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Embracing Freelance Workers Involves an Organizational Shift

April 5, 2019

Freelance workers

More than 56 million Millennial workers are working or looking for work, according to Pew Research Center, and millions of people in Generation Z are hot on their heels. These young, eager players have far different expectations from Generation X’ers or Baby Boomers, though. They crave decentralization in the workforce and are eager for project-based gigs that provide work-life balance rather than long-term stability.

If you’re shocked, you might come from a generation that believes workplace culture falls within the structural walls of an organization. You might even covet the idea of being a workaholic, a description nearly two-thirds of Baby Boomers give themselves, according to Human Resources Management & Ergonomics. By contrast, only 15% of Millennials brand themselves this way, but that doesn’t mean they care less about doing an amazing job. They just want to do it on their terms.

Long gone are the days when freelancing was relatively niche. As Intuit notes, 34 percent of work was done in the gig economy in 2016. And Morgan Stanley predicts that by 2027, freelancers may comprise more than half of the U.S. workforce.

You can’t afford to ignore the notion of hiring remote workers. Because of this, you might have to revisit your company’s values and culture to make the organization more attractive to this pool of candidates. At the same time, you can encourage your in-house employees to see freelancers as a resource for their own personal growth and development.

Developing a freelancer-friendly culture

It takes planning to create a workplace that is friendly to outsourcing in order to avoid missing out on superstars or falling behind the competition. Start building your reputation as a company that welcomes freelance workers in four complementary stages:

Evaluate your organization’s values. Take a close look at whether your company’s culture lacks communication, transparency, and information flow. If so, consider making those things important in your company to avoid hurting your reputation with talented remote workers who seek work with organizations that place importance on values and missions.

Focus on a handful of core beliefs and communicate those to team members. Refer to those beliefs regularly, especially when hiring and onboarding freelance workers.

Give remote employees your ear. Too often, veteran employees pay lip service to remote workers and freelancers who aren’t physically present in the office every day. Yet these might be the employees who perceive problems and needs long before inside employees do.

Instead of ignoring what could be important insights into the health of your organization, pay attention to all input, especially from your freelancers. What you hear could mean the difference between remaining a leading institution or falling behind. Freelance workers can alert you to issues in your organization or operations that you may not see from your vantage point, giving you a broader view of what is working in your workplace and what isn’t.

Share (most) information freely. Information is too often shared in bits, which can lead remote workers to incorrect conclusions and, in turn, make employers think that these workers aren’t performing well enough.

Put an end to trickle-down discussions by improving communication across the board through digital means for these digital workers. For instance, Slack can be a huge asset because it allows your freelancers to communicate and collaborate with all employees, which lets them feel like they’re a part of the whole.

Align incentives with company goals. Want to move toward a more virtual, project-based organization? Revamp your performance targets to measure output. Stop worrying about where or how work gets done, and instead focus on whether it is getting done well and by deadlines. This type of cultural shift across the board will ensure your company can manage gig workers and identify those who might not be the right fit.

By doing this, you can make these employees a part of your organization with more confidence, leading to better management on your part and better performance possibilities for your remote workers.

Freelancing is no longer on the outskirts of working life; it’s a critical component of remaining competitive. Companies need to consider spiffing up the house, because gig workers are coming and plan to stay.

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About The Author

Michael Burdick is the CEO of Paro, empowering finance and accounting professionals to embrace the future of work.

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