The rise of the gig economy and developments in technologies that better enable remote work have created opportunities for freelancers, sub-contractors, remote workers, and traditional on-site employees to collaborate together better than ever before.
This mix of workers creates a blended workforce with unique working styles that will greatly affect how you approach hiring, communication, project management, and cyber security. To help you get ahead, here are 4 ways to prepare for a blended workforce.
1. Understand Your Reasons for Wanting a Blended Workforce
If your needs could be readily met by a traditional workforce, you likely wouldn’t be here today wondering how to prepare for a shift to a blended workforce. The first step of preparation starts with truly understanding your core reasons for recruiting a diverse mix of contract types.
What value will a blended workforce bring to you and your organization and how will you best accommodate the types of workers that address your core needs? Whether you are a freelancer interested in peer-to-peer hiring to increase your capabilities on a special project or an established business with an existing workforce, careful planning will ensure you are best prepared to onboard new talent.
Core Reasons for Hiring a Blended Workforce:
- Specialized Skills: Addressing short-term talent gaps by hiring skilled freelancers.
- High Workload: Hiring temporary workers and contractors to respond to peaks in demand for your organization’s offerings.
- Hiring Perks: The demand for flexible work options is rising. Offering support for remote working options can give you a competitive hiring advantage.
- Scalability & Flexibility: Freelancers and remote workers often provide their own equipment, providing you with options to scale your workforce up and down as needed without incurring the costs of office space and equipment procurement.
- Workforce Improvement: Hiring external specialists can expose your core team to new ideas and processes, leading to improvements in their skills and workflows.
2. How to Find Talent (Blended Recruitment)
How you approach hiring will entirely depend on the specific context you are hiring for and the capabilities you currently have. Freelancers and contractors with specialized skill sets are not as likely to be searching for work opportunities in the channels you may be used to using if you typically hire a traditional workforce.
Where to Find Blended Workforce Talent:
- Freelancers: Highly skilled freelancers often rely on personal marketing channels and word-of-mouth. Start by reaching out to your network to see who their ‘go-to’ person is for a given field. Depending on the nature of the project or deliverables needed, you may also want to consider freelancer hiring platforms such as Fiverr, Upwork, or Guru.
- Contractors: Individual contractors sometimes operate quite similarly to freelancers by proactively marketing their skills. They can also be found through dedicated recruitment firms or they may be operating as their own dedicated business.
- Remote Workers: Remote workers can be found through traditional hiring methods, though there are dedicated platforms such as WeWorkRemotely and Remote where remote workers are specifically searching for remote work. Be certain to mention that you are remote worker friendly in your hiring materials and make an effort to promote how you manage and accommodate remote workers to catch their attention.
- Temporary Workers: Temporary workers are most often found through dedicated staffing agencies and similar platforms. The benefits of relying on the external agency come from the reduced vetting resources required to screen workers as the agency is expected to perform due diligence in selecting their candidates.
Freelancers vs Contractors
The distinction between freelancers and contractors is often difficult to make as they operate quite similarly. The main differences tend to be related to tax laws, employee classification considerations, and the defined work period.
Freelancers tend to work independently for multiple clients on shorter-term projects that have specific deliverables. Freelancers are responsible for their own taxes, equipment, and other expenses.
Contractors typically work for a single employer over a predefined span of time based on the terms of their contract. Contractors will also often find work through a dedicated contracting company that offers their skills to the company’s clients, whereas freelancers will define their own contracts and find their own clients.
These distinctions are not set in stone and there will often be some overlap. The main consideration is to understand the exact relationship a given worker has with your organization to ensure that employees are not being misclassified as independent contractors.
3. Tips for Working With Remote Workers
Freelancers and small creative teams working on digital marketing and design projects are likely all too familiar with remote working. Dedicated employees that work remotely require special consideration as the management strategies required to implement them into your workforce effectively are uniquely different from that of traditional workers.
How to Accommodate Remote Workers:
- Scheduling: Remote workers are often drawn to the nature of their working style because they enjoy the flexibility of working when and where they want to. That said, if the nature of your business truly requires that you can reliably contact your employees during office hours you may need to set a dedicated availability period where remote workers are expected to be accessible. Be certain to consider the limitations that time zone differences can make when determining what the availability period should be.
- Project Management: Where possible, aim for asynchronous project management and communication styles as they do not require remote employees to be present. Use project management tools such as Trello or Monday to track key deliverables and project milestones, and schedule periodic sync-up video conferences in advance to keep communication flowing.
- Cloud Storage: Using cloud-based platforms such as G Suite and Microsoft 365 allows for files to be readily accessible by remote workers. These services are excellent for collaborating on projects that rely heavily on spreadsheets, documents, and slide presentations.
- Open Communication: Remote workers often feel out-of-the-loop with what is happening in the organization as they are not privy to informal office chats. Develop methods of keeping your remote workers up-to-date on what is going on in the office, clearly outline your expectations for them, and provide frequent feedback on how you feel about their work.
- Inclusion: Beyond the projects they’ll be working on, socially keen remote workers may feel isolated from their coworkers and over time this may lead to a disconnect from the company’s culture. Depending on the resources available, social inclusion could come in the form of informal social video chats, dedicated social channels on a team chat app, or even periodic get-togethers where remote workers can meet their colleagues in person.
4. Cybersecurity Considerations
Working with a diverse mix of employment types and physical locations can make cybersecurity incredibly difficult.
While your best approach will be to identify what you need to prioritize for protection (sensitive information, data loss prevention for important projects, etc) and consult with an information technology cybersecurity specialist (say, an IT freelancer?) to determine the measures required, there are some general considerations that may be worth researching further.
Cybersecurity Considerations of a Blended Workforce:
- VPN: A Virtual Private Network (VPN) allows remote workers to securely access your internal private network. VPNs are especially useful for remote workers that may be tempted to use unsecured public wifi networks that are prime targets for cybercriminals.
- Mobile Routers: Portable wifi routers provide a private internet connection for mobile workers that are working outside of their home offices, further mitigating the danger of public wifi networks by removing the need to use them altogether.
- PAM: Privileged Access Management (PAM) is all about ensuring that sensitive data such as trade secrets, client files, and personal information are only accessible to those that truly need access. When working with temporary workers or contractors that require the use of your office space, you will want to ensure they do not have unfettered access to your files as this could lead to a serious data breach.
- MDM: Mobile Device Management (MDM) tools provide a variety of features, including methods for your organization to remotely locate mobile devices and delete the sensitive data stored on them in the event that those devices are lost or stolen. MDM solutions are best used for company-supplied devices as the tracking and control features provided by MDMs are often considered inappropriately invasive for personal devices.
- BYOD: Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is a technology policy where employees are permitted to bring their own devices to perform work functions. While BYOD provides increased comfort and flexibility for workers as well as incredible cost savings for your organization, personal devices will likely not have the same robust security as company-provided devices.
- Training: You have full control over how well trained your full-time staff is in mitigating cybersecurity risks, but the security knowledge of external workers and temporary employees may not be as robust when they first join your organization. You will need to determine if it's best to dedicate resources to ensure they’re up-to-speed or if another threat mitigation strategy is more appropriate.
The above list of cybersecurity measures is far from exhaustive. If your organization relies on sensitive data that would be detrimental to individuals or partners if breached, you should consult directly with a cybersecurity professional to assess the measures that are appropriate for your needs.
With clearly-defined goals, blended hiring practices, added adjustments to accommodate remote workers, and refined security measures you can foster a blended workforce that provides new opportunities for growth, innovation, and flexibility in your organization.
Whether you already have a core staff and you are looking to address a unique need with external help or you are a creative professional looking to expand your capabilities by collaborating with skilled peers, we hope that this guide provided you with the framework you need to prepare for a blended workforce.