Companies, Freelancers, Future of Work, Politics, The American Dream

Building a Team with Free Agents and Freelancers

Many Millennials are freelancers and free agents. Unfortunately, the people hiring them are older ‘fuddy duddies’ leaders who view Gen Y as  lazy and unloyal. While they do have some unique characteristics (which I outlined in my book, Millennial Leaders), it is important for both parties – the young folks and the older folks – to work together to create a good on-demand relationship between the free agent and the manager.

Duke University’s Basketball Coach, Mike Krzyzewski recently provided some great guidance on how to work with the younger generation. His basketball players and the rest of today’s college athletes  are free agents and freelancers. More and more of them adopt a one-and-done approach, playing with one team for one year and then going pro. Or, if they don’t like their school’s program, they transfer to another university. And it’s not just basketball players who are doing this. More and more white collar professionals are also free agents, riding the trend of a contract-based career.

In this On-Demand Society, Coach K indicated that coaches and leaders need to be more adaptable and allow for some slippage, a word he uses to describe that there is less time to work on fundamentals and to develop the perfect team. Corporate America will increasingly deal with the same issue — the free-agent culture makes it more difficult to build and maintain institutional knowledge and company team-work.

Today’s leaders and young workers both need to be flexible. Corporate leaders can’t just say ‘millennials are spoiled and therefore they can’t learn company’s system or way of doing things. Every generation is different and as Coach K states ‘I have to be in their world and they have to be in my world and there has to be a good common ground where we both meet.’ Coach K tries to understand his younger players perspective on life — to understand their culture, such as their music, their language and event their use of social media. Now is the time for corporate leaders to do the same and to try and understand the needs and wants of Freelancers.

Too many on-demand companies need to be schooled by Coach K. Too many treat 1099s as ‘replaceable parts.’  Although this approach is not new, it will backfire and will come back to haunt them later on. They need to understand that we are in what Reid Hoffman calls a Tour-of-Duty economy (although he used the term to describe full-time employees). Since close to 40% of our workforce will be independent contractors by 2020, their voices at center court (and in superior court) will become louder and louder.  Hopefully, the Uber’s of the world will listen to them.

Click here a good interview with Coach K.

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