Since the economic recession of 2007/2008, companies have continued to streamline their operations in order to keep costs low. One of the areas that’s been significantly affected by the need to operate lean is the workforce. Many organizations now maintain a relatively small core of fulltime staff and, when necessary, expand this core with external workers.
As a result, a lot of managers are now in the position where they lead a compact team of fulltime employees and bring in contingent talent for additional manpower or specialized functions. These contingent workers—independent contractors; talent provided by workforce solutions companies; or freelancers—have varying contracts, varying workplace preferences, and varying styles of work. That means that as a manager, you need to strike a balance between meeting the expectations of contingent workers and safeguarding your core team’s work environment, as well as protecting your company’s proprietary information. The following do’s and don’ts of managing contingent workers can help.
- Do onboard them. Onboarding is an important aspect of bringing a new employee into the company, and it’s equally important for contingent workers. Even if the engagement is of short duration, give them a tour of the workplace, introduce them to the other employees, and inform them about company culture. That way, they’re somewhat acclimatized to the new environment, which is likely to make their work process easier.
- Don’t misclassify them. It’s critically important that you correctly classify contingent workers, since failure to do so can result in penalties. You can read more about this on the U.S. Department of Labor’s website.
- Do offer competitive pay. Many contingent workers are highly skilled professionals who choose the free agency work style voluntarily. Since they get to select the assignments and companies they’re interested in, it’s in your best interest to offer them competitive remuneration.
- Don’t forget to make agreements pertaining to intellectual property (IP). Especially in the fields of high tech, IT, and science, contingent workers can be brought in to contribute to proprietary projects. However, while it’s perfectly straightforward who owns the intellectual property when dealing with fulltime employees, the lines are blurred when it comes to contingent workers. Be prepared to negotiate to reach an agreement that benefits all parties.
- Do accommodate contingent workers’ preferences and styles of work. Unless there’s a valid reason for requesting the worker be present or perform work at a given time, facilitate whatever preferences and work styles contingent workers have in order to get the best results. For example, if someone only wants to come to the office for meetings and prefers to do the rest of his work remotely using collaboration software, allow him to, assuming all security measures are in place to keep the company’s data protected.
- Don’t micromanage. Many contingent workers are “solopreneurs” who are well equipped to set their own pace, create their own procedures, and manage their own time. Avoid micromanaging them, as this could lead to frustration.
- Do specify responsibilities and desired outcomes. Be clear about exactly what duties a contingent worker has, as well as what the desired outcome of his or her work is. It’s best to put this in writing so the worker can refer to it if necessary.
- Do remember to liaise with your team. Contingent workers can demand a lot of your attention. Moreover, in some cases, communication with your core team can be difficult. Establish yourself as the facilitator of communication between your fulltime and contingent workers so there are no misunderstandings and everybody’s on the same page.
- Don’t forget to give feedback. At the end of an assignment, it’s a good idea to give feedback to your contingent workers. Constructive criticism can help them continuously improve their performance.
- Do stay in touch. If you’re satisfied with a contingent worker’s performance, stay in touch with him or her. That way, it’s easy to reach out when you need someone with that specific skill set again.
Contingent workers can be a valuable addition to your core workforce. By keeping these do’s and don’ts in mind, you can maximize external workers’ potential so they help advance your company’s competitive edge.