Mixing freelancers and permanent staff – a practical guide to freelancer onboarding

The ultimate guide to freelancer onboarding

When you have a shift to fill in today’s world of work, it is not uncommon to reach out for help from talent outside your organisation. The freelancer that will help you out may well be an expert at what they do, but they will probably start off knowing very little about your company and are only likely to be there for a short time. So, what is the best way to help them integrate with your permanent team? How can you harness this mixture of external and internal experience and unite everyone around a common cause? Discover Brigad’s practical guide to stress-free, successful onboarding and integration.

Who are freelance workers?

In an emergency, calling on freelancers is very often the ideal short-term backup solution for your team. Freelancers are reactive, independent, and qualified professionals who are experts in their field. They are used to adapting to new surroundings and picking up the tools of a trade very quickly, making them a perfect choice when you need an extra pair of hands that can be immediately operational. This is a valuable way of saving time when time is the one luxury we do not have. That being said, it is important to note that while a worker may be operational, we should not neglect the important step of onboarding, especially when mixing freelance and permanent staff.

Why is freelancer onboarding so critical?

Yes, a freelance receptionist or nursing assistant may know all the ins and outs of their job, but let us not forget that they are an external service provider, who does not necessarily know your company and its values. Once learnt, many industry skills are easily transferable from one business to another, however each organisation has its own ways of working and team dynamics to take into consideration. It would be unreasonable to expect a freelancer to successfully carry out their mission without knowledge of your objectives, chain of command, and how to respond to company-specific challenges. This is why it is essential to prioritise onboarding and team integration, even (and especially) for temporary backup staff.

Team coordination is paramount

Successfully onboarding independent hospitality and medical workers first and foremost revolves around staff coordination. A well-performing team is a team that works in harmony – each individual team member should know what to do, how to do it, and why they are doing it, while having a solid understanding of how their role fits in to the bigger picture of the company’s goals and objectives. Well-oiled teams rely on clearly defined objectives and values, roles and responsibilities, in order to own all parts of a project and coordinate to bring it to fruition in the most effective way.

Staff and freelance cohesion is key

A coordinated and united team is a successful one. Temporary freelance workers may not be part of the furniture in a healthcare or hospitality workplace, but that does not have to mean that they are complete strangers. On the contrary, anyone you can call upon to help backup your teams in difficult periods is an integral part of a project and of the wider team. To optimise freelancer onboarding, it’s important to consider that both internal and external talents can come together to form a common front and work in perfect harmony.

Effective collaboration between freelancers and permanent staff

Coordination and cohesion encourage everyone involved to be personally invested in a project, and they are essential in making sure nothing can disturb the balanced team dynamics that take so long to establish. This is in the interests of both individual workers and your business goals. Another key point to work on is your company’s working environment, which should be conducive to collaboration and allow staff plenty of job satisfaction. After all, staff that are happy to be there are all the more effective and better at looking after your clients!

What does effective onboarding look like?

To recap, successful team integration should allow both external workers and salaried staff to quickly (if not immediately) coordinate tasks and work together in a trusting and stress-free environment. Although taking the time to ensure everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet can seem futile when a freelancer is only likely to stick around for a few days, the importance of team integration cannot be overstated if you want your shifts to run smoothly.

When does onboarding a freelancer start?

Successful team integration takes planning. Onboarding is a methodology with overarching processes for joining a project, team, or business and becoming familiar with its unique way of working, values, and culture. There are three stages to onboarding: prior preparation, implementation, and monitoring over time – and this applies to both new permanent team members and freelancers.

Coordinating freelance workers and permanent teams

There are two aspects to keep in mind when onboarding freelance workers into permanent teams: the practical aspect and the psychological aspect. The practical aspect applies to the skills, tools, and knowledge that a worker requires to begin working efficiently, while the psychological element refers to the working environment in which both salaried and self-employed staff will have to collaborate.

The practical aspect: giving freelancers essential tools

The first good technique is to give new arrivals general pointers and explain how shifts generally unfold in your department. This is practical information that will allow the worker to adapt to their new environment and way of working and to quickly coordinate with the existing team. Start by anticipating the questions that anyone joining a new project may be asking themselves, and providing the answers so they don’t have to ask them! Typically, new starters want to know: “What do I have to do and how?”, “What is my role?”, and “Who am I going to be working with?”. As a general guideline, you can start with answering these five questions:

  • Who? The team, the department, the business, the clientele, the patients…
  • What? The project, my roles and responsibilities, individual and collective goals…
  • When? The beginning and end of my shifts, the rota or schedule…
  • Where? The general workplace, specific workspaces, rest areas…
  • How? The company values and culture that allow us to get the job done…

Answers to these questions can help guide a freelancer in their mission, allowing them to quickly get to grips with how things work in your business and how they can successfully achieve the goal that they have been set.

The psychological aspect: honing a collaborative environment

Businesses across the board have switched on to the idea that optimising effective teamwork is about creating a pleasant environment that is conducive to collaboration, and this is just as essential for team cohesion. In the 1990s, the concept of Team Building began to become very popular, not least because it aimed to develop a feeling of belonging to a cause, team, or business, thereby strengthening links between staff and encouraging individual team members to give the best of themselves. With all the benefits Team Building can have on productivity, it seems obvious that not only salaried staff but also freelance workers stand to benefit from the experience.

Let us look at some essential concepts for optimal freelancer onboarding:

  • The feeling of belonging. Whether it be to a working group, a project, or a company, it is no less important for a freelancer to feel that they belong than it is for a permanent member of staff. Allowing all workers to share in every part of a project, in company values and objectives, and in team spirit stands to benefit your business massively. Temporary backup staff and salaried staff should come together to make one team.
  • An “integral part” of a team. Much like above, creating a strong relationship between temporary and permanent staff has undeniable benefits. Even self-employed workers are an integral part of a team, so they should feel integrated and accepted in the same way as other employees.
  • All workers are equal. A self-employed, external worker should not be considered a rival or an outsider. They are often a significant source of support through a team’s trying times; they bring their expertise and talent and adapt to their host company’s ways of working. Freelancers that are called in as temporary backup staff know how important it is to work with their colleagues at the same level towards a common goal and get the job done.
  • Communication is key. Solid, effective communication is – needless to say – indispensable when it comes to team cohesion, as it means everyone has a clear idea of what they are expected to do. Successful communication also helps solve difficult situations when they arise, helping to avoid conflict and develop a healthy climate of trust and confidence in the workplace.

These concepts are at the heart of a successful and positive onboarding process and set the tone for how your newly enhanced team will run: stress-free, positive energy, and efficient teamwork. Implementing these concepts installs a climate of trust, mutual respect, motivation, and collaboration – freelancers and employees alike have each other’s back, they know they can rely on each other, and that they share a common purpose.

Practically speaking, what are Brigad’s top tips?

Theory is one thing, but sometimes putting it into practice is no easy task. However, with a bit of organisation and prior planning, successfully onboarding freelancers into your hospitality or healthcare teams will be a piece of cake. Brigad’s top tips happen over the four stages of the working process: before, upon arrival, during, and after.

Before: first impressions count!

As early as when you publish a mission to Brigad, freelancers begin to get to know you, the mission at hand, and your working conditions. This is a great opportunity to set the tone for any future collaboration, showing to the Talents that you care about the skills and expertise they can bring and reassuring them that they will be working alongside your employees in a healthy atmosphere. It is also a guaranteed way to ensure you work exclusively with freelancers who share your values and goals. We recommend you take the time to talk to your future Talent by phone or video call and set out the “who, what, and where?” of the mission:

  • Needs and expectations: inform the Talent what tasks they will be expected to carry out, the dress code, any equipment needed, behavioral expectations, etc.
  • Objectives: define the individual and collective goals of the mission.
  • Time: tell the Talent what time they should arrive and what their working hours will be.
  • Where: explain where the nearest underground station is or the best way to get to your establishment.
  • The team: describe the team that the Talent will be working with, the roles and responsibilities of people they can expect to meet.
  • Person of contact: let theTalent  know who they can contact with any questions or concerns.

Additionally, don’t forget to inform your permanent team that a freelancer will soon be joining their ranks and why. Explain their role within the team and reassure them that the Talent should be seen as support, a member of the team, and an essential helping hand. Make sure your Talent feels welcome when they arrive!

Upon arrival: greeting a new Talent

When a Talent arrives at your establishment for their first mission, it is an opportunity for them to get to grips with the business and learn the ropes.

Designate a member of the team to show the Talent  around the following places and introduce them to the following people:

  • Staff: their immediate team and departments across the wider organisation. It is essential for anybody joining a team to identify the chain of command and who to approach with any questions or concerns.
  • Guests, customers, patients: every restaurant has its regulars with their quirks and special requests, and every healthcare establishment takes care of a different type of patient or resident, with different illnesses or dietary requirements, for example.
  • Equipment: what tools you use and where to find stock and essential equipment.
  • Workspace: a quick tour of the building where a Talent will be working will help them find their feet as quickly as possible.
  • Workplace: the business’ organisation, ways of working, culture, and values.
  • A clear and precise objective: giving the freelancer a clear vision of what is required of them.
  • Roles and responsibilities within the department: in order for the Talent to find their place within the team.

During: freelancers are an integral part of a team

This is undoubtedly the most challenging step of helping a freelancer integrate into a team of salaried staff. That said, it is perhaps the most important in determining whether the onboarding process is a success. Make sure you:

  • Involve the freelancer in the day-to-day running of the business: freelancers are an integral part of the project, team, or business they are in. They should not be left out in the cold when it comes to everyday business decisions and can even bring some valuable external expertise to the table. Ask Talents their opinion, and allow them to make their own decisions and take initiatives. Trust them! Encouraging your staff to trust them, too, is the best way to strengthen team bonds and the feeling of belonging.
  • Communicate: the importance of team members communicating among themselves cannot be overstated. It is the key to the whole operation running smoothly – as coordination improves, mistakes happen less frequently, the general working atmosphere becomes more enjoyable, and trust builds between team members. From a management perspective, effective communication is essential for sharing schedule changes, daily briefings, and day-to-day organisation, helping your teams concentrate on the job at hand in the knowledge that you have things under control.

After: garner loyalty among Talents and make your collaboration long-term

At the end of a mission, it is always worth spending a few minutes sitting down with the Talent and discussing how things went – in much the same way as you would with a permanent staff member. Try to find out what worked well and what didn’t, things that you can both work on to improve the quality of any future collaboration. A happy Talent is one that will come back time and time again! Removing the need to search for and train a new freelancer every time you need backup is the main advantage of taking this freelancer onboarding process seriously – you may only need to invest the time, energy, and financial resources required once.

Feedback makes the world go round

With this in mind, Brigad has reimagined the way missions ad Talent are rated. Starred ratings are out – now it’s all about feedback, allowing both parties to further detail what was great about the mission (and what could be improved next time). It is an easy and effective way to pinpoint areas for improvement – both as a Talent and a healthcare or hospitality business.

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