Entrepreneurship has always been the lifeblood of the business world, but things are changing with the growth of the freelancer economy. Instead of having to go create your own company to be your own boss, people can become contracted employees or gig workers to piece together a career that is perfect for them. What does this mean for companies and freelancers? We turned to Doug DeVos, president of Amway, a company that has decades of experience with freelancers and entrepreneurship. There are lots of things to learn from this interesting intersection of the modern workplace, but here are four top takeaways.
People are interested in entrepreneurship–until they have to do it. Every year, Amway runs a survey to gauge entrepreneurship. The 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Report surveyed more than 50,000 people across 45 markets to gauge their feelings about entrepreneurship and how the economy is changing. The report offers country-by-country results and also more general feedback. One of the most interesting takeaways from the report is that people are generally supportive of entrepreneurship, but they often can’t see themselves being the actual entrepreneurs. There are a lot of factors in people’s responses, but a key piece that holds them back is the feel of failure and a concern that a full-blown entrepreneurship endeavor might not work out.
Entrepreneurship needs to be nourished. Some aspects of entrepreneurship come naturally to people, while other people may struggle with taking risks, staying organized, or putting themselves out there. Doug believes that everyone has some of the characteristics of entrepreneurship inside them, but it needs to be brought out and supported. This can happen a number of ways, either by the person themselves or through company or government initiatives. When society punishes failure instead of showing that it can be a learning opportunity, it puts the fire out of entrepreneurship. If we really want to encourage entrepreneurs, we need to focus on the positive elements and the learning that comes from taking risks.
Freelancers are entrepreneurs. The way we define the word entrepreneur is changing as the freelancer economy grows. It used to be that an entrepreneur had to start their own company, but being a freelancer today means being an entrepreneur. Both types of people are relying on themselves to make their way forward, which is the entrepreneurial spirit. Their effort in large part will decide if they succeed or fail. Companies need to be aware of the changing definition so they can tailor how they approach their freelance employees and reach out to them.
Companies need to change their approach. As the freelancer economy grows and becomes more enticing for people, companies need to adjust their approach to how they treat and maintain employees. One of the main reasons employees leave full-time traditional work to try something new is because of the corporate culture and an overabundance of red tape and meetings. Amway is constantly re-evaluating its business and employee experience to make sure it is meeting the needs of its employees and staying focused, fast, and fun. Other companies should follow suit and create an environment that is exciting and attractive for people to want to stay part of their business. As the freelancer economy grows, companies will also have to adjust to how they treat contracted employees and part-time employees who may have freelance projects on the side.
Becoming a full-blown entrepreneur can be scary for some people, but the freelancer economy offers a different option that can be more attractive. As that economy continues to grow, society and companies need to adjust their approaches to supporting and working with these employees to drive the entrepreneurial spirit and find ways to work together that benefit both parties.
My new book, The Employee Experience Advantage (Wiley, March 2017) analyzes over 250 global organizations to understand how to create a place where people genuinely want to show up to work. Subscribe to the newsletter here or become a member of the new Facebook Community The Future If… and join the discussion.