At one time, freelance and contractor workers were considered “outliers”—workers a business might take a chance on, but who were for the most part ignored. Like so much that’s changed in our digital world, contract workers are now a permanent fixture in today’s workplace, thanks to huge advances in telecommunications as well as a sea-change in attitude among employers.
At the same time, many managers are more attuned to supervising in-house teams, but may run aground when they try to apply the same managerial techniques to freelancers and contractors.
While perhaps not “a breed apart,” on-demand workers thrive best when managed in a smart, attentive and inclusive manner. Whether you opt to find a contractor through online platforms, staffing supplier, or through a managed service provider (MSP), here are five tips to get the most from these on-demand specialists:
1. Clarify your expectations. A common managerial mistake is treating freelancers and contractor like temp workers, offering only vague guidelines as to what tasks need to be addressed and how they should be completed. By contrast, on-demand workers are the most productive when a manager explicitly outlines the company’s expectations (time-frames, deliverables, communications and collaboration policies, etc.).
If as usually the case, you’re hiring a freelancer for a specific project, the more detailed information you can provide up-front, the greater the likelihood is that the finished product will meet your expectations.
2. Communicate (and then communicate some more). Another common misstep among managers is to engage in a preliminary conversation with a freelancer at the outset of a project and then forget about them after that. Just as with your in-house team, communications on a steady basis yields the best results.
“As part of the on-boarding process, have a specific conversation” about preferred modes of contact, notes Entrepreneur, “including how often you expect to hear from the freelancer and what channels you prefer.” Also, state “how the freelancer can get in touch with you or whomever you designate as the primary resource” in the business.
3. Make sure on-demand workers are part of the team. Considering the high level of communications technology, it’s simply wrong to adopt an “out of sight, out of mind” mindset with freelancers. There are so many ways to bringing them into the fold that it’s foolish to treat them as somehow separate from your in-house team.
Harvard Business Review urges businesses to “avoid all the subtle status differentiators that make contractors feel like second-class citizens … and be exceedingly inclusive instead.” When possible, ask them to attend key meetings, “bring them into water-cooler conversations, and add them to the team email list.” On-demand workers who feel involved with their on-site counterparts are more motivated, as well as more knowledgeable about company culture.
4. Provide ongoing feedback. All too often, on-demand workers do the job they’re hired for and, after turning in the work, never hear anything about how well they lived up to expectations or where they fell short. But, as HBR notes, “Telling them what you think of their work will improve their performance and deepen the relationship.” This is particularly important if you wish to bring the freelancer back in at a future date.
5. Solicit the knowledge and input of a managed service provider. Companies that specialize in recruiting and outsourcing skilled on-demand workers are a valuable resource for busy organizations. They enable employers to sidestep the vast amount of time and effort involved in devising job positions, writing descriptions, placing online ads, actively recruiting and onboard on their own. The best MSPs can offer specialized talent that’s custom-tailored for each organization’s different needs.
On-demand talent fulfills an essential role in today’s workplace and is poised to adopt an even greater importance in years to come. Learning how to manage this valuable resource will pay off for your company again and again.