Ashmita Das, CEO of Kolabtree, the freelance platform for scientists, offers tips on how to integrate a freelancer into your business for the first time.
Small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in the UK currently spend over £60 billion a year on external consultants, according to research by Zeqr. Hiring an external specialist can help companies access vital knowledge and skills without relying on large inhouse teams and, as more businesses shift their work patterns following the COVID-19 pandemic, we can expect the reliance on freelancers to grow even more.
Putting the procedures in place
For businesses in highly regulated industries like healthcare, it can be difficult to shift to a working model that is not already established in the organisation. While the tolerance for risk may be low, choose freelancers based on their qualifications can give you further reassurance. Gig platforms, like Kolabtree, even require freelancers to display a public CV along with previous research.
When integrating your first freelancer, you will need to adjust your payroll processes, HR policy and recruitment strategy to factor in contract workers as well as permanent staff. Once you have altered these processes, you shouldn’t need to set up any further procedures when you hire a second freelancer. If you prepare a contract template and a master services agreement, you can also transfer this information over when you collaborate with another gig platform.
When making these organisational changes, you can protect your intellectual property (IP) by asking the freelancer to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). You can also protect your data by not sharing identifiable information and only allowing restricted user-based access to certain documents.
How to collaborate effectively
One of the biggest challenges when integrating freelance remote consultants is a social one — encouraging teams to collaborate with a fluid workforce. While the pandemic has changed the way that people interact and work, there may still be hesitance among inhouse teams to bring workers in on a temporary basis.
As more companies move towards remote working, the onus is on business owners to change employees’ attitudes towards contract colleagues. For example, the “we need someone in the office” mindset was common before the pandemic. Because most freelancers work from home, this belief was often a barrier to integrating external workers. However, as companies adapt to remote working, integrating freelancers will become like second nature, since many permanent staff are now also based at home.
Responding to the liquid workforce
The future of work was a topic of discussion long before the pandemic. As we move towards a liquid workforce, it is up to organisations to take a proactive role by changing mindsets and attitudes towards remote workers. This could involve detailed briefings on how the freelancer will work with the team and the specific tasks that the specialist will be working on.
In my experience, more businesses are willing to experiment with new methods of managing their workforce than you might think. After all, it is only a temporary hump and once you overcome it, you will have a wealth of industry expertise and talent at your disposal.
With over two million freelancers to choose from, hiring your first contract specialist is a massive undertaking for any business. By putting all the necessary policies and procedures in place and taking a proactive role, you can make the integration easier and more efficient.