How to make the most of your blended workforce

With the right approach, employees and freelancers can do more creative and better work than non-blended teams

How to make the most of your blended workforce

More and more American companies are realizing the benefits of having a blended workforce, where freelancers and full-time staff work together on corporate projects. In fact, 40 percent of top-performing American companies hire freelancers.

So many of these companies are putting these freelancers to work on teams with full-time employees that teamwork is one of the main qualities employers look for when engaging freelancers.

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When done right, a blended workforce of full-time employees and freelance workers can make your company more creative, more productive and ultimately more successful. Yet if your company has never hired freelancers and put them to work with full-time staff, it can be difficult to know how to make the most of your blended workforce. Certain issues may arise that your company does not face when managing teams made solely of its own employees.

Here are some ways to approach hiring freelancers and incorporating them into your teams. With the right strategies, you'll have a successful blended workforce in no time.

Value your core group of employees

The blended workforce model is typically based on having a core group of traditional employees, with an outer ring of freelancers or contractors hired on a project basis.

There can be a lot of change with different freelancers coming in to help with different projects. This means stability among your core group of employees is important. Your employees have the experience and institutional memory to drive growth in your business. As a result, high turnover among your core group of employees can have a detrimental effect on your company.

Make sure your employees feel valued and appreciated. Make your workplace the one they want to be at.

Hire professional freelancers

The new freelance economy is composed of highly specialized professional freelancers. They have every skill you can imagine, from accounting to IT to project management. To serve as full members of your team, they need to be compensated for those skills. In other words, hire based on skills and pay freelancers what they're worth.

There is a proliferation of websites where you can hire cheap, gig-based, freelance labor. If you are serious about the success of your business, avoid these sites and find sources of professional, highly trained freelancers.

Your employees want to have qualified professionals on their team. Don't cut costs when you hire freelancers. You will pay more in the long run when projects take longer to complete and do not quite meet the professional standards your company requires.

Make freelancers feel like employees

It is worth the time to make your freelancers feel like part of the team. They often juggle numerous projects and clients at the same time, and they worry their clients may replace them with someone else. By establishing strong relationships with your freelancers, you can add stability to their lives and make sure they put your projects at the top of their priority list.

Give them steady work

No matter how many clients a freelancer has, they always want to know two things: that their contributions are appreciated and that they have a measure of stability. You can show them appreciation and give them some stability by giving them steady work.

This shows that you have faith in their capability to produce quality work, and it reassures them that you value their contributions and consider them part of the team.

Further, this can provide financial benefits for your company. Depending on the line of work and the freelancer, some will offer a lower rate for a higher volume of work because they are willing to take a reduced rate in return for more stability.

Give them feedback

We surveyed more than 800 freelancers and contractors for our 2016 freelancer study. More than half told us that giving and receiving feedback is valuable because they find that working dynamically with others is the best way to build their business.

Freelancers are looking to build their reputation and business. They want your feedback, and they want to improve the work they do for their clients. Speak up and offer your opinions on the work they have submitted. Further, show them it’s a two-way street by asking them for feedback on how your relationship could be improved.

Give them referrals

If there is a freelancer you love working with, tell others. Give them a testimonial they can put on their website or on LinkedIn. Mention their name to colleagues in other departments or other companies. Nothing will incur a freelancer’s loyalty like sending more business their way.

Encourage diverse opinions

One of the best things about blended teams is their diversity. As we discuss in our 2016 freelancer study, teams that accept and elevate diversity of thought and varied experience end up with the best ideas. In James Surowiecki’s book the Wisdom of Crowds, he wrote, “Diversity and independence are important because the best collective decisions are the product of disagreement and contest, not consensus or compromise.”

Blended teams are more diverse teams. Freelancers provide a fresh perspective that can inject innovation into your projects, and because they are removed from office politics, they may feel comfortable raising ideas others would not. On the other hand, full-time employees bring the necessary understanding of your brand and your customers. This is the mix you want. Together, employees and freelancers can do more creative and better work than non-blended teams.

It is exciting to see how the outdated, traditional workforce is giving way to a leaner, more innovative blended workforce, where freelancers work alongside full-time employees. This new, elastic workforce pushes boundaries and offers incredible possibilities to the companies that know how to put their employees to work with highly skilled freelancers.

There’s no time like the present. On your next project, hire a freelancer to work with your employees and see what innovation it might spark.

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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