In a 2010 study by Intuit, they anticipated that 40% of the U.S. workforce would consist of freelancers, contractors, and other outsourced non-permanent workers by 2020. If organizations only hire one type of employee, they could be missing out on some valuable talent acquisition opportunities.
Why hire a blended workforce?
The benefits of hiring a blended workforce extend beyond simply attracting fresh talent by meeting increasing demands for diverse working options - hiring a blended workforce provides a suite of benefits for employers, too.
Benefits of hiring a blended workforce:
- Innovation: Freelancers and contractors bring opportunities for innovation from their diverse work experiences
- Reduced Costs: Organizations can leverage special skill sets of contractors and freelancers as-needed without the costs of onboarding permanent employees. Remote workers are also notably more cost-effective as they reduce the amount of office space required, and some remote workers even supply their own equipment
- Flexibility: Organizations can meet unanticipated demands that shift outside their usual scope of operations by leveraging the flexibility of non-permanent talent
Differences between employees and contractors/freelancers
When working with a blended workforce, it is critical that the members of an organization’s workforce are classified appropriately.
This article is not intended to provide legal advice, and the considerations presented here are far from comprehensive. That said, here are key considerations for determining whether a given worker is an employee or an independent contractor/freelancer:
- Work Schedules & Planning: Contractors and freelancers have greater flexibility in how their work is completed, often dictating their schedules and tasks based on the project
- Equipment Costs: Contractors and freelancers typically invest in the software, hardware, and tools they need to conduct their work. Employees have these costs covered by their employers
- Payment Structure: Contractors and freelancers set their own payment terms for their services, often in installments or at specified milestones. Employees are typically paid at regular company-defined intervals
- Taxes: Contractors and freelancers manage their own taxes, including withholdings. Employees expect that their employers will manage their withholdings for them
- Working With Competitors: Contractors and freelancers can work with multiple clients simultaneously, whereas employees are most often discouraged from working with competitors
- Benefits: Contractors and freelancers are not included in company benefits such as health plans
Culture, Collaboration, and Communication
Managing a blended workforce can be challenging. For organizations to effectively leverage their blended workforce, they need to understand the diverse motivations, communication styles, scheduling, and other related factors within each group of workers.
Motivation and Inclusivity
To understand how to cultivate motivation and inclusivity in a blended workforce, organizations can start with how their current employees are motivated and consider how those methods can be transferrable or adaptable to other types of workers.
This section will focus largely on remote workers as they require special consideration due to their susceptibility to feeling disconnected from their colleagues and employers.
- Acknowledge Good Work: Employees, freelancers, and contractors alike will appreciate knowing that they are making a difference
- Social Inclusivity: Remote workers are susceptible to feeling disconnected from their in-house counterparts. HR plays an important role in providing channels for these workers that allows them to feel included. Options could include encouraging personal chats with their colleagues and inviting them to social channels within the organization’s communication platform
- Extend Workplace Perks: Working in-house has many potential perks: free coffee, snacks, access to printers, and the occasional provided lunch, among other things. While not all of these perks can be directly provided to remote workers, making an effort to provide them with similar benefits will help them feel equally as valued as their in-house colleagues. Options could include gift cards to restaurants, offering a technology or equipment allowance for optional upgrades, and meal deliveries
Communication & Collaboration
As with most things, communication is key for an effective blended workforce. Factors such as non-traditional schedules, physical distance, and diverse communication needs within a blended workforce can make communication and collaboration difficult. Fortunately, modern technology has paved the way for communication and collaboration methods that provide much-needed support for a blended workforce.
Considerations for communicating and collaborating with a blended workforce:
- Team Chat: Team chat applications such as Slack and Workplace from Facebook open new possibilities for collaboration and communication, no matter where your workforce is located or when they’re working
- Video Conferencing: For physically distant workers, video conferencing can provide much needed human interaction. Video and audio features also allow workers to better understand tone when discussing subjects that rely on emotional cues to properly navigate
- Project Management: Project management tools allow everyone involved in a project to understand its needs and status. They can also be beneficial for implementing asynchronous project management styles that can be greatly beneficial for workers with flexible schedules
As the needs of an organization continue to evolve, HR professionals will need to continue to provide support for a blended workforce. Beyond what has been covered in this article, other considerations such as how to approach blended recruitment, training, and continued interpersonal development will be beneficial for creating and maintaining an effective blended workforce.