Culture defines the practices and values that members share within a specific group. “Company culture” describes the shared practices and values of employees within a company. This concept has become particularly relevant to many industries today, as it is a factor which can make or break professional success. Studies have shown that companies who embrace aligned business goals outperform their competitors in productivity by as much as 200 percent.
Company culture is an important part of developing a workplace that encourages the efficient progress of teams in furthering business visions and values. However, while maintaining such a culture within a shared office space can be complex yet manageable, staying organized with freelance employees scattered across the country — and even the globe — is a completely different story.
According to an infographic called “The New Independent Workforce,” delivered by technology firm Mavenlink, the freelance workforce has grown by 4.3 million workers since 1995, and by 2020, almost 65 million people will be working on a freelance basis. This means that if you find yourself relying on freelance staff, it is important to realize that some of your most valuable employees may never visit your office. With that in mind, you’ll need to create a cohesive company culture that encourages even your freelance workforce to engage with your core business values.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
1. Management and organization rests with you
There are various challenges associated with management — and it’s important to remember that maintaining company culture on an extensive scale is a task that begins with you. You will need discover your desired culture and model it through your behavior, actions, and style of communication. At a basic level, this means that you will need a deep understanding of the vision and values of your organization at all times — so that you can use those concepts as a backbone for all of your future interactions with freelance workers. From hiring process, where you’ll need to consider how each potential freelancer may fit in your organization, to your later correspondence and feedback — you must be a shining example of what your company stands for. After all — if you’re unsure about your goals, then chances are that your freelancers will be too.
2. Recognize the value of your team
Many companies consider their freelance teams as a faucet for labor that can turn on and off whenever necessary. Though you may only rely on certain specialties at particular times — few needs in businesses will be isolated, and the chances are you’re going to need more help in the future.
Hiring freelancers allows businesses to scale with agility and offer opportunities to bring in skilled individuals without having to worry about the extra concerns of benefits and full-timer expenses. However, more than this, contract workers and freelancers offer a fresh perspective that can help you improve the product or service that you’re offering. Separated from the politics of the office — freelance workers can focus on their task without a great deal fanfare or stress — meaning that every minute can be doubly productive.
Once you’ve recognized just how valuable each member of your team can be — make sure that they know you appreciate them by offering positive feedback for the hard work and effort that they provide. Even if you only have a limited amount of work for your freelancer, you want them to consider working for your brand as a positive experience so that they’re eager to return when you need them again in the future. Remember that good jobs — whether done by in-house employees or freelancers — should never go unnoticed.
3. Integrate freelancers into your team
Most freelancers today get work due to their experience in a particular area or industry. When integrating your freelance employees into your team, make sure that you focus on their strengths and use the specialist information they have to your advantage. Rather than micromanaging — recruit workers similarly to how you would hire in-house employees — ensuring they have the skills and values your business needs, then delegate tasks according to their talents.
Once integrated, remember to ensure that your freelancers settle into their role. You can do this by distributing bio sheets to contract workers that allow them to take a virtual walk throughout the office, or by pairing them with a seasoned employee who can show them the ropes.
Remember that a concept that began as a helpful solution to temporary issues within the workplace has now become a permanent fixture within most successful modern businesses. A well-blended workforce requires complete engagement between your in-house and freelance staff.
4. Keep on communicating
Just because your freelance workers aren’t located within your physical office doesn’t mean that they won’t benefit from frequent correspondence with you. If the occasional phone call is impossible, look into holding regular team meetings on virtual platforms that will allow you to discuss the progress of current and future projects with each member of staff.
Many businesses make the mistake of managing their contractors on an individual basis. Although this method can be useful to some degree, it’s also important to ensure that your freelancers have an opportunity to network, interact, and connect with the larger team on a whole. The last thing you want is for your contractors to feel as though there is a wall between them and the business.
Bringing your freelancers into your company culture means inviting them to contribute in regular group meetings, and programs such as Skype and Google Hangouts can be particularly useful to this end. By ensuring that everyone remains as connected as possible, you can ensure that each member of your team stays in the loop when an update or a change takes place. Just because your freelancers aren’t in the physical office doesn’t mean they should be the last people to get the memo.
5. Embrace a mutually beneficial relationship
Perhaps the biggest issue that most freelancers deal with on a regular basis is the constant search for new and ongoing work. If you offer some stability by providing your freelancers with a steady stream of projects, their appreciation is likely to be huge. Pay fast, and ensure that you give your freelance workers tasks to complete, and you can bet that you’ll end up with grateful and dedicated workers.
Freelancers may come and go over time, but it’s important to remember that company culture will stay — and just because certain workers may have a different role or position in your business doesn’t mean they should receive disparate treatment. If you want to balance your company culture, then you need to bring your values to life and ensure that your freelancers feel like part of the family.
Which methods do you find to be the most effective in managing company culture with freelance employees? Do you have any solutions that we haven’t mentioned? Let us know in the comments!
Michael Keating is a marketing executive at Main Path Marketing with over 10 years experience with SEO, lead generation, website development, and digital strategy development. Visit http://mainpath.com/team/michael-keating/ for information.