16/10/2014

By Katherine Thomas, Co-founder and Director, Vario from Pinsent Masons

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) recently revealed another increase in the number of people turning to self-employment in the UK. The number of freelancers, a sub-set of this group, continues to rise even more rapidly, with a 38% increase of under 30s choosing freelance roles since 2008 and a 25% rise in mothers working as freelancers.

And it’s not just employees who are opting to freelance: there is also a rising employer demand for freelancers as businesses increasingly turn to project-based resource as part of their strategic planning.

So, it is clear that the world of work is transforming. How, then, can businesses ensure that they are selecting the right freelancers who can fit into their organisation and hit the ground running?

1) Don’t just use a selection process for permanent staff
Many businesses will invest in selection for their permanent members of staff but undertake no assessment of the freelance resource joining them. Be clear about the role, project or task you want the freelancer to do. At Vario, each applicant undergoes a three-stage selection process that looks at behavioural and cultural fit, as well as technical skills. We use a bespoke questionnaire to gain a comprehensive picture of each applicant’s preferences and style, which in turn, enables us to assess their suitability for life as a Vario freelance lawyer.

2) Look beyond technical skills
Effective freelancers should be able to fit right into your organisation quickly and can get straight to the task in hand without ruffling any feathers. We know that the cost for our clients of a “cultural misfit” in terms of productivity, efficiency and morale, can be high. Only those applicants who thrive on flexibility, build relationships easily and are emotionally robust are selected to be ‘Varios’. This investment up-front reaps dividends later down the track: as our Varios “fit-right-in” on assignment and excel in their roles.

3) Ensure rapid on-boarding
If flexible resourcing is to become part of your business’ strategy, you will need processes and procedures to support it. Two-week induction timeframes don’t support an agile approach. For example, crucial time – and money – is lost if it takes too long to get access to the IT system or even access to the phone line. So ensure that your colleagues in HR, IT and facilities have processes and procedures that support rapid on-boarding for the freelancing individual.

As the shape of the workforce continues to evolve and the freelancing phenomenon increases in popularity, organisations that successfully adopt an agile approach will be those that dedicate effort to selecting freelancers with the right cultural fit as well as technical skills.

But organisations do need to exercise caution when sourcing their freelancers. Those that need professional, driven but flexible individuals must ensure they select from organisations that put these behaviours front and centre. After all, whilst the benefits of making the right hire are significant, so too are the costs of getting it wrong.