We’re living at a time in which more and more people, especially millennials, are opting out of traditional employment and into freelance work. Organizations also are shifting their hiring practices to leverage the perks of hiring temporary workers: doing so enables organizations to maintain a lean workforce, meet unexpected demands and save on the costs and commitment often associated with hiring full-time employees.
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But this also means you have to make these temps feel a part of your team—and that can be tricky. In my work, I’ve witnessed numerous instances in which leaders have hired contractors but haven’t considered the unique circumstances involved in successfully integrating them into their team. This unleashes a pile of problems, including tension within teams, miscommunication and missed deadlines, to name just a few.
There’s a lot to consider. It’s not just about hiring the right contractor for the job; it’s about having a team that’s adequately trained and prepared to work with freelancers. It’s also about establishing clear objectives and expectations for the temp’s role on the team.
With some forethought and a bit of effort, you can welcome temporary workers into your fold seamlessly. Avoid the following three common mistakes and you’ll be well on your way to a productive workplace in which freelancers and full-timers work together in harmony.
Mistake 1: Not explaining the vision
Management in organizations often assume that the contractors they hire understand the end-purpose of their role in the the same way the leader does. Friction with a contractor occurs when the team believes the temp doesn’t understand the purpose of the project, which sometimes can be misconstrued as the contractor not caring about the project or the team. That’s why leaders need to integrate the contractor into the team by helping the contractor understand the vision for the project and by aligning the role to the contractor’s skills. Something as simple as a “here’s why you’re doing this work” conversation can do wonders.
Mistake 2: Forgetting there’s a person behind the skill set
Focusing on a contractor’s skills without considering that person’s compatibility with the team can lead to trouble. High-performing teams often are high performing because they understand, consciously or unconsciously, each member’s personality and the best way of accomplishing a task. One person may think out loud, sparking ideas and getting into a flow, while other members may stay quiet, listen, formulate an idea and then speak up. Conflict occurs when leaders don’t consider the contractor’s personality and how that jives with the team. Yes, you’re hiring a temp for her ability to do a specific job, but if she’s not compatible with the people she’ll be working with, it’s unlikely to be a productive arrangement.
Mistake 3: Being vague about expectations
When a contractor is brought in, he may assume he will be provided with adequate support. The team he’ll be working with, on the other hand, may be under the impression that he’s prepared to work independently. Trouble can occur when the contractor feels he’s not equipped with the tools and guidance to do the job correctly. To address this, leaders need to decide—and to communicate to both the temp and the people he’ll work with—how much support the contractor is likely to need for the project.
Ideally, a fully trained in-house coach would be in place to help foster communication and efficiency among contractors, their co-workers and their employers. If you have someone internally who can mediate (and ward off) any conflicts, and if you avoid the preceding mistakes, you’ll be able to reap the benefits of freelance employees without any of the headaches.
Adam Verity is the Director for Corporate Relations at Erickson Coaching International. He helps business executives and leaders implement external and internal coaching practices in their organizations, helping them to unlock the inner creativity, motivation and productivity in their employees. Adam has contributed to building highly productive teams and fast-growing businesses across three different industries in four different countries. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.