Avoiding common pitfalls of contingent-worker hiring

There's little denying the importance of freelance workers to countless organizations from startups to enterprises, across all industries. A report by Forbes contributor TJ McCue from August 2018 stated that contingent employees made up 36% of the U.S. workforce, coming in at more than 57 million people. Statista projects this number to exceed 62 million by the end of 2019 – and by 2027, it could reach approximately 87 million people and comprise about 51% of America's labor pool.

With no end in sight to the trend of contingent workers' importance to U.S. businesses, it naturally follows that these organizations must consider such employees just as important as those who draw annual salaries. Unfortunately, Randstad pointed out that when it comes to companies' treatment of freelancers, they fall into bad habits all too often. It'll be critical for your organization to know these common pitfalls and work hard to avoid them.

Don't underestimate the importance of onboarding 
According to the management services firm O.C. Tanner, as much as 20% of the employee turnover organizations experience can happen in the first 45 days of employment. While this figure encompasses turnover of all workers, including those on salary, there's no doubt that the rise of the gig economy has played a part here. Workers are less afraid than ever before to leave new positions early on if they feel uncomfortable, disrespected or otherwise ill-served by their new employers or co-workers. This is especially true for freelancers who fill specialized tech roles – they know full well that other opportunities are readily available.

Businesses sometimes bring on contractors with the intent of making them permanent staff members in the future. In such cases, good onboarding plays a particularly pivotal role, as the Society for Human Resource Management found that 69% of employees who thought highly of their onboarding experience will stay with their companies for at least three years. But if you're going to put time and resources into effective onboarding for salaried workers, it makes sense to put contingent staff through the same process. Through doing so, you demonstrate meaningful commitment to their professional development and increase your chances of retaining them for additional contractual periods.

Valuation of contract talent
While staffing agencies obviously still handle the needs of companies seeking temporary help for clerical duties or other entry-level work, it's become clear that so-called "temps" no longer make up the lion's share of contingent employees.

The average independent contractor today has almost a decade of experience with a $78,000 mean salary, according to HR Dive – as good or better than numerous permanent workers. It's critical that everyone who'll be working with contractors you bring on knows the full extent of your freelancers' talent and doesn't condescend to them, even accidentally. 

The question of treatment 
In enterprises of a certain size, it won't always be realistic for contractors to be introduced to every segment of the business. On the other hand, you want these freelance employees to feel welcome in the organization – to know their efforts will be valued. If they're just given lists of tasks to complete and rudimentary intros to co-workers and immediate supervisors, how are they going to feel like anything more than cogs in a massive machine? 

According to Randstad, everyone who will be working with contract employees should do whatever they can to make freelancers feel at home in your organization, and make it clear that they're just as entitled to the protections salaried workers enjoy. Also, if at all possible, senior managers and other veterans in the department should take time to speak with contractors assigned to key projects and offer any assistance they're able to provide.

Appreciating contractors' efforts
At this point, the connection between employee engagement and employer appreciation is well established. It stands to reason that this will apply just as much to contractors as it does to full-time members of your organization.

Failing to make contractors feel valued for their labors is a huge pitfall you must avoid. You can offer the same sort of incentives full-timers are eligible for, but don't forget about gestures specific to their status: Consider drawing up letters of appreciation that contractors can submit when applying to future assignments, or offering direct recommendations to partner businesses that might need your freelancers' help after your firm's agreement with them is concluded.