3 Expert Tips to Manage a Modern-Day Blended Workforce

Business.com / Managing / Last Modified: November 1, 2017
Photo credit: dotshock/Shutterstock

By 2020, nearly 50 percent of Americans will be working in nontraditional roles alongside traditional, full-time employees. These three tips will help you navigate the management challenges and reap the rewards of the blended workforce of the future.

As recently as 10 years ago, most Americans wanted full-time work, replete with job security, benefits, annual reviews and retirement savings. Now, more workers are shunning W-2 positions in favor of working in the gig economy as part-time employees, on-demand employees, independent contractors and other nontraditional 1099 workers. Conservative projections show that 47 percent of our workforce will generate income via nontraditional work by 2020.

The shift to a blended workforce of traditional W-2 employees and nontraditional contract employees presents a new set of challenges for companies with management processes designed for the needs of full-timers. New strategies are required for companies now tasked with managing multiple categories of workers at once – each with different values and motivations.

These three tips can help companies not only manage, but thrive in this new landscape.

1. Use onboarding as bedrock for success.

All categories of employees deserve proper onboarding, so don't skimp on integrating project-based workers into your workforce. Onboarding helps newcomers gain the knowledge, skills and behaviors to be productive contributors to the business, and research shows a direct correlation between effective onboarding and financial results. Additionally, if the onboarding is done properly and with consistency, it will set a strong foundation of core values within your company, no matter how diversified your workforce gets.

Follow these tips for onboarding nontraditional employees:

  • Ask, don't just tell. Many companies fail to take the time to get to know their nontraditional employees, which sends a signal that you're not invested in them. Create a set of questions and run through them with your nontraditional employees to give you a chance to get to know them better. Ask about their personal goals, what they hope to get out of their new role and their work style. 
  • Help them forge connections early on so they're more inclined to seek out information and feedback from others within the company. This can be as simple as walking around the office with new employees and making ample introductions, or teaming them up with a well-connected "work buddy." Make sure the introductions happen within the first couple of days and among all categories of workers.
  • Make culture a centerpiece of your onboarding process. Nontraditional employees, in particular, can struggle to assimilate into new cultures or may bring their old culture with them. Walk them through your mission, vision and company values so they are tied to the same greater purpose that traditional workers share. Also, consider putting together a small pack of welcome items that reflect your culture to help it resonate.

2. Manage with inclusivity.

There are nuances that make it tricky to manage a total workforce when each category of worker innately has different priorities and requirements. Nontraditional employees often enjoy more flexibility than their traditional counterparts, but they rarely receive the performance reviews or benefits that keep full-timers motivated and goal-oriented.  

Nontraditional employees will do their best work when they are engaged and included, and full-time workers accept nontraditional workers best when they are treated as insiders. That's why it is vital to foster an inclusive culture, from the top down, that supports and celebrates all categories of workers.

Here are some tips for building an inclusive culture:

  • Include nontraditional workers in team meetings, happy hours, volunteering events and other functions. Give them the same opportunity to participate in social and professional development teams and to be recognized for their contributions.
  • Consciously create cross-functional teams that include both traditional and nontraditional workers. This not only strengthens the relationship between the workers, it also results in collaborative diversity and helps spur creativity, as contractors may have new and different ideas.
  • Make goals or KPIs clear to all groups. In fact, go a step further and create a measurement system where they're all assessed on a few of the same components. For example, one companywide KPI could be how all workers exemplify company values in their daily work.

3. Institute a formal offboarding strategy.  

Offboarding has moved from a nice-to-have to a must-have strategy with the shift toward a hybrid employee work environment. Offboarding nontraditional employees is as much about providing a positive experience as it is about gathering information to funnel back into your management strategies. If contract workers enjoy their experience with your company, it is likely they will come back when you need to flex your workforce again. A pipeline of previously trained and satisfied nontraditional workers is an incredible asset. In addition, ex-employees carry a large impact on your employment brand, which also impacts the future of your recruitment.

Here are some tips for positive offboarding:

  • When it comes time for them to exit, survey nontraditional workers about their time with the company, including how they would improve the experience for others in the same position.
  • Chart the trends that emerge in their responses over time, and use that data to stay a step ahead in your staffing and management processes.
  • Compliment them on their performance, if warranted, and invite them to come back for future nontraditional needs.

Intentionally building and managing an inclusive, multi-category culture is a must for companies that intend to thrive and scale in the new workforce landscape. There is no one right set of best practices for every company, but with some experimentation, you can find how to attain the best results for your goals and culture. 

 

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