It is a clear reality that contingent workers (defined as freelancers, contractors and temporary employees--basically all non-permanent employees at an organization) are playing an increasingly larger role in an organization's success. With this in mind, leaders of in-house creative departments need to have a strategy on the impact that this may have on their department. While the creative industry has a long history of utilizing freelancers, the landscape is evolving rapidly. Properly utilizing contingent labor may be a key driver in achieving your company or departmental goals. Below are some tips and best practices to help you succeed in making the most of your contingent workforce.

Define your strategy

It is very important that you have a clearly defined strategy laying out the reasons your department will utilize contingent labor. This varies by company and department. Once your strategy is defined you can properly work to align resources and vendors to fulfill your contingent labor needs. Here are several reasons why a creative department would use contingent labor:

  • To increase capacity on a project basis or seasonal basis to deal with overflow work/peak demand
  • To bring in specialized skills to complement full-time staff on projects outside of your "bread and butter" work
  • To provide coverage during "life events" such as vacations, maternity leave, illnesses and employee resignations
  • As part of an overall workforce strategy in which a budgeted percentage of your labor force will always remain contingent (sometimes referred to as "permalance") so that your team size and skill sets are more flexible as your business changes

Develop relationships

Once your strategy is defined the next step is to develop relationships with vendors or freelancers that you can rely upon to provide you with the resources needed. Simply put, hiring creative talent is very different from any other hiring that goes on in an organization. We all know there is much more to hiring great creative freelance talent than reviewing a resume. Does the talent have a portfolio with pieces that match your concept or brand? Does the talent have proficiency in the software or language needed to execute your concept? Even though this is not a full-time hire making sure the talent is a culture fit is critical. A talented creative freelancer needs to work in an environment where they will thrive and feel connected to the mission. It is critical that you develop a partnership with your staffing resources to ensure they are fully engaged with your strategy. Unfortunately many large organizations try and block this relationship with tools such as Vendor Management Systems (VMS) or Managed Service Providers (MSP). While these tools can be effective for hiring in other areas of the organization, not allowing creative hiring managers and staffing resources to develop a partnership through direct communication can put a real limit on the staffing firm's ability to provide the top-notch creative talent you demand.

Create an onboarding plan

Develop a very clear and effective onboarding plan for your contingent workforce. Many companies focus on elaborate onboarding plans for permanent hires but do not have a strategy for onboarding contingent workers. As contingent workers play a greater role in your workforce, it is critical that you have a plan to properly onboard them so they are productive as quickly as possible. Your creative staffing vendor should be able to help you develop your onboarding plan.

Require accountability

Have key metrics in place to hold your creative staffing vendor accountable to meeting your department's goals. What are your key drivers and how will the contingent workers help you meet these drivers? Work with your vendor to develop Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and review them quarterly.

As we continue to navigate through this economic recovery the increased practice of hiring highly-skilled contingent labor may be the "new normal." In any creative department your human capital is by far your greatest asset. With the increasing trends that your workforce will be comprised of more contingent workers, developing a strategy and partnering with vendors to help you implement your strategy could indeed be the most important thing you do this year.

In next week's blog Cella Consultant Ceil Wloczewski will share the benefits of a staffing model that includes just-in-time labor based on her experience as a former in-house creative leader.

If you'd like to learn more about how The BOSS Group can partner with you to support your creative, interactive and marketing communications staffing needs, contact Conor at [email protected].

As president of The BOSS Group, Conor Smith is responsible for providing overall strategic direction, overseeing and developing business development and talent acquisition plans, performance management metrics, and developing and maintaining client relations.

The BOSS Group was recently named to Inavero's 2011 Best of Staffing(tm) Client list. Best of Staffing, presented in partnership with CareerBuilder, is the nation's only satisfaction award that recognizes exceptional client service within the staffing industry. Fewer than 1% of North American staffing firms have been named to the 2011 Best of Staffing Client List.