The Blended Workforce: How HR Can Capitalize on This Employment Trend

Lauren Small

The post-financial crisis era prompted many workers to look beyond full-time positions to make a living. The rise of the digital economy, meanwhile, provided the perfect opportunity for entrepreneurs and freelancers to work in highly specialized fields with more flexibility.

A recent survey conducted on American workers noted that 60% of employees received 25% or more of their income from freelance work, with 34% of workers having freelance jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that by 2020, 40% of workers will be part of the gig economy.

The shift in perception of employment is coupled with a shift in how employers assemble their workforce.

The increase in free agents means that employers can consider a broader mix of employment options: in other words, a blended-workforce.

What is a Blended Workforce?

A blended workforce is a mix of regular full-time employees and freelancers, consultants, or independent contractors. Some workers are hired on a short term, contract basis to complete a specialized project or job. Examples include freelance writers, designers, and computer programmers.

Accenture estimated that freelance workers make up 20-33% of the workforce in the United States. Regardless of industry, one-third of respondents indicated that they are increasingly relying on contracted staff in addition to full-time employees.

Benefits of a Blended Workforce

A blended workforce can benefit employers by reducing costs, address a project that requires specialized skills, or fulfilling seasonal hiring needs.

As organizations mature, the pressure increases to hire top candidates and cultivate strong talent. Both takes time, and companies contract workers help fill the gap, making it possible to keep business on track and growing.

There are bottom-line benefits to a blended workforce, too. With a blended workforce, companies can reduce overhead and operating costs as things like health insurance, benefit packages, and other employee perks may not apply to freelance workers.

Freelancers and some contract employees are paid project by project, so there's no annual salary. Many freelancers work from home as well, reducing the need for additional office space.

Complexities of a Blended Workforce

For HR however, a blended workforce creates complexities. HR professionals focus on engagement, retention and productivity, and it can be difficult to monitor such activities with contractors. It can also be challenging to determine if business outcomes are being reached efficiently.

Legal compliance must also be taken into consideration. How you classify a freelance employee can become a legal problem. How are they paid? What expenses do you report? Do they run an independent business? Do they have a website or an office? You must classify the worker according to state and federal guidelines and comply with all regulations for that classification.

Management for a blended workforce can also be complex. Despite the plethora of tools available, coordinating and sharing information with remote workers can be challenging, especially if they work across multiple time zones and don't have the same access to company systems as a full-time employee.

Clear communication and technology strategies can eliminate these challenges and help contracted employees accomplish their tasks.

How to Make the Most Of A Blended Workforce

Many millennial employees are more interested in job flexibility than a predictable and regular salary.

So how can you take advantage of a blended workforce and continue to see business growth? Here are three ways:

Use social media for recruiting. Social media is a key channel for reaching top talent. Twitter for example, is a great way to reach top candidates. Participate in chats or use hashtags that relate to your industry or the expertise you seek.

Stay connected with key talent. As with any recruiting effort, staying in touch is important. This holds true for freelancers, contractors, and consultants. Remain engaged with them before, during, and after a project. You can follow up via email on occasion, send a holiday card, or connect on LinkedIn. You may need their expertise again, and they can be strong advocates for your brand.

Clear expectations and communications. Have a clear strategy around managing full-time employees and freelancers. Create clear lines of communication between full-time employees and freelancers. Everyone is working towards a common goal, and everyone wants to be recognized for contributions. Procedures for hiring, monitoring performance, and performance reviews let everyone know where they stand.

Don't forget analytics. Analyzing job performance for freelancers and part-time employees is easy to overlook, but can identify skills gaps and organizational holes. Apply your analytics tools to all employees, whether on salary or not, to measure effectiveness in their roles.

Blended workforces do present challenges, but the different points of view, skills, and flexibility they provide can pay off.

With a clear strategy in place, you can use a blended workforce to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and take advantage of top talent.

Do you have a blended workforce? Let us know your challenges and successes @goodhiretweets #BuildGreatTeams.


Disclaimer: The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.

Lauren Small

Lauren Small


Lauren Small is a content and social media expert who writes about hiring, onboarding, and HR best practices. Lauren comes by her HR insight honestly, having observed the culture at diverse employers Amazon, HubSpot, and GoodHire’s parent company Inflection.

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