As more and more companies move toward a healthy mix of full-time headcount balanced with contingent workforce labor, permalancers have become a hot topic between staffing companies, their clients and the talent working for staffing companies.
"Permalancer" is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as "a long-term freelance, part-time, or temporary worker who does not have employee benefits."
It usually goes something like this...Company X has a need for a talent's skillset but cannot add a full-time employee to their team. Instead they engage an ongoing temporary/freelance talent who becomes an integral part of the department's key capabilities. This person is NOT full-time headcount, which in addition to the benefits it creates, can also present some challenges.
Instead of exploring the situations that make this trend a reality, as I think that has been well covered by multiple economists and other experts, I will explore the ways I have seen permalancer arrangements work well for all parties involved based on The BOSS Group's key clientele, in-house departments.
- Partner with a staffing firm to fulfill these ongoing freelance needs and be picky about who you choose to ensure your ongoing temporary talent are well taken care of by their employer. Things to be sure the provider will offer to the talent are: W2 status, benefits (including healthcare, prescription coverage and maybe even a retirement program), regular paychecks (weekly or biweekly are best and a nice benefit for a freelancer!), and a positive employment experience. Expect the staffing provider to stay in contact with the talent on an ongoing basis to provide you with valuable feedback and to ensure there is a solid employee-employer connection. Remember: your goal is to keep the permalancer with your team as long as your organization allows--that permalancer's happiness is co-governed by you and the staffing company who employs them.
- Understand how to properly include the permalancer in company events including lunches, training, outings, etc. There are specific regulations to avoid co-employment, and with some quick research you can learn more about those, but many companies take an extreme approach, which can cause the talent to feel like an outsider unnecessarily. The trick is to understand YOUR company's specific regulations and communicate them openly. Partner with your HR or Procurement team to better understand any restrictions your company requires.
- Another topic driven by co-employment concerns is freelance/temporary term limits. Many corporations mandate term limits (usually 12 or 18 months) for the amount of time a freelance talent can work on their behalf before a required separation. You may or may not have influence over these decisions. Regardless, it is important the term limits are clear to the talent and a plan of action for when the 'sabbatical' will be necessary is discussed up front.
- One key benefit for a talent to choose a permalance assignment is that these arrangements provide stability with a balance of flexibility, so be sure you do offer that! A permalancer has the benefit of a consistent work so they are not constantly chasing the next job but this IS a freelance/temporary arrangement. Thus, providing the ongoing temporary talent flexibility in something like hours is a great way to ensure the arrangement is beneficial to the freelancer side of their professional personality.
- Expect that the permalance relationship will end, and be prepared to keep business continuity through this. Sometimes you may gain headcount and hire a permalancer on as a full-time employee, if there is mutual interest. Other times the permalancer will be ready to move on to the next adventure. Sometimes the need that you had for that particular permalancer's skills will shift or end altogether. If you can, provide the talent with at least one week's notice of when their assignment with you will end, and request the same from the talent if they wish to leave.
- Above all else, work to ensure the permalance arrangement is positive for the talent. If it is not and the reasons as to why are out of your control, it may be best for the department, you and the talent for that particular talent to go find different work. If it is a happy, healthy arrangement, take time to ensure it remains as such! And, remember, if you are partnering with a staffing firm for this then you can ask that they, too, truly take an interest in the talent's assignment and overall satisfaction.
When properly managed the mix of ongoing contingent staffing labor, aka the permalancer, and full-time headcount can benefit the company, the department and the individual, whether permalancer or full-time employee.