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The New Workforce: Contract Workers

The contracted workforce is growing. It’s the gig economy, and 1 in 5 American jobs is held by a contract worker. In the next decade, freelance work could become the new normal.

Traditionally, contract workers have been thought of as less important than full-time workers, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Contract workers allow you to be flexible with the size of your workforce and what people are focused on, as well as bringing on new expertise as needed. It’s time to reconsider the contracted workforce.

The Benefits of Contracted Workers

Whether freelance, temp, or on-call, contract workers can be a strong force in your team. The most obvious benefit of contract workers is that their pay is not subject to tax withholdings. You can save on salaries and benefits, but this shouldn’t be your priority in hiring contract workers.

Take Google as a cautionary tale—Google’s contract workers are currently demanding better pay, benefits, and treatment. As they make up more than half of the company’s total staff, this disparity in treatment has a huge effect on the company’s culture and productivity. Your workers are your greatest investment, and that includes contracted workers.

Contracted workers can be a great boon to your company, especially if you consider taking on contractors with specialties your team is lacking. They’re no longer seen as low-skill or low-investment, but consultants for specific projects and experts in their own right. Hiring temporary workers to fill specific needs keeps your workforce agile and flexible. When the focus of your work changes, or you have a new need, you can fill that position for as long as needed.

Contract workers also typically require less onboarding than full-time employees. As they are focused on a single project or job, they only need the information and training relevant for that work.

How to Attract and Retain Skilled Contractors

With the contracted workforce growing, you want to recruit top contractors as well as full-time employees. Contract workers have different priorities when looking for employment.

For example, contractors rate working for a company with the right culture higher than full time workers. Be sure to promote your company culture to attract the right contractors. In general, they will be looking for open communication, work-life-balance, and strong leadership. Advertising your culture also helps attract candidates who will fit in well.

Contractors are also looking to expand their portfolio and work experience, so they are looking for learning opportunities. They want career and skill growth like anyone, so be open to contractors who know how to perform the majority of the job and can learn the rest. This will give you a larger pool to draw from, than if you only consider candidates who have 100% of the skillset.

Contractors are also looking for competitive compensation, more so than full-time workers. Make sure that you know the market rate for the work, and ensure that you are properly investing in quality work.

Most importantly, you’ll want to fully engage your contract workers. Don’t create a divide in your workplace, and instead include contractors in company events and other aspects of your workplace culture. If they are treated as part of the team, they’ll be more invested in the work. You also want to create a lasting impression with them, so that when they move on they will have good things to say about your company.

Contractors can be a powerful asset to your workforce by providing specialized skills and flexibility. It’s time to consider how you can better attract and retain contract workers.

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