Today's blended workforce is often comprised of full-time and part-time employees, and freelance/independent contractors. This reflects a growing trend, both in the U.S. and internationally, toward new opportunities for freelance contributions to the established workforce. According to 2016 data, around one in every three working Americans is a freelancer.
Many business owners are still grappling with the best strategy to handle this unprecedented composition of employees. Here are some valuable insights offered by several Paychex HR professionals that you can apply to your business to make the blended workforce work for you:
1. Embrace contingent workers, but keep your core staff intact.
"Today's blended workforce generally consists of core employees and contingent workers, who come and go following the end of a project," notes HR consultant Kirsten Tornow. "It's vitally important for a company to ensure their core group of employees remains cohesive, stable, and feels valued. This is the group that best understands your company, your customers, and your brand."
2. Set clear expectations.
It's common for blended workforces to collaborate on several project teams, "which can make leadership roles muddy, sometimes causing breakdowns in communications," says HR consultant Chris Jankus. "When working with employees and independent contractors, make expectations clear by laying a solid foundation of guidelines. Careful management will help increase teamwork, collaboration, and engagement, whether workers are full- or part-time, seasonal, contractors, or freelancers."
3. Encourage communications among different employee groups.
A blended workforce means people work smoothly together, regardless of their employment status. HR generalist Shannon Britton urges business owners to encourage active communications between employees and freelancers.
"This allows trust and respect to grow," Britton says. "After all, these people are working for you to make your business more successful”
HR consultant Susan J. Draper agrees. "Encourage your workers to get to know each other," she advises. "They don't all need to be friends, but help them understand what they can offer each other. Individuals who have been in the workforce or a particular industry for a longer period of time obviously have a lot of experience to draw from a business practice and company perspective. Individuals new to the workforce or the company can bring great fresh perspectives on new technology or different practices."
4. Leverage the knowledge and experience of workers.
These days, multiple generations of employees also contribute to the blended workforce. It's not always easy managing across generations, but the payoff is well worth it.
"Establish a managed, strategic mentorship program to leverage the knowledge and experience of more tenured workers with less experienced workers," suggests HR consultant Rob Sanders. "To be most effective, this shouldn't be the same as a supervisor/direct report relationship. The focus should be a guided approach to assist in the development of soft skills, such as coming across better in presentations and understanding how to navigate in larger organizations, in order to get your ideas heard."
Effective management of a heterogeneous workforce can benefit veteran and new workers alike, Draper adds. "Someone who is new to the company might have a lot of industry experience somewhere else, but might not be familiar with company practices and processes. Someone new to the workforce might not have a lot of practical experience, but might have a skill set that can help longer-term workers understand new processes and technology."
Finally, make sure you put systems in place — from ensuring HR and legal processes to providing the right collaboration software — to achieve the optimum benefits of the blended workforce.