The Operator’s Quick-Start Guide To Running an Unbeatable On-Demand Workforce

Follow these guidelines to attract and retain the most talented partners to help you grow your on-demand services marketplace.

Ridesharing startup Lyft launched in San Francisco with an enviable problem. Due to overwhelming popularity, Lyft had had significantly more passenger demand than drivers. They had to come up with a clever solution, and fast. As Lyft scrambled to scaled up its supply of drivers, they sacrificed short-term profit to ensure a steady supply of qualified drivers. As a result new passengers were added by invitation only.

When providing on-demand services, you’re only as good as your talent.

On-demand contractors aren’t employees, but they are the public face of your business. They are self-interested stakeholders, “contractors” who are free to leave at any moment. In cities like San Francisco there are virtually unlimited options for individuals who want to participate in the on-demand workforce, delivering fresh cookies, cold pressed juice or table massage. The quality of your on-demand labor force is make or break.

Lyft was lucky. Adding new riders in batches gave the company time it needed to onboard new drivers, and the exclusivity of its early rider “club” created a healthy, and needed, buzz. Most on-demand services would love to have Lyft’s early problems meeting demand. But if you’re like most on-demand platforms, you’re probably simultaneously struggling to generate consistent demand, while maintaining adequate supply.

Attracting, retaining and engaging top talent is essential to growing your business for long term success, but every step of the process reveals new challenges. The tools to manage the difficult job of recruiting, hiring and managing an on-demand workforce are insufficient under the best of circumstances, such as spreadsheets, email and Facebook groups. Each creates as many problems as it solves. And as you grow, the management challenges grow with them.

In your role as operations manager, community operations, fleet success, talent operations, you’re probably person in the in charge of managing the most important people in the company — the partners. And your role includes everything from recruiting, training, supporting, retention, events planning and many other tasks that usually you need an entire department to do.And in most cases these teams are extremely lean, relative to the value they deliver to the company.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you cultivate your talent network.

Recruiting: Develop a detailed written persona for the type of talent you want in your network

Build a detailed persona of the type of individual you want in your stakeholder network. Are you looking for people that need a temp gig? or for professionals that want to build a career? Whether you’re looking for actors, stay-at-home parents, graduate students or freelance services providers, the job description you post should include good incentives, talk in the right language and then answer the question, “Where do they look for in a job?” Make sure your ad appears in the same places.

Training: Provide Abundant Training

Build a three-to-five step your training module as if you were able to bring your new employees into the office for an entire week, and learn face to face. Be sure to update your training materials with the common questions, and challenges you encounter after you have trained your first few cohorts of network partners. Your training should build the confidence your partners need in order to book the first jobs and get out there. Your training should also instill in you the trust that your partners can handle themselves in a wide variety of scenarios they may encounter.

Leadership: Encourage Mentorship Between New and Experienced Partners to Cultivate Grassroots Leaders

Build a mentorship program as part of your training strategy.

When you want to scale your ops — either to more cities or to new areas of expertise, you must make sure the quality of service remains high.

Experienced mentors help your network grow in a variety of ways. Mentors help your partners develop personally, and professionally, and can be an invaluable aid in helping to integrate new partners into your network, and address training and support issues without requiring attention from your internal team.

Support: Always Be Available For Your Partners

Make sure there is always a person available when a partner calls for support, especially if your on-demand company provides 24-hour service. You never want your partners to feel as though there is a problem they have to solve on their own.

Communication: Keep Your Partners In The Loop and Communicate Important News Them Before Sharing It With The Public

Your stakeholder network is a key layer of your organization, but they are neither employees, nor customers. Communicate with your stakeholder network before you announce major changes with the public. Often your (talent network?/ your workforce? partners?) are/is the public face of on-demand services businesses, and will be responsible for enacting any program updates. You don’t want your partners to be the last to know! Furthermore, communicating with partners first demonstrates trust, and creates a channel for important feedback.

Collect Enough User Information To Communicate With The Right People At The Right Time

It’s also a good idea to collect enough information about your network partners to divide your groups into cohorts. Whether cohorts are segmented by geography, activity, or some other attribute, it’s easier, faster and more effective to communicate with targeted groups when you understand their motivations and concerns.

Communication: Communicate Enough. But Not Too Much. Don’t Spam.

Communication is essential, but you should strike a balance between regular, important updates, and blanket messaging. Don’t reserve communication for times when you need something from your partners. Feel free to share information that is timely, relevant and relationship-building, even when it serves no immediate business purpose, such as educational content, relevant news, or even content by and about your partners.

Create Shared Spaces That Turn Your Partner Network Into A Vibrant Community

Network partners should never feel like they are alone. Create and encourage participation in groups where new network partners can connect with one another. Active groups foster an immediate sense of belonging, create opportunities for mentorship and supports a deeper sense of connection with your marketplace.