How Employers Can Prepare For The Freelance Work Revolution

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architectWe live in an age where great businesses can be born and die overnight, in a manner of speaking. This is why modern businesses and corporations must be flexible, adaptable, and responsive: so they can handle any problem or exploit any opportunity that comes their way. One way that organizations are starting to build adaptability is by moving from a fixed-labor model to a contingent-labor model, where they depend on freelancers, casuals, temps, etc.

So strong is the move towards contingent work that 46 percent of HR professionals believe that 20 percent of their workforce will be made up of contractors by 2022, according to PwC.

Despite this imminent move to contingent work, the current business model is still set up to deal with the world of traditional employment. This is why I thought it would be timely to offer some tips and advice on how to adapt your resourcing model from traditional to contingency based, in order to prepare for the freelance work revolution.

1. Don’t Treat Freelancers like Employees

I am not saying that you should be abusive or mistreat freelancers, but I have seen employers make the mistake of treating freelancers like employees, putting them on rolling, full-time contracts, often for years at a time. They are employees in all but name. There’s nothing wrong with long-term freelancers, but if they work for you full time and for no one else, they are operating much more like employees.

Aside from the fact that this may get you in trouble with the tax authorities in many countries, this continuous, employee-all-but-in-name way of using freelancers defeats the purpose of contingent work. If you pay them at a higher rate, it also becomes a financially inefficient way of working.

2. Turn Your Line Managers into Business Managers

As you would expect, line managers currently operate as team managers, not business managers. But the freelance relationship is not a paternal employment relationship. It’s personable and respectful, yes, but it’s also a colder, more clinical pay-for-performance type of relationship. It’s a very different style of managing workers, and if you want your organization to effectively utilize freelancers, you’ll need to coach and train your line managers on how to correctly motivate freelancers.

3. Create a Flexible Working Environment

Many freelancers will work at home, but some will come on site from time to time. This should be as seamless an experience as possible, so they can continue to work efficiently without disrupting the office. Develop hot-desking and BYOD policies so freelancers can come in, set up, and get to work without disruptions.

4. Build a Freelancer Knowledge Base

Develop your own knowledge base of trusted freelancers and develop a library of different types of freelance contracts and guides for use. Develop an intranet containing FAQs about using freelancers and how to hire them. Develop your own freelance best-practice guide. Make managing freelancers a core skill requirement of all your managers.

5. Open Your Organization up to Freelancers

Freelancers can help address talent shortages. While the talent for a particular posting may not be available in the fixed labor market, it may be available in the contingent labor market. Why not invite freelancers to submit alternative contingent-work proposals to any job postings that you may have? This strategy should broaden your access to the labor market, helping you mitigate talent shortages.

As I have shown, the freelance work revolution is coming, and if employers want to continue to effectively engage with the changing labor market, they’ll need to adapt their talent-attraction and motivation strategies to accommodate contingent workers – or they will find it increasingly difficult to attract and retain top talent.

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Kazim Ladimeji is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and has been a practicing HR professional for 14 years. Kazim is the Director of The Career Cafe: a resource for start-ups, small business and job seekers.