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Is Freelance the #1 Risk for Losing Top Talent? (And How To Deal With It)

Mihai Cepoi

8 MIN READ

A little over two years ago, we were all reading different studies on how working remotely hasn’t impacted productivity. The numbers were God-sent - people were comfortable working from home, companies big and small managed to reach their organizational goals despite the stay-at-home context, and everyone thought this is what the work life will be morphing into for the following year. 

The Problem - What’s Missing From A Full Remote Life 

Now we’re assaulted, as a startup, by different numbers, showing the consequences of that reality. We were so busy figuring out how to design our home offices to make us more productive that we didn’t even stop to think of the long-term effects of this situation. 

The truth is that a fully remote raises a very powerful question - why stay and work for an organization when you can freelance and do it on your own, since you’re already physically distanced from your employer? 

This question was in the minds of everyone with a desk and a laptop, and its answers are not easy to deal with: 

  • In America, a record 4.4 million people quit their jobs in September, after the staggering 3.9 million in June, another 3.9 million in July and 4.3 million in August
  • Over half of the American population is planning to quit their jobs, with GenZ and millennials leading the curve
  • A third of millennials are planning to leave their employers after the pandemic 

 

The Culprit - The Work-Life Balance 

The first thing that all studies seem to be pointing towards is young people looking for a work-life balance that they could not find in the former workplaces. Transitioning to freelancing allows them to allocate as much time as they are willing to their professional lives, and to put aside careers for the sake of their mental health. 

People in their late 20s and early 30s are the generation with the highest rate of both parents having full time jobs in history. Being able to compartmentalize their personal and professional lives differently seemed impossible until this pandemic. A 2020 Gallup poll showed that most of the employees aren’t even planning on returning to the office full time. 

Naturally, companies have become afraid of the job-hopping and started to implement better standards for their employees. The fact that GenZ and millennials are a societal force is no longer up for debate. These generations have shown how powerful individuals can be when they all start looking in the same direction. 

Add to it that millennials are the largest working group and by 2025 they will be 75% of the global workforce and you’ve got yourself a real revolution. 

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The Solution - Why Your Company’s Priority Should Be Employee Engagement

Of all the materials we’ve been reading during the past year, one of the most insightful and on-point approaches was offered by Gallup in their report on How Millennials Want to Work and Live. What Gallup rightfully points out is that with the change in generations there has also been a change in paradigm. 

 

 

This illustration from the report is perhaps one of the most accurate depictions of what the millennial generation needs from the workplace, and should be the ideal starting point for your company when it comes to creating a climate of growth for your employees. So let’s address a few of these major changes in perspective: 

The false dichotomy of personal & professional life

As it turns out, the work-life balance is not a 50/50 situation. There’s no line in the sand where the professional life ends and the personal one begins. Rather, they are intertwined, and an increasing number of studies on productivity shows that they also influence each other. 

Revelations and milestones in your private time can (and do) significantly influence your outlook on your career goals, your motivation and your competitive edge as a professional. 

The way Gallup phrases this change from My Job to My Life captures reality to a fine degree. Because in our attempt to create a healthy environment in the workplace, we left out how relevant a part of one’s life the job is. And not just because of the number of hours, which alone would be a good reason. But also for the sense of purpose that a professional path offers. 

Paychecks will never stop being important for millennials, because they’re a ticket to personal freedom. But above them, there’s the need to be fulfilled as an individual, to be appreciated for the qualities you bring to the table as a professional. 

In reality, employers would be more responsible with their employees if we all just accepted that the job is a major part of our lives. Your employees are not a means to an end, the way you treat them contributes to their quality of life and their self realization. And while this is a heavy cross to bear, it’s also a great reason to take accountability and invest in healthy processes. 

The value of being part of something greater

55% of millennials are not engaged at work, according to the same Gallup report. 

That number alone is a red flag. As an HR professional or a management representative, your first priority must be keeping the existing people connected to a purpose. It’s not an easy thing to do and it requires a lot of investment from the company. It means time, expenses and a carefully planned growth plan. 

But it’s the one thing that will make a difference in attrition numbers and in keeping your productivity as a business. As millennials are taking more and more of the workforce pie chart, companies that are not actively involved in creating a nurturing environment will stand no chance on the market.

For the first time in history, this competitive balance doesn’t just belong to the external scenery anymore. It’s also an internal struggle of the fittest, where providing meaning and a common goal are the two most important criteria. 

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Why is this relevant for my company?

Start with aligned missions. The objective of every HR professional should be to find and nurture relationships that are truly mutually beneficial, not just on paper. Understanding what someone’s goals are, what keeps them motivated, what makes them productive, and what they’re working towards is a vital step without which no real compatibility would be formed. 

Culture fit. It integrates a lot of aspects, but we’ll just focus on one. This ‘hours culture’, for instance, that has gained popularity in America during the past decade, where the 40 hour work week is the bare minimum, or a starting point, is incredibly toxic. As is judging your team’s contributions in hours. Well-being is a huge differentiator and without a healthy culture to build on, there will be no competitive future.  

Building a talent community. Don’t be fooled by the fact that we’ve mentioned it last. It’s paramount. From your employees, to the community of freelancers you collaborate with to potential hires already in your pipeline and fresh talent you’re now reaching out to, it’s essential to create a sense of common purpose. 

 

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