Congratulations! You’ve embraced that the future of work demands blended teams (or, as we at Uncompany call it, adaptive staffing). That means including independent freelancers, contractors, and part-timers in your long-term staffing plan.
Now you need a refined set of management skills to effectively oversee your single freelancer or freelance team and smoothly integrate them with your full-time employees (FTEs).
How To Avoid Problems When Working With Freelancers
You already know adaptive staffing leads to increased productivity, decreased burnout, added skills, and more flexible spending. But having a blended workforce creates unique challenges that you (or your managers) may not have navigated.
“Empathy, aligning on measurable goals, setting clear individual expectations, regular communication, and ongoing measurement are all central to successfully managing a blended workforce.”
Effective leaders and respected managers typically rank highly in emotional intelligence (EQ). EQ is defined as the ability to identify and manage your own emotions while also understanding and empathizing with the emotions of those around you.
Leaders with high EQ develop strong interpersonal skills, especially in the areas of conflict management, communication, and empathy, all of which are imperative for managing workers from two very different sectors.
Mismanaging your freelance team can lead to a host of roadblocks. Be sure you’re proactively mitigating these potential problems.
Problem 1: Ignoring Each Group’s Feelings
Bringing in external workers is like pulling a freshman up to the Varsity team halfway through the season. The seniors feel nervous that the newbie is going to steal their playing time and hog the spotlight. The freshman feels awkward and unprepared as the outsider.
It’s natural for each set of workers to feel insecure and anxious. But if managers don’t address these feelings and find ways to bridge the gap, their freelancers won’t deliver their best-quality work, and their internal staff will be focused on things that detract from productivity.
Help your staff understand that your freelance team is there to support them from burnout, give them opportunities for time off, and grow the team’s capabilities.
Solution: Hold a full-team onboarding meeting
Uncompany Founder Maari Casey suggests having a sit-down meeting before beginning work with your freelancers: “It’s important to explain WHY you are bringing in freelance support (your workforce vision), HOW the two groups will work together (operations), and WHAT you expect from each team member (clear roles). Because at the end of the day, freelancers are an extension of your team, not a threat to your core players.”
Ensure you have an effective onboarding process for your freelancers that mimics the onboarding process you use for your FTEs. No, it’s not overkill. The upfront effort will eliminate loss of time, miscommunication, and unclear expectations in the future. It will also allow your freelancers to embrace – and contribute to – the company culture.
To get started:
- Collect paperwork and share vital information. You’ll need to collect signed contracts, NDAs, and tax documents. In return, share your organization’s mission and values, contact information for those involved in the project, and other necessary details of working with your team. Do all of this before your freelancer starts work.
- Grant access to required tools, resources, and systems. Provide login information, instructions for using your systems, and links to things like previous campaigns, high resolution logos and fonts, and brand guidelines.
- Give clear communication expectations. Be explicit about how people in your organization communicate with one another, especially in a digital workplace.
- Host a kickoff meeting. Introduce your in-house employees and your freelancers with a Zoom or in-person meet and greet. Be transparent about why you’re outsourcing for this particular project or skillset, as well as the joint benefits of bringing them onboard.
Problem 2: Creating an “Us vs Them” Mentality
If full-timers and independents are not on the same page, you’ll create a divide, the “Us vs Them” mentality that will slowly but deeply seep into your work culture. A lack of trust between the two sides can lead to feelings of resentment and even subconscious sabotage. (WE’RE not helping THEM!)
It can no longer be staff and others. “All participants need to be viewed and managed as a single, cohesive workforce… A recent study of 4,078 executives finds such attention leads to better management practices, more effective recruiting and retention, and more effective allocation of resources.”
Solution: Develop a collaborative mindset
To maximize the value of working with freelancers, truly support your FTEs, and see the results of their combined efforts, managers have to foster an “All for one and one for all!” spirit.
If you really want to get your FTEs invested, involve them in workforce design. Include project managers and respected employees in conversations around your workforce vision. Give managers the responsibility of helping to build the blended team by inviting them to review candidates, run lead on onboarding, and serve as the point of contact. When people feel like they’ve helped shape the model, they are more likely to support it.
You will also develop stronger relationships between your internal and external teammates if you approach feedback through a collaborative lens. Be sure to leave plenty of time to gather input and set a time to deliver clear, specific feedback. As much as possible, make it a conversation. Encourage managers to ask questions and offer suggestions. The process is an opportunity for FTEs to work together with freelancers to reach a shared goal, which helps establish a respectful working relationship.
Problem 3: Lacking a Process
The process of managing both internal and external teams can be, well, a process. But it is crucial to have a plan in place. Mismanaging your freelance team will lead to poor performance, including missed deadlines, missed goals, and missed opportunities.
A reliable system will help you reduce friction and build stronger communication to ensure your team runs smoothly and without much stress.
Solution: Build a system.
Running a cohesive adaptive staff requires understanding the stages from start to finish and how to best manage them all.
- Find your talent. Where are you sourcing your talent? How will you evaluate candidates? Who will be a part of the decision-making process?
- Set up contracts and other necessary paperwork. What software will you use to collect and store paperwork? Who will you consult to ensure compliance?
- Onboard your talent and host a kickoff meeting (see above).
- Manage projects. How will you track time and milestones? Who will be your point of contact for your freelancer? How will you gather and deliver feedback?
- Pay your freelancers. How will you handle invoices and payment?
- Maintain the relationship. How will you remain in contact with your freelancer?
Pro Tip: Build a Freelance Partner Relationship
If you don’t have the time or resources (or interest) to dedicate to managing the process, find a strong partner to manage the process for you, like Uncompany!
At Uncompany, we work with you to understand your business, evaluate your current and future needs, and deliver reliable and experienced talent. With our knowledge and access to the freelance market plus our Portal software, which enables stronger relationships, we can deliver a one-stop solution to managing your freelance team from onboarding through payment. Our goal is to build a bench that will grow and add value to your whole team for years to come.
If you’re interested in partnering with Uncompany and building your own curated freelance pool, learn how we can work together.