Fractional: [adjective] Relating to only a part of something; Extremely small or insignificant
The fractional workforce is a phrase new to many. But not for long I suspect. A term used to loosely describe those who provide work to one or more businesses, it includes many of the 5 million people in the UK who are classified as ‘self-employed’ – the contractors, the freelancers, the ‘gig’ workers, the temporary staff you have on your books – not to mention those who might be on your payroll on a part time basis. The common denominator of all of these being that they are just not solely dedicated to your business.
But far from these being just the ‘giggers’ who have grabbed the headlines in recent months – those who deliver your food, clean your house or ferry you home at the end of an evening – 60% of these fractional workers are found to be in highly skilled or managerial professions (ONS), and most of whom have turned to fractional work out of choice.
Over half our SME client base are increasing their use these types of workers to supplement their own teams on a regular basis – as accountants, marketeers, designers, data analysts, developers…even HR folks – but a handful have gone one step further by having them as core members of their senior or leadership teams. And anecdotally I know of plenty more highly innovative businesses who use diverse and fractional teams gathered from their wider networks to deliver high profile projects, because they just don’t have the skills they need in their existing employee pool.
But given that many of these highly skilled people turn to fractional work because it supports the things which motivate them most: freedom (in location, work patterns, scope) and ownership of what they do, how do you as a business owner make sure that these broader team members are as ‘engaged’ and ‘onboard’ as your permanent staff members, whilst balancing the risk (and fear associated) that you may lose control over some of the work? From extensive experience on both sides of the fence, here are our pointers on some things you can practically do to rapidly assemble a crack team and get the most out of your working relationships with this group:
- Get the basics right, but recognise that a contract simply cannot cover ‘every eventuality’: It goes without saying that a properly worded contract is a no-brainer to manage your legal risks, however our experience is that a properly worded contract is not one which attempts to try and control every single thought and word a person emits during their time working with you (having had many run-ins from those not willing to sign away their entire thought catalogue in a crudely worded IP clause, this is a route which does not bear well with many!). One which seeks to do this beyond what is necessary for the delivery of the work will no doubt hold up the process for any onboarding as wordsmithing goes back and forth, giving your competitors a chance to steal a march on you!
- People are people, regardless of ‘working status’ & so speak to them as such: ‘The Contractor’ is not an appropriately named designation for most to respond to and is something which should be reserved only for an introduction by Hollywood-voiceover-man to something infinitely more fictional….
- Treat your wider teams as a community: communities support each other and work for the greater good; they embrace differences, thrive when there is co-operation and provide a vast array of talent for you to pull from which you might otherwise not get access to. Communities do not take the pi** with each other, as they know that they may be the one asking for a favour the following week….
- Communicate in a way which is fluid & which builds trust: ask yourself whether you really need different email lists for ‘employees’ and ‘contractors’? Many businesses also exclude non-permanent staff from their communications platforms, however this serves to alienate at best and cause productivity issues at worst. Remember (see point 1) they’ve already signed the same sort of confidentiality clauses as anyone else in the business…
- Don’t ignore wider development needs: from onboarding and beyond, make sure you are inclusive and relevant in providing development opportunities. This doesn’t mean sponsoring someone on the MBA if they are only with you for 2 weeks, but may include including them in your onboarding programme, lunch and learns etc
- Reward is still important (but outside of traditional methods look to recognition and referral as currency to use): You may think that paying the monthly invoice is reward for these team members done and dusted, however (even if you haven’t read oodles of posts about this one – really??) ‘reward’ to most people is more than just a wedge of cash…. Angela Mortimer, a successful recruitment firm specialising in PA and support staff hold an annual event to celebrate and recognise their temporary staff who don’t get to always get to join in on the social side from the organisations they provide service to or be included in their reward practices. A nice touch I think, which in addition plays to point 3 (above).
This post doesn’t (purposefully) address some of the legal ramifications for employing different types of workers that make up this section of the workforce – that’s definitely for another day and is dependant on ever evolving legal challenges being made – however fractional work is on the increase & those who can strategically think of their workforce as beyond those on their payroll, will already be one step ahead.
For more details on integrating your workforce or any other HR challenges you might have, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0203 627 7048.
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