Employees with a Side Hustle: Embrace It So It Benefits You Both

I recently had a business owner reach out to me concerned about a growing trend; many of his best employees, he had come to learn, have side hustles (i.e., they work for themselves part-time). He needed some advice to prepare for the “brain drain” when they all leave. And, how to hire “smarter” in the future so he doesn’t run into this again with new hires.

He was shocked by my answer. “You’re seeing this as a problem. But what if it isn’t? What if this is a huge opportunity?

Dead silence on the other end of the phone.

Upon further discussion, he had no reason to believe they were about to leave en mass. He worked hard to build a strong company culture (which is why we work together), so he saw evidence they were still satisfied at work. And, there was no indication their productivity, customer experience or continuous improvement had waned.

Quite the contrary. He was seeing more innovation, engagement and collaboration.

Let’s face it. You’re at risk of losing your best people all the time: to the competition, to retirement, to an around-the-world bucket list trip, to work for themselves. If you run your business out of fear, that scarcity mentality will chip away at your relationship with employees.

You don’t want to find yourself giving opportunities to people that are “safe” because they show less industry and innovation. You don’t want to hold back information from your top performers. You don’t want to pass over people who show interest in one-day working for themselves. Not only are you going to push them down that path faster, but you also won’t get the best from them when they’re there.

Plus, the reality is, it’s the gig economy that continues to grow in Canada with about 50% of Canadians having a side hustle. It’s not new and has been steadily increasing. Seeing your best people as the competition or a problem is no way to run a company.

These folks are motivated. They’re hungry to grow and develop. They’ve got mortgages and responsibilities and reasons to stay so they are motivated to work for you right now. Embrace all the genius and passion they can bring to their career and channel it into compelling, challenging and interesting work rather than let it go to waste.

When we shift from that scarcity mentality to considering how to leverage our best from our side hustlers, keep these three things in mind:

1. Don’t Assume

Dump the assumption your intellectual property (IP), client list or productivity is at risk. Assume you have nothing to worry about. Let go of the emotional energy and mindset attached to negative views of industrious employees, and instead give them a reason to stay. Many people will never go into business for themselves full-time for various reason including they don’t want to! Don’t worry that your best people, your rising stars and your top talent become your competition and continue to nurture the relationship with health and vitality.

2. Don’t Give Them a Reason to Go

If there is no reason to go, because the pay, security, interesting work, flexibility, team collaboration and the overall great place to work is so compelling, they may always keep their gig as a side hustle and that’s how it will stay. I know lots of professionals who dream of starting their own business one day but worry they’ll miss their colleagues, paycheque, and customers too much. Some try going out on their own and them come back as it wasn’t as good as they had it working full-time for their employer. Keep making it a great place to work and value your best people so they see more reasons to stay than to go.

3. Don’t Undervalue Them

Your recognition efforts matter. When people feel valued and appreciated, whether it be by you, their colleagues, or your customers, they are more likely to stay. Entrepreneurship can be a very lonely business, and even if you’ve never worked for yourself, you can imagine it being so. You don’t get confirmation you’re on the right track, let alone recognition, nearly as much as you do at a great place to work. Continue recognizing your people and make sure that they know how meaningful their contributions are. Give them opportunities to grow, develop and do meaningful work. Ensure they know how their work makes a difference in the customer experience, bottom line, and vitality of the business. The more they see how they fit and how the organization would be lost without them, the more likely they are to stay. And if they do go, the more likely they’ll help to find a great replacement for their role through their connections. Unhappy people aren’t recruiters, but ambitious, innovative hustlers have a network of people ready to fill their big shoes.

Are you facing some of these challenges in your workplace with a high flight risk of great people? Is retention a challenge? Are you unsure how to take your organizational culture to the next level where it’s too compelling for folks to leave? Let’s have a virtual coffee and a chat, to further explore solutions and opportunities.

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

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