As the dynamics of the work landscape have evolved, so too have the types of employer-employee relationships. As a result, modern day managers are increasingly called upon to manage traditional on-site workers, remote workers, temporary workers and independent consultants or freelancers. While the new integrated workforce may operate seamlessly, the management approach should and will differ depending on how each worker is engaged with your business.
By nature of federal and state laws, an independent consultant, freelancer, or solopreneur cannot be treated like a traditional W2-employee. Doing so would put you at risk for independent contractor misclassification. One of the common tests of independence is the degree of control you exercise over how and where work gets done. This is not the only test, but can serve as a solid foundation for ensuring that both your engagement and management of independent contractors is compliant.
Using these easy guidelines below, managers can get the best from independent consultants and contractors while staying compliant with regulations.
Be the Client, Not the Boss
Working with independent contractors is a business-to-business relationship and must be managed accordingly. You have to shift mindset from boss to client when working with independent workers. With your on-site, traditional employees, you manage the process and outcome. When you are the client, the independent contractor is tasked with managing both process and outcome to meet agreed upon results.
You cannot control the method or hours in which an independent consultant performs work, but you can set expectations that will enable you to effectively measure progress and work toward your desired results. It is vital to have a written agreement that clearly spells out the scope of work and the expected outcome. You will want to ensure that you clearly outline the activities to be done, process for communicating progress, and method for evaluating results. Set up objectives that can be measured throughout the course of the project to ensure a successful conclusion.
Keep Your Employees Close and Your Contractors Remote
One of the benefits of working with independent consultants in your local area is the ability to spend time with them in person. Meetings and the occasional work session are fine, but it's best to ensure that their primary work (unless critical to the job, such as a hardware installation or training) is performed offsite. Some companies have developed such close working relationships that independent consultants may work onsite several days a week. Having independent consultants work onsite can put you at risk for misclassification. If and when workers are onsite, another means of establishing the independent relationship is to ask contractors to perform duties on their own equipment (they still can follow your IT safety rules and regulations). Consider making sure identification badges indicate a non-employee status, also.
Interacting with independent workers requires a skillful balance of oversight and autonomy. Requiring regular reporting will help you, as the client, understand the work that is being performed and track measurements to ensure that the work is completed within the parameters of the agreement.
Do not hesitate to hire independent consultants with the expertise and skill that you need, just vet them prior to engagement to ensure that they are the right fit. Take time to understand the approach they will use to solve your problem. Spell out specifics in a written agreement, including how progress will be communicated and success will be measured. With a few proactive steps, you can confidently be the client - rather than the boss.
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