Engageing a Mobile, Diverse Workforce

March 13, 2017

There is no question that the state of the workforce is changing. Employers are increasingly faced with challenges as the “how” and “where” of work evolves. The blended workforce, in which full-time permanent employees work alongside contractors on the same teams and projects, offers great opportunities to employers who are able to hire a freelancer for a specific skill or knowledge that may not be required long-term. Contract workers can also save companies the cost of providing health insurance and other benefits but in turn they often have more control over their hours and the location the location they choose to work from. In addition to the rise of the Gig” economy, more full-time employees are working in a more mobile and flexible fashion. Nearly 40% of workers expected to be freelancers in coming years, and a recent survey found that at least 67% of companies offer employees some flexibility in their schedules. A more mobile and diverse workforce is a good thing, for employers and employees, but it does present challenges in maintaining engagement.

Engagement challenges of a blended team

Depending on the nature of your business, you could have teams comprised of regular full-time employees, part-time workers, temporary workers, contractors or freelancers, and workers placed at your company through an agency. That’s bringing together a lot of folks who are approaching work from very different perspectives and identities. One big positive of a blended workforce for any organisation is that it brings a wonderful variety of skills and work styles to the problem solving process. But that same diversity can also make team dynamics difficult if there is not a good understanding, driven by management, of how to manage the differences. 86% of managers lack training on manageing blended teams, so providing managers with this training is an essential step to ensuring engagement of team members.

Performance management and training in a mobile, blended workforce

Performance management, which can be a big driver of engagement when executed properly, is much more complex for a blended workforce. Can – and will –  contingent workers or freelancers be added to the performance management system? If the company’s review process includes peer reviews, for example, there must be a consideration of how at minimum to include their feedback with the rest of the team. Freelancers often see themselves as their own “boss” and may be reluctant to participate in traditional performance review processes, but often performance review standards can be incorporated into their contracts.

For mobile workers who are full-time employees, it is vital to at minimum include them in the same performance management processes as their on-site peers. More frequent, but informal performance conversations can be beneficial to maintaining engagement of mobile workers. Regular opportunities to touch base with managers helps to maintain a stronger connexion and is shown to boost engagement employees regardless of status. 43% of highly engaged employees receive some form of feedback from managers at least once a week.

Manageing schedules and keeping open communication

When groups of employees, teams or departments include diverse workstyles and work schedules, keeping everyone on the same page can be a challenge and often a barrier to progress. While it may not always be possible to keep everyone on the same schedule, it’s essential to set expectations of transparent communication and integrity. If a regular team meetings are important to work progress, then they need to be set at times that can be agreed upon by all required participants, with an understanding that conflicts should be communicated in advance. All workers should also be accountable to agreed-upon deadlines. Manageing expectations around schedules and deliverables is important to maintain engagement of the entire workforce and also to ensure that productivity goals are met. As cited in a WorkPlace Trends report, Mynul Khan, CEO of Field Nation states that in the adoption of blended workplaces, top performing firms are leading the way, with nearly 40% of top performing firms already have more than 30% of their labour force composed of contract/freelance workers.