Welcome to Part 2 of my blog about today’s blended workforce – an increasingly common, fluid mix of full-time employees (FTEs) and independent talent (also known as freelancers, contractors, gig workers, or vendors) who come together typically as project-based work teams. In Part 1, I talked about the current popularity of independent work – in the US, 36% of the workforce is freelance today, and estimated to rise to more than half by 2027 – and recruiting implications. In this blog I’ll share my thoughts on the similarities and differences of managing the blended workforce, and why they matter.
Management 101: Best practices to apply
I’ll introduce the topic of managing independent talent by sharing my experience in managing another talented group: Joveo’s college interns. Each year we host 20 to 25 interns, each of whom works with Joveo for two to six months. This program provides a critical pipeline of young talent, many of whom we identify and ask to join Joveo as FTEs.
When our interns first join us, they are assigned to teams based on their areas of study, interests, and skills. The majority work remotely and never come into any of Joveo’s offices; instead, these team members do their tasks using the same tools as our FTEs, such as Google Meet, Slack, Jira, and email.
Joveo’s intern program has been extremely successful for both the interns and our company. One reason is because we make the objectives of the engagement very clear, and align those with what the interns are looking to achieve. If you bring in an intern and just direct them to undertake tasks rather than projects, it won’t work out. Joveo managers communicate very clear expectations and objectives about what they want interns to achieve and in what timeframe, listing the milestones and deliverables up front. Additionally, managers help interns to understand how their work will fit into the bigger picture of what our company is trying to achieve.
Once the interns are deployed to work on their assignments, they are closely project-managed and course-corrected as required. All of these steps, in concert, help ensure that our intern program is effective, delivering optimal benefits for both Joveo and our interns.
This approach can be largely applied to managing the independent talent that augments in-house teams. While there’s less emphasis on what the freelancer wants to achieve from the engagement, setting clear objectives, goals, milestones, and check-in points goes a long way toward project success.
It’s all about trust
Certainly, in today’s post-pandemic work environment, I believe that any extreme in managing distributed teams – either setting people loose without direction or micromanaging them – is ultimately counterproductive. Micromanagement is particularly toxic, as it breeds enmity and distrust.
For example, I’ve read about how some companies calculate “worker productivity scores” by tracking literally every keystroke of every worker, while periodically snapping pictures of users’ faces to make sure they are working. (As opposed to using a mouse jiggler or other tips and tricks to feign productivity.) In the end, this creates unnecessary pressure and a culture of mistrust.
A word about Gen Z
Digital micromanagement is particularly prone to backfire with Gen Z workers, including interns and those in their mid-20s, whose careers have largely fledged during the pandemic. Consider this snapshot of the Gen Z work zeitgeist:
Gen Z has already endured the largest seismic shifts to the career landscape than any previous generation, having started their careers in the middle of a pandemic that changed office culture forever and a gig economy that makes piecing together work more viable. They’re taking both those realities and therefore demanding more autonomy and flexibility than any other generation.
With the ability to work from anywhere and for more than just one place, Gen Z-ers are forging their own paths that don’t rely on old patterns set by previous generations and are redefining what “career success” looks like. Gen Z can take note, as more and more leaders are similarly pursuing multiple income streams of their own through the form of a portfolio career. The way in which work looks like and where it happens is evolving.
A very blended workforce
As you can see, today’s blended workforce is a mix of more than just FTEs and independent talent. It’s a multi-generational fusion of Boomers, millennials, Gen X and Gen Z. But it’s not impossible to manage. By consistently applying core management principles, keeping everyone aligned with overarching goals, and treating all team members with respect, organizations can fully reap the benefits this modern workforce can deliver.
In addition to helping companies optimize their programmatic advertising spend for FTE recruiting, Joveo’s MOJO can help employers find the right places to post their opportunities for independent talent.