The independent workforce—the 42 million Americans who work as contractors, consultants, freelancers, side-giggers, and more—is a growing group of talent that businesses increasingly are incorporating as part of their workforce strategy.
One segment of this population, independent professionals, are unique for pursuing self-employment not only for the lifestyle and professional benefits it offers, but also because it allows them to apply their expertise to long-term, high-billing projects. Independent professionals tend to be slightly older, better educated, and have higher income levels than other types of independent workers.
Independent professionals bring many benefits to the table, including staffing flexibility, access to in-demand skills, and cost savings opportunities. It’s no wonder that nearly 64 percent of senior executives say their external workforce is important or very important in increasing organizational agility.
As companies rely more on this pool of workers, it is becoming increasingly important for HR professionals to put strategies in place to successfully attract, engage, and retain top talent. Because independent professionals are experts in their industry, they happen to have a lot of choice when it comes to picking their clients. In fact, 82 percent say they have some or a lot of choice in choosing the clients they work with.
That means in order to attract the best independent talent, today’s HR professionals must position their company as a client of choice: an organization that creates a superior experience for independent professionals that is specifically designed to meet their unique needs. Here are five ways HR teams can optimize their independent contractor program to become a client of choice.
1. Build an independent talent-friendly infrastructure.
When optimizing an independent contractor program, it is first important to make sure the needs and desires of independent talent are met. Some of these best practices include providing a broad range of engagement options that allow independents to work the way they want, offering payment terms that are in line with market standards, and creating an efficient onboarding experience.
Independents want a meaningful work environment where they are respected, trusted, and engaged by their coworkers. For example, more than 90 percent say being treated as a part of a team is a very important or important factor in deciding who they work with. Independents will seek out clients who value their work, and provide honest, respectful feedback. Companies that understand these values and give independents the freedom and flexibility to work how they want will be much more successful in attracting and retaining top talent.
2. Guard against misclassification risk.
Many independent contractor engagement initiatives include practices that can increase costs, alienate key talent, and put companies at risk. Without proper planning, a program can invite in rogue spend and potential misclassification if managers source and engage talent through non-vetted programs or platforms.
The ideal solution is to provide flexible engagement options that appeal to a broad range of independent work engagements and worker types. This creates a win-win situation for the enterprise and for the talent: it mitigates misclassification risk and allows independents to work the way they want.
3. Prioritize good communication.
Independent talent satisfaction is most effectively driven by communication: Managers should focus on clearly defining project goals and objectives, providing helpful feedback, and establishing a defined project scope for each and every engagement.
Once a program is up and running, conduct regular reviews. Ask both independents and managers for feedback and use this input to continually adjust and improve the program.
4. Educate internal employees and independents.
Taking the time to educate employees both on the benefit independent talent provide, as well as how the engagement program works logistically—policies and procedures that must be followed, how to use corresponding technology, etc.—is a valuable practice that will help drive program adoption.
Likewise, independents need to know how the program runs. Create a welcome experience that provides education via content, videos, or FAQs, and make sure independents know who to reach out to if they have questions.
5. Start slow, and then grow.
Creating a centralized program to engage and manage independent talent is a big undertaking. Rather than trying to roll out a new program across an organization, start by identifying a few departments that are most likely to successfully drive adoption. Look for managers who have a high demand for independent talent or in-demand skill sets. When managers and independents have a positive first experience, it will be easier to expand the program in the future.
Independent talent give businesses a competitive advantage and are an important complement to a base of full-time employees. To engage the best and brightest, HR professionals must make sure their program takes the mindset of independents into consideration—structuring policies, procedures, and engagement practices to meet the needs of this talent pool. By becoming a client of choice, businesses can acquire the expertise that allows them to pursue emerging areas of opportunity, innovate faster, and become more agile in today’s project-based economy.
To learn more about becoming a client of choice, download MBO Partners’ 2019 Client of Choice report.
Gene Zaino is CEO of MBO, which delivers solutions that make it safer and easier for enterprise organizations and top independent professionals to work together. Through its proprietary platform, MBO has built a comprehensive workforce ecosystem that fuels both sides of the independent economy. MBO strengthens relationships, minimizes risk, and maximizes value for its clients. For more information, visit: https://www.mbopartners.com.