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Summary:

Call it the gig economy, Generation Flux or Freelance Nation, but whatever you term the rise in independent workers, the trend is reshaping management. How can you ensure that the contingent workers on your team feel as engaged and appreciated as the long-term employees?

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Call it the gig economy, Generation Flux or Freelance Nation, but whatever you term the rise in independent workers piecing together careers out of multiple projects and employers, the consensus is that an increase in the number of independent pros is a key part of the future of work.

That’s shaping not only the career trajectories of individual knowledge workers, but also the practice of HR and management as teams incorporate more and more contingent workers employed on a project-basis. If you’re running a team made up of a mix of traditional employees and independent contractors, how can you ensure that the independent pros under your supervision feel as engaged and appreciated as long-term employees?

It’s a question author Alexandra Levit tackled recently on the American Express OPEN Forum blog, offering several tips to ensure your freelancers and independent pros feel like family. Her ideas include:

Recognize their value. Contract workers want to make a contribution quickly–they know their livelihood depends on it. So read their status reports and results summaries and illustrate the big picture so they can see how their work is fueling a greater mission.

Treat them like employees. When a contingent worker needs training to complete a new type of responsibility or keep current in her field, facilitate it. Give regular performance evaluations and gather survey feedback just as you would for any full-time employee. If you’re happy with his work, reward him by providing access to other people and opportunities within the organization. Don’t make your contract workers feel like a vendor who should be lucky to be working with your company and can replaced at any minute.

Engage in team building. Remote workers are more effective when they have solid relationships with their co-workers. If it’s feasible, introduce your virtual contract workers to each other and to their full-time team members in person, as this will build rapport and engender greater trust and cooperation. You should also invite remote contingent workers to visit your office, or pop into their locations from time to time. This shows that you actually care enough about the relationship to behave like a manager.

Don’t create a subculture. In their text Essentials of Organizational Behavior, Timothy Judge and Stephen Robbins suggest that subcultures often develop in organizations to reflect common problems, situations or experiences. What you don’t want is for a negative contingent worker culture to develop in the absence of guidance from management. If your contingent workforce is to be effective, your company’s leadership must go out of its way to ensure that members feel welcome and are effectively integrated into the larger organizational culture.

For more info on these tips, as well as statistics on the rise of independent workers, check out the complete post.

What tips would you add to Levit’s list?

Image courtesy of Flickr user SuziJane

  1. Nice article, but you have to be careful about treating temporary workers like employees. As well as risk of being a co-employer with a staffing agency if there is one, there is also a risk that your freelancers could take you to court for non-payment of benefits (i.e. well, they treated me like an employee and I worked for them for 18months, but I never got sick pay, overtime or PTO). Happens all the time…

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  2. Jill voices my concern nicely. There are some definite legal and liability risks of treating contingent workers just like employees. This is one of the reasons while an effective contingent workforce management partner can be so important to companies who use a contract/temporary resources.

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  3. Alexandra Levit Tuesday, June 26, 2012

    Thanks for the reference, Jessica, and great points below. Much appreciated!

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