Independent professionals have long recognized the benefits of teaming up to help grow their businesses. Our 2022 State of Independence report notes that this trend is strong in today’s workforce:
- Over the past year:
- 26% of Full-Time independents said they had teamed up with other independent workers or micro businesses, up from 19% in 2020
- 22% of traditional job holders reported they had teamed with an independent worker or microbusiness, up from 12% in 2020
- In the next year:
- 30% of independent workers say they will likely team with other independents
- 29% of traditional jobholders say they will likely team with independent workers (up from 18% in 2020)
Hiring independent professionals to form a discrete team can have great business advantages. Such a team can amplify the benefits of individual independents, including flexibility, scalability, access to hard-to-find skills, and cost savings. Members can produce better results faster and at a lower cost than a contractor company fielding a team of their own full-time employees. You can also hand-pick team members from your talent network instead of being bound by a contractor company’s resources.
When Does Team Formation Make Sense?
Forming a team of independent contractors makes sense in several situations. Such a team can be well-suited to complex projects with many moving parts where diverse skills are required, especially if many skills are not native to your employee population. A one-off or periodic project such as a market assessment or system deployment can be completed by an independent team, relieving employees of extra duties and providing opportunities for “outside eyes” to offer value.
Most projects that have traditionally been awarded to outside service providers or consultancies are good candidates for independent contractor teams. In many instances, you will save costs and time without losing expertise or productivity.
Forming Teams from Your Direct Sourcing Program
Methods for team formation and management are directly related to the status of your direct sourcing program and talent network.
A New Program
A company just beginning to build its talent network through direct sourcing is actively searching for independent professionals with in-demand skills who fit the company culture. Because the search is for multiple people, team formation at this stage can help speed up talent identification and vetting, strengthening the talent network.
- Connections of already-established independents
- Curated online talent marketplaces
- Referrals from employees
- Retirees and former employees
- Social media sites, particularly LinkedIn
The hiring manager or another designated employee will be hands-on at this program stage, filling the team leader role to ensure that the right results are produced and to implement best practices supporting rapport and bonding between team members. You may need to fast-track some of the processes and policies that need to be in place for a direct sourcing program.
A Program in Development
As your talent network grows, easy access to vetted independent talent increases. Teams can be formed with independents who are members of your network, though you may still need to search for some needed skills. Processes and policies may need to be expanded to include digital nomads and contractors based in distant locations. Systems for team interactions must support a range of time zones.
At this stage, a contractor can fill the team leader role at the manager’s discretion. The team leader would be accountable to the manager for team operation and results.
A Mature Program
When your direct sourcing program is mature, your independent talent is well-integrated into the workforce. Processes, policies, and systems accommodate and support contractors, and the formation of all-independent teams will be smooth.
Many members of your talent network will have already worked together, and you may find that contractors present proposals for teams they have formed themselves. In these cases, the team leader is self-identified, usually the person who has formed the team and is leading the proposal effort.
When You Think Independent Talent, Think Team
Independent professionals can be significant contributors in team settings, whether in a mixed group with employees and other contractors or in an all-independent group. Cost savings, fast execution, and contributions from eyes outside the organization are three examples of the business benefits that thinking “team” can provide. In terms of results, you can find that the whole is greater than the sum of parts.