It is becoming more and more common to work freelance or take on short-term employment rather than permanent employment. The dream of freedom, being able to choose your work hours and to prioritise when and how you make a living could be part of the explanation why short-term employments and freelance assignments are becoming increasingly popular.
For you as a manager, short-term employments may make it easier to accommodate varying demand or a need to have a certain expertise available for a limited period of time.
Unfortunately, short-term employment still has somewhat of a poor reputation with many, and it can also come with certain challenges with this article. Our recommendations are based on experiences from several companies that all need to hire short-term employees. They often have specific competence needs or need to be able to staff on flexible terms based on market demands.
So how do you become the best possible manager to your short-term employees? And how do you create the optimal conditions for using this form of employment? Here are our recommendations for ensuring a positive cooperation between you and your short-term employees.
BE CLEAR ABOUT THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF EMPLOYMENT
It is important to be clear about the terms and conditions to be able to both attract and retain short-term employees. Even short-term employees need to know what kind of workload to expect, and how much they will be able to earn. The rules on short-term employments may not always be completely transparent, which could be one of the reasons why this form of employment does not always have the best reputation. Work on making it entirely clear what the benefits are to working as a short-term employee in your company. It is a good idea to involve your employees in this process.
An example of a company that has a lot of short-term employees is the ferry company Stena Line. Here, flexibility and short-term employees is a prerequisite for the company. Margareta Jensen Dickson, Head of People at Stena Line, is therefore focused on making sure that Stena Line shows the benefits of short-term employment in their communication with potential employees. Not just to hire people but also to make sure that they return. This way, Stena Line can help ensure that they actually get the people that they want. “We do a lot to communicate that we offer the opportunity for a flexible lifestyle where you can choose how and where you want to work. Our employees are able to choose to have longer periods of availability when it suits them and their lifestyle,” explains Margareta Jensen Dickson.
Seek to make sure that your regular employees and short-term employees are treated the same. Be reasonable and clear about existing benefits and salary conditions. As a company, you share in the responsibility for eliminating the poor reputation of short-term employment. And you will only benefit as a company if you are seen as an attractive workplace for the short-term employees.
INVEST IN COMMUNICATION OF THE COMPANY’S VALUES
Margareta Jensen Dickson also emphasises the value of making the short-term employees feel an affinity with the company and its values. Even if you are only employed for a limited period, it is important that you feel part of the team, the group and the company as a whole. As a manager, you want to give your customers the same experience every time they encounter one of your employees, irrespective of whether the employee is a regular employee or a short-term employee. This means that you have to invest in communicating the company’s value and objectives. This investment in time will benefit both yourself and your employees and not least your customers. A clear why and how together with numerical targets, e.g. on units sold, will enable you to build a strong customer experience, even if the employees change in the meantime.
It will also make it easier to create strong teamwork among your regular employees and short-term employees, if there is a solid foundation in the form of shared understanding of the company’s values and overall purpose of existing. If you can achieve this, you will have created a strong foundation for cooperation.
AVOID MICRO MANAGEMENT
Different tasks and different individuals require different degrees of management, ranging from clear instructions to a more coaching style of leadership. Many short-term employees hired when there is a need for an expert role have chosen this type of work because they seek freedom and a high degree of flexibility. They do not want someone looking over their shoulder, checking to see if they are doing their job right. As a manager, you need to trust your short-term employees to take the same responsibility for solving the tasks agreed on and delivering the expected results just as you would with your regular employees.
One example of such an employee is Michael Egløkke Larsen. We have used him in Valcon as a sub-supplier in our management consulting firm whenever there is a need for his expertise. He has chosen this form of employment because he is attracted to the interesting assignments, the high degree of freedom and the flexibility. Michael works on a contract basis, which offers both him and Valcon a flexibility that benefits everyone. “It is just important to me to have a contract that clearly states the nature of the assignment, and that clearly defines my role and expected deliverables. Once framework is in place, I usually have what I need to go out and do the job,” explains Michael Egløkke Larsen.
However, this does not mean that you should leave your short-term employees to themselves. The framework needs to be in place, and you should offer your employees introduction and training just as you would with your regular employees. Situational leadership could be a relevant tool for you as a manager in this connection. By working with situational leadership, you will be able to take a point of departure from the individual employee’s competences and needs with respect to the given task.
At the end of the day, the point is to not treat your employees differently because of their employment status but instead to focus on their individual need for help and guidance from you as their manager.
MAKE TIME FOR LEADERSHIP
It is important to provide your short-term employees with the same level of feedback as you do your regular employees. You have to make sure that you are accessible as a manager. Because just as your customers expect your services to be delivered at the right time and in the right volume and quality, you employees also to an increasing extent expect to have opportunities for personal and professional development.
Margareta Jensen Dickson from Stena Line admits that her greatest challenge is to “find employees that stay on. Many companies need flexible employment, and the most skilled employees are well aware of their own market value.” As a workplace, it is therefore crucial that you make the framework as attractive as possible. This is where feedback and your work as manager play a crucial role and help ensure that your employee feels seen and feels that he or she is given opportunity to develop both personally and professionally in your company.
At the end of the day, our advice to you is simply to treat your short-term employees just as well as you treat your regular employees. Give them a strong basis for their work by making the company’s values and purpose crystal clear. Chances of a good cooperation with your employees increase if you as a manager is clear about your expectations and listen to the needs of the individual employee. And a succesful cooperation with your short-term employees will provide both your company and your employees with some much sought-after flexibility.
Originally published in Ledelse i Udvikling.