How Should an Employer Handle the Side Hustle?

Our economy has been transformed; the ritualistic nine to five job is not a reality for a growing part of the population. Consider that Approximately 25 million American employees telecommute part-time, and numbers released last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that 18% of our workforce is part time. Forbes reports that up to 40% of the US workforce is ‘contingent,’ in a part time or contract only situation. Combine that with the fact that the average American worker stays in one job for 4.5 years and you have a very fluid, uncertain environment for employees.

Employers are also forced to deal with uncertainty; how do they develop future leaders when they know that a good percentage of their workforce won’t be there 5 years down the road?  All of these factors have contributed to entrepreneurialism, but also the growth of “the Side Hustle.”

The Urban dictionary describes the Side Hustle as:

The Definition of the Side Hustle

Sideline that brings in cash; something other than your main job. Maybe playing weekend gigs or life coaching. SELLING AMWAY IS NOT A SIDE HUSTLE — it’s just a stupid way to alienate your friends.

The terminology may be new to you, but if you work in 21st Century America, the concept of a money-earning project outside of your full time job is not. The phenomenon has grown since the Great Recession, and  employers can no longer ignore it.

A few weeks ago on Facebook I got into a discussion with friends about the ethics of having a side hustle. One train of thought views side hustles outside of your normal, full time job as unethical – as if you’re cheating on your employer. There is a lot of talk about the inability of employees to turn in their best work if they are focused on their own business outside of work.

One train of thought views side hustles outside of your normal, full time job as unethical – as if you’re cheating on your employer

It is an understandable concern for employers, and for those who have established careers and never had the need or inspiration for a side hustle, this line of thinking makes sense. But the reality if employers take the stance that all side projects are verboten, they stand to lose some of their best and brightest talent.

I’ve spent a lot of time considering the future of work in the US and have spent hundreds of hours doing qualitative research with Millennials. Consider this:

  • 27 percent of GenY is self employed, and a Pew Research study says that ‘many to most’ Millennials stated a desire to start their own business. 27 % o9f them are currently self employed.
  • GenX is also incredibly entrepreneurial, also out of necessity.

With unstable careers, and feeling that there is very little loyalty from employer to employee occurring or expected, many employees see the Side Hustle as essential; not having a fall back income seems almost reckless to many. Many employees have side hustles to supplement their income.

With unstable careers, and feeling that there is very little loyalty from employer to employee occurring or expected, many employees see the Side Hustle as essential

How Should an Employer Handle a Side Hustler?

Every business is different, but my realistic advice to business owners concerning side hustles is as follows:

  1. Accept the fact that they exist; how can you blame an employee, in this economic climate, from having a fallback position? Having a policy that makes side hustles a fireable offence will simply push your employees underground and create an atmosphere of distrust.
  2. Create a crystal clear policy around side hustles, and call out very specifically your stance on non-competes and proprietary information.
  3. Have an open discussion about the employee’s side hustle goals; see this as your employee’s whole life. Hopefully, the side hustle goals align with your company goals. Even if they don’t, show your employee that you care about them and their goals outside of work and you will strengthen your relationship and have a much more loyal employee.
  4. Document your agreement and clear discussions with HR.
  5. Accept the fact that your employee may be extremely successful and eventually leave your employ. The reality is that employees leave all of the time for a wide variety of reasons.

The world of business had changed profoundly for both employers and employees; by taking a direct and honest stance on the fact that your employees may work outside of their full time job. Facing the new reality and dealing directly with your employees in an open, honest and fair way will pay huge dividends in the long run. You will create a positive, trusting relationship and create a two-way loyalty that will be worth the risks involved.

 

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Amy is a Writer, Editor, and Content Strategist with a background in Sales and Sales Management. She created The Millennial Think Tank to debunk much of the hype around GenY and has deep insights into all 3 generations. She also writes on Sales, B2B, and Diversity Issues. Amy lives in Florida and PA with her modern day Brady Bunch family.

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