fastest-growing categories of workers: temporary, fully/partially remote or seasonal employees—often requiring training outsourcing experts to deliver both classroom and virtual training experiences for these so-called "Gig Workers."
Gig Workers are being used more and more by businesses, but they often have different needs and can present different training challenges than, say, full-time, in-house workers.
Let's start with defining what exactly is a Gig Worker. The label stems from "Gig Economy," which describes today's high-tech business culture in which a greater amount of revenue is being generated by technology. A result of this new economic model is the increasing tendency for companies to harness the capabilities of technology to employ workers in what can be a cheaper yet also more efficient and productive way to do business.
Often cited examples of Gig Workers are Uber and Lyft drivers. But the gig-based economy is being driven by more than just ride-share drivers. It is impacting virtually every business sector. Everyone from "the cable guy" to computer programmers to sales forces are being on-boarded to companies in a gig fashion working mostly via technology-enabled platforms that makes teleworking a virtually seamless experience.
In fact, Intuit CEO Brad Smith recently estimated that 34% of the U.S. workforce (and as many as 43% by the year 2020) will fall under the category of Gig Worker.
So how can businesses best provide these Gig Workers the type of training that will deliver them the knowledge, human connection and overall intellectual capital needed for them to help achieve corporate objectives?
Combine Latest Training Technology Tools With Traditional Classroom Experience
Research indicates that the biggest slice of the Gig Worker pie soon will be comprised of millennials. Yes, this is the generation that is used to having information and virtual interaction available to them 24/7 with the flick of a finger.
It's an industry fact that these younger workers will expect a portion of their training to be done remotely—through either on-demand e-courses, virtual training or a cloud-based learning lab. However, studies show that, depending on what kind of knowledge is being transferred, even these former "screenagers" turned young professionals typically prefer in-person training over web-based learning.
Much to the surprise of many, one recent study of millennials in the workplace found that this generation of learners prefer in-person training experiences over remote ones. Their top three preferences for learning new skills: Attending a conference/event, attending in-person training and working alongside knowledgeable colleagues.
However, this doesn't mean that it's a best practice for instructors to expect a 25-year-old learner to engage equally with a training style or modality preferred by a 55-year-old learner during an instructor-led training session.
Elliott Masie, CEO of The Masie Center and chair of its Learning Consortium, has observed that when e-learning first emerged, businesses thought it would all but replace classroom learning. The reality is that while it hasn't replaced classrooms, it has changed teaching styles and encouraged more creative hybrid learning approaches.
Masie tells Chief Learning Officer that the amount of classroom training has remained relatively stable since e-learning first came on the scene, but nowadays most classroom training has become shorter, more interactive and action-based to accommodate younger—as well as older but tech-savvy—workers.
Empower Learners With Vital Soft Skills and Company Culture Knowledge
Engaging workers who might rarely—or never—interact in-person with fellow team members poses a serious team-building challenge to corporate learning professionals. So when designing a training program for Gig Workers, it's important to include training that educates them on the company culture and teaches various soft skills that will help them interact more productively with co-workers and clients in a manner that is consistent with a company's brand and culture. This customized training experience can result in more motivated workers and, consequently, increased customer satisfaction levels.
Amber Hunter, director of Employee Performance at A Plus Benefits, has found that this approach can help unify an increasingly segmented workforce. Hunter noted, “Regardless of the role or the length of time a contractor will be onsite, they will at least understand your company’s mission, vision and values, which is a catalyst when trying to get work done in a mixed workforce.”
Managing the training and education of a geographically-dispersed labor force today presents a challenge few companies can handle solely on their own. Often the best solution is to outsource training space and the training delivery management to a company that offers the most flexible options of both classroom and virtual training services tailored to the modern worker.
No matter what path your company chooses, the Gig Economy is here to stay—and so is the need to train these workers effectively.