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With companies increasingly hiring workers for specific tasks and projects, the gig economy is creeping up on the American workforce. Intuit estimates that gig workers now represent 34 percent of the workforce, and that number will grow to about 43 percent by 2020.

What's more, the gig economy mindset is driving organizations to think differently about how they hire not only for project-based workers, but also for full time positions. This new approach pays off—hiring individuals to complete specific work, whether to execute a short term project or take on an ongoing, full-time responsibility, helps keep employees more focused, productive and engaged.

Here's how you can get more gig-oriented in how you hire:

Think “Work" Not “Job"

By evaluating the actual tasks that need to be completed in a job function rather than re-cycling a ten-year-old job description, companies can hire different individuals with the skills needed to perform specific tasks within what was once a one-person job.

Consider this: Your HR team has an opening for a recruiter whose job would include sourcing, interviewing, background checks and onboarding. Meanwhile, employee relations responsibilities are falling onto your plate, preventing you from doing the strategic work you need to do, and you have been unsuccessful in explaining this to your boss.

Here's an opportunity to think differently and restructure the department's work load. One of your team members focuses on benefits, which encompasses healthcare, retirement and time off. Another colleague works on training, which includes orientation and compliance—can this employee also take on onboarding tasks, to free up time for the new recruiter you hire? And can the new recruiter take on some of the employee relations work that you've been saddled with?

Whether your new recruiter is hired just for this task alone, or for a broader role, looking at the specific projects that you'll need him or her to work on can shift the paradigm towards using talent more efficiently.

Challenge Managers to Segment Tasks

Once you adjust to hiring for specific job functions rather than job titles, challenge managers at your organization to do the same. Encourage them to break up the work that their department needs to deliver into segments—and define who is responsible for managing each of them.

As jobs open up or new projects that need attention arise, you'll be able to work with managers to hire either a gig employee or a full time worker that's fit to complete the specific tasks at hand, not fill a nebulous role with a less-than-specific job title.

At its core, the gig economy is about quality of work, regardless of whether it's completed by a full-time employee or temporary hire. According to recent research from Harvard Business Review, "the most impactful lesson that traditional companies can learn from the gig economy is to judge all workers, including employees, on their results, not on when and where they do their work."

And for companies that have already implemented the gig economy mentality, the advantage is clear—according to findings from the McKinsey's Global Institute and Future Workplace and Field Nation, these companies experience higher levels of satisfaction and greater productivity among workers.

Given the lightening speed of change in today's world, what we've always done won't work anymore. Embracing some of the basic notions of the gig economy gives HR a chance to be a real organizational leader and disruptor.

Photo: Creative Commons