By Yasmeen Qahwash
Feb. 9, 2020
Employee engagement can be a big enough challenge on its own, let alone when an organization is trying to increase engagement and retention rates among workers they have never even met in person.
The emergence of the freelance nation challenges organizations to refine their leadership style. Leaders in the workplace must be prepared to collaborate instead of control.
“You don’t really need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to managing your freelance employees,” said Dania Shaheen, vice president of people at Kazoo, a human resources platform.
According to Shaheen, the basic best practices that organizations use with their full-time, in-house employees are fundamentally the same approaches that organizations should take with their freelancers when it comes to increasing engagement.
This includes regular check-ins, meetings and video calls whenever possible to get that important face-to-face time. This gives both the organization and the freelancer an opportunity to share expectations, questions and feedback, and helps to build a stronger relationship.
“As an organization, you have to make sure that employees are engaged and that they feel valued, whether that’s freelancers or remote employees,” Shaheen said.
Time and again, communication proves to be the biggest struggle when it comes to employee engagement among remote, global and freelance workforces. Carlos Castelán, managing director of The Navio Group, a business management consulting firm, said that one of the hardest parts of staying motivated as a freelancer is fully grasping how their contributions fit into the overall mission of the company. This obstacle, on top of minimal communication from managers, can result in feelings of isolation.
“In many ways, poor communication signals to someone that they’re not valued enough to be included,” Castelán said in an email statement. “Poor communication can lead to role ambiguity as well as heightened stress or anxiety because of a lack of feedback, which ultimately leads to [a fear of missing out], stress, burnout, talent drain or other symptoms of low employee engagement.”
Jamie Ceglarz, founder and managing director of recruiting firm Guild Talent, stressed the importance of starting with hiring the right people. Addressing their expectations, drive and needs through the onboarding process allows for a great foundation in building that relationship with a freelancer right from the start. Organizations need to ensure that they care about what helps their employees succeed while also being clear and transparent about the company’s expectations and goals.
“With remote employees in particular, it’s important to set people up for success and allow them to work in an environment that best suits them in an effort to get the most out of them,” Ceglarz said in an email statement.
Because freelance workers don’t physically show up to work every day and take part in the team culture within the workplace, it can be easy for some to forget that they even exist. Liz Brown, founder of Sleeping Lucid, an online resource for sleep problem awareness, finds that treating freelancers with respect and genuinely caring about their contributions and well-being within the company is a best practice when it comes to keeping them motivated and maintaining a healthy relationship.
“Businesses should treat freelancers with kindness and not see them as disposable objects that one can simply throw away,” Brown said via email. “Complimenting their achievements and treating them with respect improves their work environment, which in turn keeps them motivated.”
The freelance workforce is not one to neglect. Joe Flanagan, fitness app developer at GetSongbpm, an open source database of beats per minute, said that freelancers provide companies with an array of benefits. Organizations should want them to feel satisfied and engaged to help motivate them to continue producing their best work.
If they are treated as though they are full-time employees, both parties will reap the rewards. In an email statement, Flanagan said, “The benefits of being able to look for someone with the right skill set and who fits work culture on an international level are invaluable.”
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