The gig economy isn't all bad

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While there is no doubt that exploitative practices exist, it is wrong to assume that all firms in the gig economy fit this mould

The common conception of businesses operating in the gig economy has been one of exploitation, with a recent report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) suggesting that companies are taking advantage of zero-hours contracts and lax regulatory controls to prioritise growth and profits over people.

While there is no doubt that these practices exist in the wider business world, it is wrong to assume that all firms in the gig economy operate in this way.

At Travel Counsellors we work with a global network of more than 1,600 franchisee tour operators. While on the face of it we fit within the concept of the ‘gig economy’, we could not be further from the stereotype of exploitation. In our latest franchisee survey 95% rated their level of satisfaction as high or very high, 96% were happier now than in their previous career, and 75% felt that the nature of their relationship with Travel Counsellors enabled them to find the best work/life balance. So just because someone is self-employed doesn’t mean they need to feel on their own, unsupported, undervalued or not cared for.

To create a gig economy company that challenges the status quo a business must be underpinned by a shared culture. This feeling of common values and objectives ensures that regardless of how spread out and independent self-employed people are there is a connection and common understanding that brings them together to feel part of a wider community.

This culture is incorporated into the platforms we provide to our franchisees. Our internal webcast ‘TCTV’ enables global face-to-face communication and consistent messaging across the company to keep everyone informed, engaged and motivated. From our TV studio at our UK HQ, Travel Counsellors can showcase best practice, with the viewers able to ask questions and give feedback in real time. In recent years we
have also developed in-house technology platforms that encourage the sharing of ideas and offer a direct line for feedback.

Our benefits system is designed to promote employee happiness and wellbeing, from private healthcare, a car scheme and life insurance, to gym memberships, a counselling service, and healthy breakfasts. We encourage celebration of key milestones, offer family days, a welfare fund to support those in need, and a rewards and recognition system to boost motivation.

When you make the bold move to run your own business it should mean you are taking control of your future and reaping the rewards of your success. We encourage a ‘limitless future’ for our franchisees, where each individual is empowered to use the tools and training we provide to deliver an exceptional service to their customers.

This inherent care for our people extends beyond the ‘day job’ – it’s essential that people are happy in all aspects of their lives, which is why we invest time and support into health and wellbeing programmes.

Regardless of how the ‘gig economy’ has been characterised by the media it is important that we do not tar all businesses with the same brush. By working with the self-employed, companies can enhance productivity, profitability and wellbeing, and in doing so become known as some of the best places to be part of.

Steve Byrne is CEO at Travel Counsellors

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