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The Rise of the Blended Workforce: Tips for High Performance Teams


The global marketplace, with its ever accelerating pace of change and thirst for innovation, demands an agile workforce. Employers need to acquire project specific, specialized skills or increase capacity periodically while still managing costs. The ‘gig economy’ is booming as a growing number of professionals and organizations embrace contract work arrangements. Conservative estimates suggest that 25% of the global workforce will soon be categorized as “contingent workers” employed through a contract or other temporary work arrangement. Some studies have suggested that 40% of the US workforce already is contingent. In Atlantic Canada, we have witnessed an increase demand for contract professionals, particularly those specialized in the IT, Accounting, Finance, Engineering and HR fields.

In theory, a blended workforce that combines full time and contract employees is better able to adapt to changing demands. In reality, workforces are complex because people are complex. Bringing together employees with fundamentally different employment contracts can create new challenges and tensions in team dynamics.

meridia partner, jamie grant

"Hiring contract employees should be faster and easier than hiring full time employees but still requires a thoughtful and strategic approach to ensure you create a high performance team."
- Jamie Grant, Partner - IT Recruitment

Differences in pay structures, expectations, and perceived commitment to an organization can impact employee engagement, productivity and threaten the optimal performance you hoped to achieve through a blended workforce in the first place. Hiring contract employees should be faster and easier than hiring full time employees but still requires a thoughtful and strategic approach to ensure you create a high performance team. Consider these tips:

Be Selective. Don’t Compromise on Corporate Values. Contract work no longer carries the stigma it once did. Today’s contract employees are often highly specialized and skilled experts in their field. According to a study by McKinsey, 70% of the working-age population engaged in independent work do so by choice rather than necessity. Employers don’t need to lower the bar to hire on contract. You can benefit from the skills and experience of a market leader without the cost of making them a full time hire. However, while the arrangement may be temporary, assessing a candidate’s fit with your core corporate values is still essential. Sacrificing on your key selection criteria can hurt team performance. Whether you use an internal or external recruitment professional, ensure they fully understand your corporate culture, as well as your ideal candidate profile. You should expect to hire the same caliber of professional you’d demand for a full time role. Many of the clients we work with treat contract arrangements as a trial run that may result in a full time position; 1 in 5 of the contract professionals we place are eventually hired full time. Hiring well for a contract role creates opportunity for future growth.

Set Clear Expectations. How will you assess and measure individual performance? Who reports to whom? What are the expected deliverables and what is the anticipated timeline? What is your policy on meeting attendance, dress code and office hours? Answering these questions as part of any new hire’s orientation is important but often overlooked when hiring a contract professional. Establishing clear expectations for both full time and contract employees upfront provides a common understanding and a strong foundation for growth.

Support Strong Communication and Knowledge Transfer. Team dynamics can be challenging at the best of times. When team members change frequently over the course of a project or when they are never fully integrated due to their “contract” status, critical details can be lost in transitions. Teams can become divided with contract employees left out of crucial conversations. Leaders must be vigilant to ensure all team members receive the necessary information in a timely fashion to support optimal performance. Establishing team meetings and project feedback protocol can support healthy communication that will allow your team to fine tune processes and practices. Be deliberate about ensuring critical institutional knowledge is transferred from your contract employees and retained by your core team.

Strengthen Your Core. Like a healthy body, a strong core (stable permanent employees) ensures the healthy operation of your organization. Your core team is essential to orienting your contract team, providing continuity and transferring institutional knowledge. They often bear the brunt of poor blended workforce dynamics, so ensure they are fully engaged, appreciated and supported. Recognize that differences in pay structures among team members can lead to some uncomfortable questions, as contract employees tend to make more on an hourly basis than salaried peers. Some employers have found it helpful to ensure salary employees understand the difference in hourly pay structures between full time (with benefits and stability) and contract (without these added perks).

The number of contract professionals available is forecast to increase well in to the future. While optimizing a blended workforce can be challenging, investing time and resources in hiring well, orienting new hires, strengthening team communications and ensuring your core employees are engaged will help your organization realize the true potential of your team.

Previously published by The Chronicle Herald - May 24, 2017

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