Managing an increasingly freelance workforce

Freelance workers pose HR and quality control challenges to companies.

Freelance workers pose HR and quality control challenges to companies.

The modern workplace doesn't just rely on full-time workers to meet its goals: last year, a survey commissioned by Freelancer's Union found that more than 50 million Americans work on a freelance basis, including 21.1 million independent contractors, 14.3 million "moonlighters" and 5.5 million temporary workers. According to that survey, 32 percent of freelancers have seen demand increase in recent years.

This fits with other commentators who have noted a trend in the workplace towards a less concrete concept of work time, in which work is more about completing tasks over a period of time and doesn't conform to set hours. Employers aren't just replacing full-time workers, though: they have to manage multiple classes of employees at the same time, along with different types of part-timers, from temp workers to regular freelancers.

Freelance workers are a popular type of employee in today's workforce.Freelance workers are a popular type of employee in today's workforce.

In an article for the Society of Human Resource Management, Steve Bates notes the multiple ways that this influx of freelancers requires a change in attitude from HR professionals, as well as a larger shift within the economy and government. One of these key issues, he writes, is ensuring that employees at freelance level are still verified for quality performance.

Employers aren't just replacing full-time workers with temporary ones: they have to manage both classes at the same time, along with different classes of part-timers.

"HR professionals rarely scrutinize freelancers' resumes or perform background checks on them for routine assignments," Bates writes. As a corrective, Bates adds that "HR can take steps to create a devoted and reliable network of freelancers. For example, HR can give on-demand workers repeat business or integrate the most valuable ones into the company culture."

Even if your business only employs selective amounts of freelance workers, they need to be managed and accounted for with updated HR processes. As such, HR process reengineering may be necessary to meet changing trends within your company's employment demographics.