How to Seamlessly Incorporate Freelancers Into Your Business
As a company leader, it is your job to think long term. After all, you’re responsible for evaluating the impacts of every business decision -- from marketing to business development to hiring. Yet when it comes to thinking through your hiring needs for your finance team, sometimes the best way to meet your long-term goal is to rent, not buy, the talent to get you there.
In other words, when you’re considering supplementing your finance team, you might be better off recruiting contingent employees, or freelancers. Sure, it’s tempting to look to hire an eager prospect who’s in it for the long haul, but it’s important to understand what gap you’re really looking to fill -- whether that’s day-to-day management, tactical work, surge capacity or specialty skill sets.
Of course, there are certainly times when an ongoing relationship is ideal. You can’t beat adding someone to your team who will ultimately drive strategic business growth, which is why full-time employment will never truly go out of style. But it doesn’t necessarily make financial sense to commit to a full-time hire when, for instance, you’re just looking for extra help during peak season or for highly specialized (and expensive) skills. In situations like this, the gig economy is the fail-safe your business needs.
This isn’t the fast food version of expanding your team; increased convenience doesn’t automatically undermine the quality of the work. In fact, when you harness the freelance market the correct way, it could actually give you the extra push your finance team needs to innovate and reach an even higher quality of business.
The new normal
Organizations of all sizes should consider utilizing the gig economy -- if for no other reason than the fact that it’s becoming the new normal. Even older generations are capitalizing on these short-term opportunities.
Baby Boomers, for instance, are staying in the workforce longer than ever. According to research from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 26 percent of professionals nearing retirement age plan to remain in the workforce until they’re 70 and an additional 6 percent claim they’ll work for the rest of their lives. Rather than work full-time jobs, though, more Boomers are choosing to work on interesting projects and passion points, and because they are typically more motivated by a flexible work schedule than a standard 9-to-5 routine, the gig economy is a perfect fit.
Furthermore, despite what outdated stereotypes might suggest, “temp” workers are not limited to completing menial, rudimentary tasks. While individual cases will vary, some of the best talent now operates within the gig economy. A contingent employee has the potential to boost productivity and fill glaring knowledge gaps within your current team. And that’s great news for companies that need highly specialized talent for fewer than 2,000 hours per year.
The many benefits of the gig economy
Hiring a specialty worker as a freelancer not only gives you immediate access to high levels of specialized expertise, but it also saves you from paying out large sums of money in salaries, benefits and other employee perks. It would be a costly mistake to hire someone on a full-time basis to complete supplementary work on a short-term project. When the job’s complete, that worker will become a mere expense.
Recruiting and hiring contingent employees also saves companies time, particularly when compared to a full-time hiring process. When you’re on the front lines trying to make a million crucial decisions at once, you can’t afford to spend several hours sourcing talent and conducting interviews. This will come as no surprise to any experienced finance leader, but filling openings efficiently saves you money in recruiting fees and allows you to spend more time cultivating your full-time talent.
Talent marketplaces, such as Paro or Catalant, streamline the process further, as they enable company leaders to source talented individuals quickly and within rates that workers set themselves (as opposed to a staffing company that’s incentivized to aim for larger margins).
Keep in mind, too, that talent marketplaces help skilled finance professionals build and nurture a successful freelance career -- meaning you’re less likely to find temps looking for a quick buck and more likely to hire qualified applicants who are committed to delivering high-quality work on a short-term basis.
Maybe your team has been stuck on a project for months and you need a unique perspective to “break the mold.” Perhaps there are still a few bugs in your latest workflow your team has yet to address and the person best trained to pinpoint those problems is only looking for seasonal employment. Whatever your situation, locating someone with a specific skill isn’t just more convenient; the gig economy offers a more diverse array of employees whose expertise is perfectly suited to your needs.
The privacy problem with contingent workers
The benefits of hiring contingent employees are clear, but there’s one decent-sized issue: privacy. Trusting partners, contractors and even full-time employees to properly handle company data is a concern in any industry, but it’s especially pertinent in the financial industry, where organizations handle some of consumers’ most sensitive information.
For this reason, compliance and vetting are especially important when hiring gig talent. Remember, you’re looking for the best candidate available, not playing a numbers game, so don’t be afraid to get picky.
Luckily, the human resources industry is undergoing a digital transformation to refine the hiring and onboarding process. Toptal, for instance, employs a rigorous screening process, and of the thousands of monthly applicants, less than 3 percent are accepted. Additionally, many once-sluggish vetting processes are getting an on-demand makeover. For instance, online talent marketplaces can pre-verify workers’ skill sets and collect feedback from clients who previously engaged with them via the platform.
For services like background checks and other pre-screening activities, using a dedicated compliance vendor can cut onboarding times from weeks to days -- and sometimes hours. The main goal is to hire a strong short-term employee while keeping your sensitive information confidential. A compliance vendor can ensure all onboarding documents that pertain to confidentiality are signed before a worker is approved to start.
Be prepared and know what you want
Before you start scouting the talent market, however, you’ll want to draft a plan of attack based on your hiring needs. That being said, there are numerous gray areas in the finance world, so setting a definitive rule might prove difficult. You don’t want to pigeonhole prospects, so be flexible and willing to explore all available options.
The first step I recommend when managing the finance function is to break work down into parts. By viewing tasks as the smallest unit of work, you’ll be able to regroup them in ways that don’t limit you to just hiring for roles or job titles. This might include tasks that can be automated, that are clerical or repetitive or that require niche skills or experience. You can take that unique grouping of tasks and match it up to contingent workers who have the right skills, education and experience. Then, your full-time workers can focus solely on the high-level tasks that move the company forward.
Pfizer, for example, created a program called PfizerWorks to carry out a more effective division of labor. It redistributed minor administrative tasks from core employees to contingent workers, who were committed solely to completing such tasks. Since implementation, core employees have said the initiative has saved them months of time each year.
With your various tasks regrouped, you should build a statement of work with specific deliverables and timelines. This is not a generic job posting full of fluffy buzzwords like hard-working, organized and detail-oriented. Rather, it’s a specific framework -- outlining the ultimate goal of the work, along with various milestones and metrics that workers will need to hit along the way. This is the best way to align and onboard gig workers because it ensures that they know exactly what benchmarks their performance will be measured against.
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Making this statement as specific as possible will not only ensure you find the right candidate, but it will also ensure the candidate will bring more value to your team and company. By ditching the generic posting in favor of concrete tasks, the right candidate will be ready to hit the ground running in the agreed-upon time frame.
Whether you need someone to tackle a specific task or you’re swamped during your peak season, tapping into the gig economy can give your team the boost it needs. When it comes to finance, however, acquiring an optimal temporary employee is a bit more complex than simply searching online and scanning résumés. You’ll need to take extra precautions to ensure you’re hiring trustworthy individuals and adjust your division of labor to ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible.
It’s a lot of work, to be sure, but tapping into perfectly suited freelance employees is perhaps one of the most valuable hiring investments you can make.