What is a blended workforce? In the last 15-20 years, Europe has seen a rise in popularity for freelancing as a new approach to work.

White collar jobs were the first significant beneficiaries as ‘temps’ were called upon to fill flexible roles in the civil service and administration, as identified in this 2005 report on the Blended Workforce produced by IBM Center for The Business of Government.

Back then, freelancers would need to register with an agency in person and await a phone call for the next opportunity. This has changed significantly two decades later, thanks to mobile technology and digitalisation, which has seen a rise in freelancing in ‘deskless’ industries such as hospitality and healthcare.

Edelman Intelligence has estimated that by 2027, the total percentage of workers participating in the freelance economy will top 50%. This has resulted in many businesses being composed of both permanent employees and freelancers, creating what is now commonly called a ‘blended workforce’.

Techniques and Best Practices to Achieve a Blended Workforce

Set the right expectations. To successfully amalgamate your permanent team and freelancers, it’s crucial to set the right expectations from the outset with an accurate and detailed, yet concise, description of what is required from the freelancer.

Consider the following: What tasks will they need to undertake? What skills are necessary? Do they need to bring their own equipment? Logistical elements such as, what should they wear? Where can they find parking and, if relevant, the staff entrance? Who is their point of contact?

These small details are essential to a great experience for both businesses and freelancers. Also note that you should open the lines of communication so that a freelancer can contact you in the first instance with any questions.

A Strong Onboarding Process

A good practice to establish when blending freelancers into your team is a strong onboarding process. It’s recommended that you build 30 minutes in at the beginning of a shift with a new freelancer to give a short training and walk-around, as well as to introduce them to the members of the team. You may want to even extend the onboarding process to a trial shift. Already a common practice in industries such as hospitality, it’s a great way to see, in practice, how a freelancer works and whether they mesh with the team.

Engage Your Permanent Team

Working with freelancers is much more easily managed when you have strong support in place from your existing team. Having a new freelancer work alongside some of your more experienced team members will give them the opportunity to see how you like your team to operate. What is crucial is to hone a collaborative environment so that freelancers are not perceived by your permanent team as ‘rivals’ or ‘outsiders’. Instead, insist that they are here to support and should be viewed as a positive addition to one, cohesive team.

Communicate Always

Finally, as with many relationships, the key to successfully integrating freelancers into your permanent team is to communicate and stay open-minded. To be successful as a freelancer, these professionals have to be consistently great at what they do in order to keep finding work. Be open to hearing their ideas and feedback – they may just have the solution to solve some of your pain points!

Leverage Technology

Adopting a blended workforce may lead to organisational challenges in terms of logistics and administration. To help you manage these aspects, look at what tech solutions are available and which systems can best help you streamline the onboarding process, manage projects, and automate payment.

The Benefits of a Blended Workforce

Working with a blended workforce model can enrich the experience of both employers, as well as workers.

For Employers

Perhaps the biggest advantage for businesses working with a blended workforce is that they can strategically optimise their operations to be more agile in the face of uncertainty. By relying on self-employed professionals during peak times, businesses can ensure they have the right amount of staff with the right skills, without the burden of long-term commitments.

For businesses operating on tight margins, especially small businesses, a blended workforce is a cost-effective solution for their staffing needs. By avoiding the fixed labour costs associated with permanent employees, including benefits and training expenses, employers can allocate their budget strategically, meaning that they can leverage their resources for maximum impact when they need it most.

Freelancers often bring a wealth of diverse experiences from working with different clients and industries. This infusion of ideas can lead to innovative approaches and solutions that benefit the business. By utilising freelancers, businesses can also bring in specialists with unique or hard to source skills that can help them expand their offering.

For Workers

A blended workforce is a great way to promote better work-life balance. For permanent employees, the fact that their workplace can rely on freelancers means that there are additional resources available during peak times, or to provide support when permanent staff require time-off.

The option of freelancing also allows for a more varied work experience. By having access to different businesses and verticals, workers have a greater opportunity to be exposed to and learn new skills at a faster rate, as well as to expand their professional networks.

Overall, these factors give workers greater control, both in their professional and personal lives, giving them more freedom to pursue the skills they want to develop, with the companies they want to work with and in a schedule that suits them.

The Challenges of Adopting a Blended Workforce

One challenge of a blended workforce is the potential lack of consistency in the quality of service. After all, many businesses have unique processes, which can be difficult for new team members to pick up. This, along with the perception of freelancers as ‘outsiders’, could make it harder to maintain a strong company culture, and that the culture of a workplace may change for the worse if not properly managed.

The introduction of freelancers into your team can also mean an increased burden in admin and paperwork. In the first instance, sourcing and screening possible freelancers is a hugely time-consuming task that requires ample resources. Not only that, but with each new freelancer you work with comes a new contract that must be created, new invoices to receive etc.

Where Brigad can help

Since 2016, Brigad has been pioneering the concept of the blended workforce for the hospitality industry. That means that we’re no strangers to the challenges of adopting a blended workforce and have worked on integrating features into our product to help this process.

A thorough vetting process

Working with a new freelancer is always a risk as they generally need to be able to hit the ground running. We’ve developed a stringent two-step vetting process (both virtual and with our dedicated team) to ensure that the freelancers on our platform are properly qualified and have the necessary skills. The result is that from 150,000 sign ups, only 13% of these pass our rigorous vetting process and are invited to create a profile on Brigad, meaning that you’ll be working with only the best of the best.

Automating Admin

To lessen the load, Brigad automatically generates all the necessary documentation associated with working with freelancers on the platform, mitigating the burden of admin and providing an easily accessible record.

Favourites List

Once you’ve begun to work with a freelancer, it’s important to recognise when you’ve found a good fit. From this, you can begin to build a network of regular freelancers who have the expertise you need and who you and your team trust. That’s why Brigad has a ‘Favourites’ feature, where users can create a list of their favourite freelancers to easily work with them again. Two thirds (65%) of all businesses who use Brigad currently use the whitelist, whilst 83% have given positive feedback on the feature. In fact, a general manager at a four-star hotel in London recently described our whitelist feature as ‘a revelation’.

Given the many benefits that a blended workforce can offer both businesses and freelancers, this trend looks to continue, especially as evolving worker preferences and economic challenges demand greater flexibility and agility. The future of work is already transforming, and the best that business owners can do is to embrace these changes and consider how best to strategically integrate them into their existing systems.

UK Managing Director at Brigad

Nicolas is the Chief International Officer and the UK Managing Director for Brigad, the game-changing online platform connecting skilled freelancers with businesses in the hospitality sector in European cities, including Paris, London, Manchester and Birmingham.

Brigad is the number one platform in Europe for skilled freelancers in the hospitality sector, with more than 15,000 freelancers signed up. The company raised €33 million in its Series B round in February, which saw its total fundraising top €50 million. The platform expanded in 2020 to include roles in healthcare and has plans for further growth into new sectors. Nicolas has taken on the new role to expand Brigad internationally, beginning in the UK, with a target of accelerating the company’s growth.