Working habits are becoming so diverse that the ‘traditional’ 9-5 mentality no longer exists in many working environments. This has given millennials, who are set to comprise 50% of the workforce by 2020, a different view of how work can be conducted, when compared to previous generations. With the technology they have at their disposal, they can work from anywhere, at any time.
This presents a challenge for employers, as they find that an increasing amount of employees want to work in non-traditional ways. This has also facilitated a growth in the freelance/contractor segment of the market. These workers often operate remotely during non-traditional hours and they’ll likely be on different payment structures to permanent employees.
Freelancers already comprise a large chunk of the workforce – according to a survey by Upwork they numbered 57.3m in America. The growth in this type of working looks set to continue too, with the same study suggesting the majority of the workforce will be freelance by 2027.
If this is the case, employers will want to think about what policies and strategies they currently have in place to support this growing freelance contingent. Can they accommodate all their needs and, if not, will this influence their ability to attract future talent?
A flexible infrastructure
Having the right processes in place remains an issue for many – only 17% of UK companies say they currently have tools in place to support freelancers. So, while there are some companies who are tackling the issue, it’s clear that more can be done.
There are a number of steps companies could look to take to address this, however, and ensure that their freelance element is an effective part of the workforce:
1) Integrating through onboarding
Freelancers will need to feel they are a valuable part of the company – even those who aren’t physically present. If they are likely to be contracted for a significant period, then taking them through the same onboarding process as any other employee will help integrate – helping to explain the company culture and how things operate. Taking time to show remote workers around the physical workplace and meet with other members of the team will also encourage them to reach out and interact with colleagues more readily.
2) Use of collaboration tools
Providing tools which allow individuals to contact their colleagues, regardless of location, will also be beneficial to their productivity levels. An internal messaging or project management tool, such as Slack, can provide a way for numerous people to communicate freely without the formality of email. This can keep freelancers connected and informed – especially important if they are working on a long-term project with permanent colleagues.
3) HR support
Given the flexible nature of freelance work, it may result in HR teams being required to handle a higher number of queries – for example, checking the recorded hours of work. Whereas it might be easy for permanent employees to go directly to their line manager, it’s not the same for freelancers, especially if they are located offsite.
Having digital tools, with an online portal, that freelancers can use to login and access all the information they might require will reduce the need for back and forth that might typically come with traditional paper-based processes. It would allow them to quickly view contracts and check the number of hours worked so they are payed appropriately when work is complete.
If we are going to see a larger chunk of the workforce made up of freelancers, we will want to make those relationships easier to manage. If we do so, we can expect smoother integration that will allow them to focus more energy on the job in hand, helping them make a positive contribution to the organisation.