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Maura is the Founder & Partner of V2 Communications, the agency for disruptors dedicated to big thinking, bold moves and better outcomes.
The pandemic has pushed many companies to adopt a hybrid talent model, in which contributions from freelancers and full-time employees are essential for driving the business forward. A hybrid workforce offers many advantages: Leaders can hire for specific skills on a short-term basis, add capacity on-demand and even tap former colleagues for consulting support. And in a world where, at least for the moment, remote work prevails, companies aren’t limited to local talent; they can bring in anyone from anywhere to meet their needs.
At my agency, V2 Communications, we’ve been working with freelancers for years, always holding fast to our commitment to hire the best and brightest PR professionals we can find. We often bring in contracted talent to staff up for large projects or add industry-specific expertise when necessary.
As a result, we’ve learned how to manage a hybrid workforce and integrate outside talent into existing operations. Here are three essential takeaways on how to set freelancers and full-time workers up for success, even as they collaborate over longer distances and for longer periods.
Communicate Regularly And Honestly
Consistent and honest communication is more important than ever as workforces split across time zones and employment models. Amid so much change and “renormalization,” leaders have to keep team members in the loop, even if it means admitting they don’t have all the answers.
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Regardless of whether your organization consists primarily of W2 employees or contractors, you must maintain open lines of communication. Doing so will build trust with your employees and signal that you value them, no matter their employment status.
Strive to communicate thoughtfully, which means proactively addressing anxieties, offering reassurance over cynicism, and providing regular internal updates. Likewise, don’t forget to celebrate company and employee successes as a unified team. This will go a long way in creating a sense of camaraderie, empowering employees to achieve more together.
Extend the commitment to open communication to clients as well. For example, we always let our partners know who is supporting their communications efforts and why those are the right people for the project. Anytime we bring on freelancers to supplement our efforts, we explain to clients why the freelancer’s experience is relevant for meeting the target objectives and how that will contribute to the program’s success.
Define Clear Roles And Responsibilities
Managing a hybrid workforce also requires clearly defining roles and responsibilities. Freelancers, more so than full-time employees, typically need discrete tasks to tackle under the supervision of an accessible manager. They should be able to ask questions and find answers easily. In addition, they should understand what they are accountable for and what the expectations are for different types of assignments.
While it often makes sense to give more ambiguous work to full-time employees, experienced contractors can be successful here as well, so long as they have ample support and direction from supervisors. However you decide to use freelancers, make sure everyone in your organization is on the same page around how to engage and empower them by providing them with what they need.
To maximize freelancers’ potential, ask them what types of work they enjoy and under what arrangements they prefer to work. There’s benefit in accommodating their preferences whenever possible, as their success is ultimately your organization’s success, and your success is your clients’ success.
Mentorship, though it has taken new forms during the Covid-19 pandemic, is just as important for freelancers as it is for full-time employees. Though many of us now work from home, strong mentorship is no less valuable, and leaders need to make sure full-time and contracted employees have everything they need to feel supported, even at a distance.
At V2, we have a mentorship program that pairs junior-level staff members, whether they be full-time workers or freelancers, with top performers. Our mentors and mentees work together to set career objectives and skill goals, both short-term and long-term. They also discuss topics related to our “new normal,” such as how to maintain work/life balance as a remote worker and how to navigate stresses related to the pandemic.
Ultimately, your goal needs to be to support the whole person, even if that individual is a part-time employee. New hires, in particular, require intentional mentorship, as many don’t have the same opportunities to build relationships and rapport with their peers in person.
A hybrid talent model has the potential to work for many types of businesses — if they’re strategic and thoughtful with its implementation. For all the support freelancers will be offering your business, be sure to provide them with the tools and network they need to flourish. That way, you’ll establish a talent model that’s as smooth as it is successful and everyone will realize the benefits.
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Author: Maura FitzGerald, Forbes Councils Member