Contingent workers, consultants, and independent contractors will make up as much as 35% of the total U.S. workforce within a decade. You’ve got new challenges in attracting, and retaining this diverse type of workforce to your organization. Freelancers and free agents are different from the traditional full-time workforce in many ways, which I get into more in a longer version of this post, in the Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership.
For now, let me just take one challenge organizations will have in increasing their internal hiring of independent contractors, consultants, and free agents: branding.
Recent studies show evidence that freelance talent is generally 40% to 50% more connected in their industry than their full-time peers. In other words, many of them are considered opinion and thought leaders with the potential to influence and affect positive or negative employer brand perceptions of your company.
Traditional employer brands emphasize the long-term view of working for the organization, as well as tangible and intangible assets of being part of a given corporate community. Organizations will need to increase efforts toward creating an employer brand that communicates effective messages to the contractor community. The marketing messages themselves are highly effective for the traditional workforce, but classic segmentation should be part of the process in order to ensure that different messages are communicated to the freelance community. Those messages should concentrate on the enhancements, new training, and new knowledge that the freelancer will receive if they choose to join your organization.
Companies can take advantage of their ability to use social media infrastructure such as Facebook, Twitter and many of the other platforms. Developing an employer brand and marketing message that are targeted toward the freelance community by effectively using social networks and social media can allow companies to develop a sustainable online image that can be attractive and sustainable.
Other methods of attracting the freelance community to your organization should incorporate the sponsorship of events where freelance professionals gather, meet, and exchange ideas. Freelance professionals value their own skills and their knowledge in their fields; therefore if the freelance professional feels that your organization is open and generally welcoming to their expertise they will promote your brand as the “client of choice” because they will feel that you value their profession, industry, and community.
Developing relationships with professional sources of freelance talent will also be essential. This can include generalist staffing and temporary services agencies, recruitment process outsourcing firms, and any entity that chooses to mediate between freelance talent and companies that wish to employ them.
Changes in the interviewing process must also take place. Recruiters must remember that professional freelance talent, in general, is highly engaged and will measure the potential of your company through the interview process. Attention must be paid to candidate experience measurement and metrics, and recruiters engaged in the hiring of freelance talent should ensure the continuance of a positive perception by freelancers of your organization.