Passion projects, side gigs, hustling, moonlighting… whatever you call it, side gigs are a growing trend. People are trying to spread their financial risk, explore new horizons and futureproof their skills.
For organisations, it can pay to encourage your employees to take on a side project. Not only will they build new skills and expertise, but they may also feel more engaged and loyal to your organisation as a result.
The scale of side gigs
Currently, a third of workers currently do two or more jobs. The trend is hotter amongst younger generations, with 44% of millennials doing multiple jobs. People take on side gigs for many reasons. Although 88% state that pay is a big factor in their decision, 60% do passion projects for greater recognition and 51% do it to have a positive social impact.
Critically, for employers, 78% of employees with side gigs report feeling more optimistic as a whole and happier in their full-time positions. In fact, the most engaged employee in the world (according to a HBR study) has a side gig.
How side gigs help employers
There are many reasons for this. First, side gigs allow someone to explore different passions, hobbies and purposes. By doing a side project, an employee has the space to express different aspects of themselves that may not otherwise be fulfilled in their permanent role, such as creativity or business management. It also allows for volunteering and social impact work that gives someone a greater sense of purpose.
The majority of workers (71%) who have side jobs don’t plan on ditching their full-time roles. Only 36% of workers feel more passionate about their side jobs than their full-time career. So, side gigs aren’t something for employers to worry about. But why should you actively encourage them?
Well, yes… for several reasons. Apart from the optimism boost, employees who do side projects gain valuable, transferrable skills and real-world experience, are more creative and self-starting.
Building new skills
A finance manager who sets up a part-time bakery business will gain useful marketing, sales and management skills. Experiences that may help in their full-time role when assessing budgets, for example, or dealing with stakeholders across the business. With greater diversity of skills in your workforce, your organisation is more resilient and futureproofed against disruption.
David Mulqueen, a project manager for digital marketing company Odd Dog Media, runs Seattle Snowboard Instructor. On his side gig, Mulqueen states that snowboarding is his passion and has made him a better employee.
He explains, “You begin to appreciate how much time and effort goes into businesses that are successful. It allows me to be better at my job as I’m now in the shoes of small, local business owners and can relate to their struggles. I think it makes me a more well-rounded individual; you take so much passion and pride into your side hustle that it energizes you, and that energy flows over into your day job.”
Becoming more innovative
Fostering an innovative culture is another reason for encouraging side gigs. Generally, people who develop passion projects tend to be entrepreneurial. That can be harnessed to deliver better products and services for your customers, to challenge the status quo and disrupt your market. Gmail, Google Maps, Twitter, Slack and Groupon were all created as passion projects within their respective organisations. Even the Post-It note is rumoured to have started life as a side gig.
Keeping it in the company
Indeed, side gigs don’t need to leave the workplace at all. If your employees can find the resources and time in-house, they won’t need to spend their weekends hustling.
Blockchain company Chronicled started a passion project called the Blockchain Art Collective (BAC). Something that was related to, but distinct from, its supply chain solutions. In helping organisations register their art and antiquities through the BAC, the company is refining its employees’ skills, reigniting their passion for the technology and even driving new business. One organisation working with it on the BAC later expressed interest in Chronicled’s core product.
You could even use side gigs as a unique recruiting tool, setting your company apart from the lunch-buying, beer-drinking competition. As a bonus, a recruit attracted by the prospect of passion projects is probably more interesting than a free lunch fan.
To understand your customers
Sometimes, taking on a side gig that’s similar to your customers’ pursuits can help your employees relate to them. Software company Infusionsoft encourages its employees to start a side business, powered by its SME software. Every worker is given a free license to use however they like. In doing so, each employee becomes more in tune with what Infusionsoft’s customers want and need.
Similarly, marketing software company Hubspot uses side projects to promote an entrepreneurial culture. Retaining its startup feel, even as the company scales.
To grow corporate knowledge
Basecamp takes its investment in passion projects a step further. The company gives every employee a credit card to pay for outside interests. The only catch is that employees must share their newly-acquired knowhow with everyone else in the company. And that encourages responsibility and knowledge-sharing. It also improves company learning and culture.
How to manage side gigs
However, to fully reap the benefits of side hustles in your organisation, you need to be open to constant communication. If you worry that an employee might steal away customers or build a competing business, you can add a non-compete clause to your employment contracts.
It’s also a good idea to regularly check-in with your employee to ensure they’re not distracted by their side gig or burnt out. This can be a good opportunity to express your satisfaction at their work and appreciation for their efforts.
Respecting personal time is vital, as your employees will be balancing many different tasks and responsibilities. If you respect their out-of-office hours, your employees will be more likely to give their 9-5 their full attention.
Being a good employer
Above all, communicate your support for your employees’ side projects and show interest in what they’re doing. Your support will make you stand out as a good employer and prevent workers from sneaking around during work hours. All employees ultimately want to work for companies that care. Encouraging their side gigs is the perfect way to get them on-board for the long term.