The generation of slashie employees

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All around us there are people working two jobs or more; baristas by day, bloggers by night or bookkeepers by day and bus drivers at night.

There are now over five million people in the UK (up from one million in 2007) with two jobs, and many of these are what you could call generation ‘slashies.’ The term generally applies to two categories: distributed workers (who have multiple incomes from several employees) or moonlighters — people have one primary job (often in the creative industry), but also supplement their income through freelancing.

Much has also been written about the current ‘gig’ economy we are living in, which is characterised by self-employed workers with short-term contracts or ‘gigs’ rather than permanent jobs. Rather than following a ‘career ladder’ they follow a ‘career canvas’ and flit between several different roles across a range of industries. It’s not just millennials doing this either. Plenty of people over the age of 35 have at least two jobs or more, especially with the rise of Uber, Etsy, Deliveroo and Task Rabbit.

So what motivates these ‘slashie’ employees? Is it purely out of financial necessity or are there other contributing factors? Why has the industry grown so much and is it here to stay?

Ruth Thomson, whose current roles include: social media marketing, learning and development and freelance fundraising, says the idea of a job for life is rapidly coming to an end. Slashies, Thomson says, are often intellectually curious and love diversity. “We don’t want to be defined by a job role and want the opportunity to develop a range of complimentary skills in different fields,” she notes. “The new economy, especially in the field of digital, requires nimble employees who are able to respond to change.” This transition to an agile, more flexible way of working, often in self-directed teams, suits people more than the hierarchical structures of the past, says Thomson.

Having a range of different skills also helps give Thomson a feeling of economic security.

“With multiple skill-sets, a wide network and an ability to learn new skills, I am in a stronger position to pivot than a permanent employee,” she notes. “If everyone continued to learn throughout their lives, I believe we’d have a happier, more productive workforce and a stronger economy.”

Tim Kellet, director at Paydata, says employees with diverse skills should be seen as an asset to their employer. “Employees are taking control of where and how they want to work, therefore employers need to be adaptable in order to retain such talent,” he comments. “If you receive a request from an employee to adapt a policy or change certain conditions of their employment, then consider it. If it won’t harm your business, but will improve your employee’s outlook on how they view their role and the business. An engaged employee equals a productive employee.”

Emily Bain, a director at Bain & Gray boutique secretarial recruitment firm, says they have a number of ‘slashies’ on their books. “Generally, the slashies we have are creatively talented individuals who can’t make a living solely from their craft.  Most do temp jobs or admin work during the day to support their craft.  A number of slashies we look after are yoga teachers, artists, actors, bloggers, milliners and even a baker!”

Earning a living whilst still being able to practice their craft or passion is their main focus, says Bain. And the slashie sector has grown considerably thanks to social media. “We now have much more in the way of direct access to the consumer, through websites such as Instagram, Etsy and Facebook, so individuals can launch their product and reach a huge audience through a click of a button and with no or little cost,” she notes.

Employers should support employees and work around their needs and other interests, says Bain. “We look after a number of actors who, in particular, sometimes have to attend auditions with very little notice. It’s up to us to support them and educate our clients to also support them. We should now be in an age where we can work around our staff to help them invest in their other interests.”

Thomson believes slashie employees with their eclectic skills and fresh outlooks are a win-win for employers. “I think companies embracing digital, agile and flexible ways of working will unlock a huge range of opportunities and talent, both from their existing employees and new ones.”

Georgina Fuller is an award winning freelance journalist and editor.

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