Q&A: The Challenges Of Gig Economy: Lessons For HR by Anshul

In this Q&A session, we explore Anshul Khurana's insights and experiences as the co-founder of Entitled, a platform dedicated to empowering low-income workers. With over a decade of blue-collar workforce management experience, Anshul has been driving positive change. He also shares his background, having spent years in this field before founding Entitled. The platform addresses recruitment and retention challenges, offering financial and health services for a better work environment.

Q: What valuable insights have you gained from your experience in the blue-collar workforce that could be adapted and implemented into conventional HR practices?

When transitioning between managing different types of workers, the most important thing to consider is the significance of incentives. Regardless of the workforce, the concept of incentivization remains crucial. However, the way these incentives are structured and delivered can vary.

Understanding their unique needs and preferences is vital. This approach helps organizations enhance various workforce metrics effectively.

In essence, the core concept of incentives remains consistent across all types of workforces. However, the strategies and rewards that genuinely motivate workers can differ. This insight has been one of my most valuable takeaways.

Q: What are your thoughts on the importance of empathy when managing blue-collar workers and, to some extent, how it can also resonate with white-collar employees?

Empathy holds significant importance when managing any type of workforce, whether blue-collar or white-collar. Let me illustrate this with a small example. If something were to happen to someone in our family, we would typically take them to the hospital, and it may just take a couple of hours. We have the financial means to get things done. However, for a blue-collar worker or a low-income worker, it's a different story. They may have to visit a public hospital, which could take up their entire day. It's a small difference that highlights how accustomed we are to our daily lives and how we may not understand what others, especially at a different socioeconomic level, are going through.

In any company, if managers and leaders show empathy, it makes the workplace more inclusive and understanding. Employees feel valued and supported, no matter their role. This leads to better teamwork, stronger relationships, and a work culture that encourages open communication and collaboration. In the end, it boosts job satisfaction, productivity, and overall well-being for everyone.

Q: How do you ensure job security and build trust with blue-collar workers who often work on short-term contracts?

1. Onboarding Process:

  • Provide a fair orientation.

  • Explain the organization's goals and mission.

  • Help blue-collar workers understand the organization's purpose.

2. Offering Benefits:

  • Consider financial support and health benefits.

  • Extend benefits to daily or gig workers to encourage consistency.

3. Reward and Recognition:

  • Implement a system for recognizing and rewarding high-performing workers.

  • Motivate individuals to maintain their hard work.

  • Inspire others to strive for recognition.

Addressing these aspects effectively can improve workforce retention, regardless of employment duration.

Q: How do you convert a gig economy into traditional workplace?

Switching from a gig economy to a regular workplace means understanding how workers are connected to the company. In a regular job, employees commit long-term and get monthly salaries, which push them to work consistently.

Gig workers have more freedom. They decide when and how much they work. They're like their own bosses.

To make this change, it's important to create incentives that match gig work. For example, companies like Zomato pay more when it's busy to get orders delivered quickly. This makes sure customers get their food on time. In delivery, they might reward late-night work.

Good incentives can make gig workers perform as well as or even better than regular workers. To succeed, benefits and rewards should fit what gig workers want and need.

Q: What are some legal considerations that can help blue collar workers?

In the usual scenario, when hiring a blue-collar worker for a long-term position, such as one without a fixed end date, a wide range of labor laws come into play. These laws cover various aspects, including Social Security, working hours, retirement benefits, and more. In essence, these labor laws govern the entire employment relationship.

However, when it comes to hiring gig workers, the situation changes significantly. Gig workers aren't classified as traditional employees. Instead, their relationship with the organization or platform is often categorized as an agency relationship. As a result, gig workers don't fall under the purview of standard labor laws since they're not considered employees. They typically operate as freelancers or independent agents affiliated with the platform.

However, certain state governments and entities have taken steps to address this issue by creating frameworks that extend specific labor law protections to gig workers associated with platforms. For instance, in Rajasthan, a Social Security bill has been passed, granting gig workers access to certain social security benefits similar to those available to full-time workers.

At the national level, there has been consideration of a bill to provide Social Security benefits to gig workers for about 3 to 3.5 years, although it hasn't made significant progress.

In essence, in many regions and for most of the country, gig workers aren't covered by traditional labor laws. They are treated as independent agents or freelancers, and the usual labor regulations don't apply to them. In contrast, traditional workers are subject to a comprehensive set of labor laws, which include registration with entities like Social Security, Provident Fund (P.F.), and the Employees' State Insurance Corporation (E.S.I.C.), along with the establishment of policies for full-time employees. These regulations currently don't extend to the gig economy.

Q: How do you foresee the future of the gig economy for gig workers?

The future of the gig economy will likely see several key changes. Here's what we can expect:

  1. Government Regulations: There will be a stronger focus on government regulations that enable gig workers to access social security benefits and other protections. This will provide gig workers with more security and support.

  2. Comprehensive Ecosystems: Gig platforms will develop comprehensive ecosystems within their platforms. This means gig workers will have access to a wide range of benefits, including financial and health services, specifically designed to meet their needs. This offers greater flexibility and coverage for gig workers.

  3. Improved Communication: Platforms will enhance how they communicate incentives and benefits to gig workers. They will make sure gig workers are well-informed about the benefits available to them and can easily navigate and access these offerings. This will help gig workers make the most of the incentives and benefits provided to them, creating a more mutually beneficial relationship between workers and platforms.

Q: How can gig platforms effectively communicate available facilities and benefits to blue collar workers given the limited interaction time during hiring and minimal involvement of site managers or intermediaries?

To effectively communicate facilities and benefits to blue-collar workers without relying heavily on intermediaries, platforms, and employers, they should consider the following strategies:

  1. Utilize Familiar Communication Channels: Use widely adopted communication channels like WhatsApp or SMS, as many workers are already comfortable with these platforms. Share information in local languages to make it easily understandable.

  2. Simplify Information: Present information in a straightforward and easy-to-understand manner, avoiding complex jargon or lengthy documents. Use visuals or infographics to convey key points.

  3. Accessible Resources: Provide accessible resources that workers can refer to as needed. This could include physical kiosks on worksites, mobile apps, or web portals designed for simplicity and accessibility.

  4. Orientation and Training: Implement brief orientation sessions or training for new hires to introduce them to available facilities and benefits. These sessions should be designed to fit within the limited interaction time during onboarding.

  5. User-Friendly Materials: Create user-friendly materials that can be easily distributed, such as pamphlets, posters, or digital guides, summarizing the available benefits and how to access them.

  6. Empower Site Managers: Equip site managers with the knowledge and resources to effectively communicate benefits to workers. They can act as valuable intermediaries in conveying information.

  7. Feedback Mechanism: Establish a feedback mechanism that allows workers to ask questions, seek clarification, or provide suggestions regarding benefits. This can be through chat support, helplines, or in-person assistance.

  8. Regular Updates: Keep workers informed about any changes or updates to the available facilities or benefits. Ensure that these updates are communicated promptly and clearly.

By implementing these strategies, platforms and employers can bridge the communication gap and empower blue-collar workers to access and make the most of the facilities and benefits available to them.

Q: Are there specific tools or platforms available to assist HR professionals and workforce managers in effectively managing a gig workforce?

One example of a platform that assists in managing a gig workforce is Better Place. They offer tools for verification, attendance management, and other workforce management functions. Additionally, many larger gig platforms have their own internal systems and apps to manage their workforce.

Q: What key insights from your experience managing blue-collar workers can be applied universally to people management in various industries?

Some key insights from my experience are:

  1. Open Culture Matters: Encourage a culture where all employees feel free to share concerns and ideas. Make it simple for blue-collar workers to participate, just like white-collar workers.

  2. Engage and Include: Hold regular meetings or events, even for blue-collar workers, to keep them connected and motivated. It adds meaning to their work.

  3. Show the Bigger Picture: Help blue-collar workers understand how their tasks contribute to the organization's growth. This connection to a larger purpose can be a strong motivator.

Do you work in HR?

Email abhash.kumar@springworks.in and letโ€™s talk :)

Note: All views expressed in this interview are personal and not linked to any organization.