With the rise of the "sharing economy," the very nature of how we work is rapidly changing. Nearly 1 in 5 American workers is now part-time, either voluntarily or involuntarily. Recent articles in Time and the New York Times describe how an increasing number of us are earning primary and secondary income by becoming part-time drivers, renting out our rooms, pet-sitting, delivering packages, and more.
For operations managers, the sharing economy's contract workforce presents unique challenges for scaling, onboarding, and ensuring consistent quality experiences in the marketplace. This article summarizes the key challenges and our recommendations for training and development in the sharing economy community.
Operations leaders at sharing economy companies face distinct challenges in training their community members. These include:
- Scale. Training needs to be delivered to tens of thousands of workers in different cities and countries around the world. This immediately affects the choice of available instructional design, production methods, technology systems, and data analysis tools.
- Millenials. Many sharing economy workers are young, mobile, and grew up with services like YouTube and Instagram. When it comes to training, they expect high quality content that is easily accessible on-the-go.
- Contractor Status. Because sharing economy workers are legally independent contractors, most companies are wary of 'requiring' training activities that are typically reserved for employees. Community managers must therefore create an experience where workers voluntarily choose to participate in training. To make things even more challenging, this training is often critical to setting expectations and ensuring trust, safety, and quality in the marketplace.
- Competition. Workers have an unprecedented number of choices when it comes to the companies they will drive, deliver, and perform other services for. Operations and community leaders can build brand loyalty by offering educational resources and skills development opportunities that will help workers be even more successful on the platform and in their daily lives.
Here are our recommendations for operations and community managers who are seeking to create scalable and effective training programs for their sharing economy workers.
- Use self-paced, mobile-friendly, and bite-sized content. Your audience will likely be consuming content over several time periods and on multiple devices. Giving extra attention to your instructional design and delivery will pay long-term dividends in engagement and retention.
- Develop agile content capabilities. Your platform and policies will likely be changing over time. Bite-size materials that you can quickly update and maintain will enable you to manage and swap content much more flexibly. Courses based on written content, Powerpoint movies, screencasting, and in-house animations will generally enable you to iterate faster than live action video. Closed captions for video are also a quick way to support multiple languages without having to create new courses from scratch.
- Provide incentives. Sharing economy workers are generally not required to take your training. In many cases, offering a certificate of completion isn't an exciting incentive. Consider the use of points, badges, and gift rewards to drive higher engagement with training. For example, give workers a highly visible profile badge for completing their onboarding training. This is particularly effective for new workers who don't have a history of reviews, and may otherwise be discouraged from joining your already thriving community.
- Remember your advanced users. Sharing economy businesses usually begin to scale their community in the onboarding process. But your star workers are providing disproportionate benefits to your business, and your underperforming workers are creating negative experiences that could harm your brand. Consider providing advanced topics to help your star workers get even more value from the platform, and offering remedial training for the underperformers.
- Test, test, and test again. Sharing economy workers have enough scale and volume for you to test the effectiveness of different pieces of content, calls to action, and timing against downstream impacts on conversion, revenue, and quality. To analyze results, look for a technology partner like Skilljar that enables you to integrate login credentials (to reconcile user data), auto-create analytics groups, and seamlessly fit into your existing systems and workflows.
The rise of the sharing economy provides exciting new income opportunities for a modern and flexible workforce. However, the dynamics of the industry present unique challenges to operations and community leaders who are seeking to onboard and train their workers. To create a successful community education program, develop a content and technology strategy that will enable you to rapidly experiment with course material, incentives, and delivery timing.