The word is out: Businesses no longer depend solely on traditional, full-time employees. A boost in the gig economy, contracted services providers, and temp positions allow organizations to hire freelancers and other alternative, project-based workers to complete specific jobs only when needed, saving them money on full-time salaries and benefits. Alternative workers find themselves in and out of different companies, sectors, and industries on a variety of projects. It is an exciting and fresh way to work, always moving around positions and seldomly being bored. And while organizations reap the benefits of fresh creatives, new perspectives, and cutting costs, it can be challenging to keep a consistent company culture and make these temporary workers feel included as part of a bigger cause. Since alternative workers now account for 35% of the US workforce, it’s more important than ever to make sure your temporary hires are treated properly. 

According to a study done by Edelman Intelligence, the majority of the American workforce will be freelancers by 2027. Freelancing provides a flexible lifestyle that enables people to choose what they want to work on, and with who, even though it can be stressful at times. In 2018, 56.7 million Americans freelanced. More and more workers are choosing balance and quality of life over being tied down to one location or company. This means that if you are a leader or decision-maker at an organization, it’s time to consider a process that will keep your relationships with alternative workers in good standing. There are many initiatives that your organization can take to make these employees feel included, valued, and as dedicated as your full-time employees.

Onboarding is the first opportunity to take advantage of when it comes to making your freelancers feel valued. It doesn’t have to be as rigorous as the full onboarding program for traditional workers, but it has to clearly present the company’s goals and values, and make the temporary hire feel like s/he is a part of something bigger. They are professionals, and go from company to company doing great work — that’s why you chose them — but you still need to give them a reason why they should put the care behind their work. Aligning them with your organization will help them understand the impact that they will make, and empower them to do good work. If they see exactly how they can contribute, and that your organization invests their time to make them feel like part of the company, then you’ll see great results and engagement.  

Onboarding is only part of engaging your project-based hires. These workers, especially ones that you contract more than once, should feel like they are an integral part of the department that they’re working with. Some of your freelancers might work in-office, others remotely. If they fall into the former group, make sure they have a good desk space near the team that they work with the most. Even set up some company swag at their station, just so they have a better emotional connection with your organization. Invite them to office events, happy hours, or team nights out. Even though they’re not permanent, they’re still contributing to the company and should be valued and recognized likewise. Hey, eventually you might eventually hire one of them full-time. 

If your alternative workers are remote, make them feel included by sending them a welcome or a “job well done” reward. Of course, they’re getting paid for their work, but a small gift card to Starbucks for a cup of coffee or to Amazon at the start or end of a project is a nice way to recognize their impact and contributions to the company. Not only does it enhance your relationship with the individual, but it also contributes to a favorable company reputation so others will be more inclined to freelance with you in the future.

Treating alternative employees equally to traditional ones will lead to a more collaborative and productive environment for everyone. Your temporary hires should feel like they’re on the same playing field as the traditional ones they’re working with in order to be comfortable enough to interact confidently. Through inclusivity and recognition, you can break down barriers of job status to achieve that positive workspace. 

Freelance is the future. Professionals are choosing to freelance because of the lifestyle it allows, and organizations are feeling the benefits financially and productivity-wise. But if you want to attract the best alternative workers — the top talent — your organization needs to share its company culture with everyone, to make all employees feel included and thus dedicated. Providing project-based workers with the same treatment and interest as your traditional ones will keep your organization in good standing, and get the most out of all personnel.