Suman Das is the Brand Director for .Tech Domains, a leading new domain extension for the tech industry.
COVID-19 has had a significant effect on nearly every facet of life, including the way we work. And while much of the impact that the crisis has brought to the workforce has been negative, including massive layoffs, meteoric spikes in employee burnout and a dizzying need for continuous adaptation, there’s also an enormous amount of newfound opportunity for workers.
With the shift to remote environments, workers find themselves in a situation where they have unprecedented flexibility, freedom and overall opportunity to carve out the careers of their choosing. No longer are their jobs confined to geographic locations, draining commutes and 9-5 work days. Individuals can now work where they want, when they want and how they want. And while this is great for workers, it’s quite the dilemma for employers. Particularly those that employee today’s tech talent.
Recent research from .Tech Domains found that 81% of tech talent living near the U.S.’ top tech hubs are looking towards relocation. And why wouldn't they? With the unprecedented flexibility that remote environments have afforded them, it makes sense that they’re considering lifestyles that better fit their current situations. And while companies are faced with the challenge of rethinking where they set up operations and recruit talent due to these shifts, the solution here is rather straightforward.
Other trends, however, such as the meteoric rise in freelancing pose a more complex and insidious threat to organizations that rely heavily on tech talent today.
According to freelance marketplace, Upwork, 33% of the total US workforce is freelancing today. At the same time, the .Tech Domains study mentioned above found that a whopping 80% of all tech workers say they’re more likely to consider freelance work since the onset of COVID-19.
It’s also clear that freelancing isn’t just being viewed as a separate career path. In fact, the same study indicates that 84% of millennial tech workers are considering freelance work in addition to their regular 9-to-5.
Additionally, the way this talent finds freelance projects or side gigs is changing as well. Rather than moonlighting or passively seeking out opportunities, they’re actively taking to public channels to promote their services and build their personal and professional brands in broad daylight.
In fact, 64% say they’re using social media sites to actively promote their solo services and 1-in-4 (26%) report having their own personal websites to showcase their work and expertise.
These shifts call into question the ability of companies to cultivate an engaged employee base and optimize productivity.
At a time when scarcity of tech talent is just one of many critical concerns facing organizations today, the challenges this creates cannot be overlooked. Today’s environment has created an unprecedented amount of power for employees to carve out their own paths and build their own brands, not just the brand of their employer.
But this is far from a new trend. Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen tech and business influencers who hold prominent roles within organizations spin out their own services on the side in a very public way. Covid-19 has simply accelerated this trend.
The good news is that leveraging strong personal or employee brands within organizations can create bottom line benefits, even if the company isn’t getting a cut of the proceeds their employees might be making on the side.
The business landscape is more saturated today than at any other time in history. Capturing Share of Voice and building audiences is also harder than ever before, especially in this age of ‘fake news’ and distrust.
In light of this occurrence, personal brands are becoming the go-to sources for information. In fact, according to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer, Americans rated "people like themselves" as the most credible sources.
By embracing their employee’s burgeoning personal brands, companies can further their own message and build a wider audience in a more cost effective way.
Organizations across industries have flocked to influencer marketing in droves over the last several years, shelling out massive sums to tap into the personal brands of third parties who often have questionable alignments with a brand’s mission and culture.
By tapping into the personal brands of their employees, brands can unleash an army of micro influence, without having to worry about CPMs or other opaque metrics.
But by supporting this ‘open relationship’ philosophy, aren’t employees just furthering the chasm that remote environments can create and hindering their ability to optimize productivity? Not necessarily. Plenty of studies have shown that productivity has actually increased as remote environments become the norm.
On top of that, several other recent studies highlight the importance of flexibility for employees when it comes to what they expect from their employers, meaning that it’s actually likely to help companies retain their talent.
The bottom line is that Covid-19 has changed the workplace permanently and given the worker more control. This will not change. If propping up their employees’ efforts to build influence online leads to them losing them to other opportunities, then that’s a risk they must take.
The alternative of attempting to prevent today's digital natives from building their brand and network online will only preclude them from accessing the top talent they need to pave a path towards future success.
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