The issue of moonlighting by tech professionals has ignited a fresh debate, polarising opinions and raising thorny questions like; what are the reasons for Moonlighting? Is it a legal issue/ethical issue/HR issue/social issue?
Moonlighting refers to employees taking up side gigs to work on more than one job at a time. It can be defined as working for one organization while taking extra jobs, usually without the employer’s knowledge. Moonlighting is side employment taken up at night or on the weekends.
Recently, India’s IT services provider company, Wipro has laid off 300 employees who were found working with its competitor companies at the same time employment with Wipro. Rishad Premji, Chairman, Wipro said on 21 September that their employment has been terminated for an “act of integrity violation”.
India’s second-largest IT services provider, Infosys has said that moonlighting is not permitted according to the employees’ code of conduct of the company and It described this with the taglines ‘No two-timing, no moonlighting’ and ‘No double lives’.
However, Tech Mahindra CEO C P Gurnani welcomed moonlighting and said that it is necessary to keep changing with the times and added, “I welcome disruption in the ways we work.”
SightsIn Plus discussed the Moonlinging issue with Global HR Experts and tried to get their opinion on this, whether it should be allowed in the organization or not, if yes then how? What is the best possible solution?
Below are the opinions of these HR Gurus and stalwarts on Moonlighting…
Dave Ulrich: Rensis Likert Professor, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, Partner, The RBL Group
The relationship between an employee and employer continues to evolve. Legacy relationships (e.g., my parents and grandparents) “worked” for one company most of their career, there being a loyalty between employee and employer.
That loyalty has evaporated with layoffs on the employer side and now employees being more mobile as free agents who change and work for different companies.
Having a 2nd job, or moonlighting, is an extension of the evolving employee/ employer relationship. This work relationship works if there are clear expectations on both sides. The employer will access employee competence around specific tasks and projects but not have full access to employee insights and innovation. The employee will have flexibility but not a long-term commitment.
This work relationship becomes more transactional than enduring, but can work as long as both parties agree to the exchange.
Prabir Jha: Ex-President & Global Chief People Officer Cipla, Founder & CEO Prabir Jha Advisory
I think there is nothing wrong with moonlighting as long as it is openly shared and accepted by both sides. But if an employment contract that does not provide for anything beyond full focus solely on employer matters, has been accepted it is not correct . One can always renegotiate the contract or negotiate differently with a future employer.
It is a multi-modal issue. In an era where people want to learn wide and fast, they seek every way to acquire that. Not all jobs offer the learning possibilities the new generation seeks. Unsatisfactory compensation in an era of rising wants also creates distractions for moonlighting. Increasing fault lines on trust between companies and employees is creating an inclination to de-risk. Hiring and firing at will has created its share of insecurity. Leaders and managers hardly communicate with individuals beyond tasks. Transactional relationships then do not allow potential moonlighting distractions to be freely discussed and settled.
The legal contractual issue is a simpler one. And can be altered suitably if the philosophy is accepted. The risk of confidential data and information, beyond simple competitive edge, exists especially if the other “employer” were to hire the person essentially for that. HR clearly has to take a stronger and clearer view. And start exploring a more flexible staffing mix. It does seem unfair to pay all social security and health benefits if the resource shares oneself with agencies beyond that employer.
Companies must first get honest with how they want to be. It must hire clearly for the talent agreement it is comfortable with. If it needs more gig and less full-time or “captive” resources, so be it. But it must be clear about the terms and conditions for both. Likewise, talent must decide what mix works best for it. You cannot have the cake and eat it too. Finally, leadership and culture of a workplace will need to dramatically morph depending on the position a company decides to take. Most cultures and managers are archaic for the new world of free agents. They need to change for the times not the other way round.
Murad Salaman Mirza: Corporate Management Advisor & Global Thought Leader
Moonlighting should be given favorable consideration as long as it doesn’t negatively impact the professional work obligations with the current employer and compromises the confidential information of the respective organization. Taking a hard stance on it will not curtail its practice; rather, such a move will propel it as an ‘underground’ activity in the form of ‘passive’ resistance while generating lingering resentment and nagging frustration among those talented professionals who strongly believe that their talent is being undermined/underutilized/unrecognized/underpaid at the current organization.
Moonlighting has been bolstered by the lessons learnt from the COVID-19 Pandemic that are deeply ingrained in the psyche of the apprehensive professionals as they are seeking ways of safeguarding their ‘career’ prospects for the foreseeable future. One of the key motivations in the respective context is to gain a wide bandwidth of experience and leverage the richness of such exposure to take the entrepreneurial route, e.g., Tech Startups. Consequently, employment relationships will be strengthened if organizations refrain from any regressive measures that might be construed as another form of impeding the growth and development of employees.
A productive step by the organizations would be to hold an open and engaging forum to solicit inputs from the employees on the reasons that drive professionals towards Moonlighting and then take the resulting feedback to see how the current policies/procedures/practices can be refined/revamped to mitigate any undesirable aspects of Moonlighting. This will also boost the ‘psychological contract’ with the employees who will see such an initiative as a reflection of the organization’s sincerity in finding amicable solutions to accommodate the progressive ambitions of their workforce.
Rattan Chugh: Ex-Chief People Officer. Times Internet, Co-Founder – Fundflo Technologies
If employees are ready to put in extra hours in another company, why not offer them better compensation in lieu of additional work hours? Workforce planning can be done in a way that fewer employees are doing more work. As Jim Collins mentioned in his famous book, Good to Great, “Hire five, work them like ten and pay them like eight”.
In my opinion, an employee may explore moonlighting when they are bored with their current job. The work may not be exciting and repetitive, learning opportunities are limited and growth in income and career is plateauing.
Employees who are keen on moonlighting can be offered contract working arrangements. Employers can deploy available tools in their IT infrastructure to mitigate the risk of intellectual property infringement, data security, and conflict of interest.
In my view, instead of resisting the trend, there should be more transparency and flexibility for employers and employees to make a conscious choice.