One of my long time clients is moving away from full-time employees, and towards a workforce of freelance contractors.
He’s invested a lot in building a collaborative culture.
He’s committed to transparent, two-way communication, and has created an environment where employees feel safe to speak up with ideas, questions, or problems.
Naturally, he’s slightly apprehensive about bringing in contractors, even though he knows it makes sense for functions that are outside the company’s core competencies.
My first company Information Experts, has always heavily relied on freelance contractors. As a project-based company, it makes financial sense to staff short-term projects with top talent that we can ramp up and wind down on an as-needed basis.
To alleviate some of the anxiety and uncertainty around freelance hiring, I created the process he can follow to successfully recruit, hire, and onboard contractors.
- Have a very specific job description, complete with all tasks that the contractor will be performing. Include this as the Appendix in the subcontractor agreement.
- Specify the hourly/daily/project rate (whatever is applicable), how they will be paid, where the work will be performed, and who the contractor will report to.
- Interview the contractor as if you are hiring a full-time person. Share the company’s core values, background information, and any other information that will educate the contractor on the organization.
- Involve the employees that will be working with the contractor. It’s never good to force a new resource on someone else without getting their feedback.
- Be very clear in your expectations of the contractor regarding company involvement. Contractors by nature are not corporate-centric. They are independent. I recently assessed a client’s workforce, and a key contractor said, “I am not involved in day-to-day. I just want to work on my project and check out at the end of the day.” If you expect your contractor to be engaged beyond a specific project, it’s important to communicate this expectation.
- Communicate equipment requirements. If you have a BYOD culture (bring your own device), check to ensure your candidate has what you need. If you provide equipment, communicate your policy about using a personal device and how to back up data.
- Communicate communication requirements. Do you expect your contractor to use your company email, or can they use their personal email? Many contractors have multiple gigs, so they may prefer their own email.
- Check references.
- Double-check to ensure there are no misunderstandings about expectations stated above.
- Prior to starting, collect all signed paperwork, including a NDA, subcontract agreement, and any other legal documents.
- It’s important to help contractors feel as if they are part of the team. Schedule a meeting or lunch to give your contractor an opportunity to integrate with those with whom they will be working.
- Be ready for them when they start, so that they can be as productive as possible. Have equipment ready, email set up, and a space for them if they are on site.
- If they have to use a time-tracking system, or if they need access to any employee data repositories such as Sharepoint, provide them access and training.
- Ensure they know who their supervisor is, so they don’t feel as if they are figuring it out as they go along.
Communication is Key
Like every important relationship, clear communication is the key to success. Keep your contractors apprised of any changes that may impact them. They rely on ethical, fair companies for work. If you learn that you may not need them on an upcoming project, let them know. Good contractors are tremendously valuable, and the relationship requires mutual respect.
Contractors want long-term relationships with companies that will challenge them, respect them, and provide opportunity for growth. This is much easier said than done.
Despite the growth of the contingent workforce, Deloitte’s study found that only 71 percent of executives believe their companies are “somewhat” able to manage contingent workers.
The top three challenges the executives cited are:
- legal/regulatory uncertainty: how to remain in compliance
- a corporate culture that is unreceptive to part-time and contingent staff
- a lack of understanding among leadership on how to manage a contingent workforce
Like any growth initiative, hiring contractors and part-time employees requires a clearly defined process that supports the organization’s overall mission and vision.
Figuring it out as you go along will cost you time, money, & valuable resources, and communicates that you don’t value the contingent workforce. You’ve worked hard to build a great brand. Protect it with great relationships, inside and outside of your company.
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