10 mistakes to avoid when oboarding independent talent

25 June 2024 Consultancy-me.com 6 min. read
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While turning to independent talent may be relatively straightforward, fully leveraging their potential is easier said than done. Azeem Zainulbhai, Co-founder and Chief Product Officer at Outsized, outlines 10 costly mistakes that hiring organizations should avoid in their onboarding processes.

A growing number of organizations are turning to the independent talent economy, which is experiencing significant growth globally and in the MENA region. This trend is driven by the agility and cost benefits of this unique talent pool, as well as the easy access it provides to in-demand skills.

In fact, the MENA region is one of the fastest-growing freelance economies, with Outsized’s Talent-on-Demand report noting a 142% growth in freelancer registrations from two years ago.

10 mistakes to avoid when oboarding independent talent

Azeem Zainulbhai is Co-founder and Chief Product Officer at Outsized

However, many organizations fall short when it comes to implementing tailored onboarding strategies for these professionals. Traditional employee onboarding practices are not well-suited to the fast-paced, competitive world of highly skilled independents. A bad hire can be costly, potentially incurring up to 2.5 times their salary.

The financial impact includes the costs of finding a replacement, the time lost during the search, and the productivity diverted to this task. Additionally, project delays can cause significant financial and reputational damage, further compounding the overall cost.

To remain competitive and fully leverage independent talent, organizations must shift their onboarding approach, while ensuring they avoid 10 costly mistakes:

  1. Lack of a tailored onboarding process
    Independent professionals need a swift and efficient onboarding process. They must quickly understand their roles without being bogged down by extensive company histories or conventional resources. Preparatory work should be done before or during selection to prevent project delays. Emphasize concise, relevant information about their roles, required tools, and company culture. This focused approach ensures an effective and speedy onboarding process for agile talent.
  2. Overlooking visa requirements and work permits
    Failing to verify the legal status of on-demand professional can lead to potential legal issues and fines. Ensure all professionals have the appropriate visas and work permits before starting work. Consult with legal and immigration experts who specialize in UAE regulations to navigate the specific requirements.
  3. Neglecting KPIs
    Without defined roles, responsibilities, and expectations, projects can suffer from miscommunication and lack of accountability. Define and communicate clear KPIs from the start. Regularly review progress and adjust these as needed to ensure alignment with project goals.
  4. Ignoring access planning
    Organizations often assume the hard work is complete once a new hire is made. However, before finalizing contracts, they may find themselves entangled in endless email chains with internal stakeholders regarding IT access, building access, HR policies, etc. Plan ahead by creating a comprehensive journey checklist that outlines all necessary steps for talent to start work.

Identify key contacts in each department and establish access permissions and processes in advance. This proactive approach ensures a smooth start and maximizes the new hire’s potential.

  1. Not facilitating team collaboration
    Onboarding should involve collaboration among all necessary stakeholders with clear communication channels. Without this, misunderstandings, project delays, and frustration can occur. Establishing clear communication from the start and involving all relevant parties, including the on-demand talent, is crucial. Create an internal onboarding team with members responsible for specific steps in the process.

Clearly define each team member's responsibilities and ensure they are ready to assist. This collaborative approach reduces onboarding friction, leaves a positive impression on the freelancer, and increases the chances of future engagements and recommendations.

  1. Lack of cultural and religious sensitivity
    Every country has a distinct culture, and remote workers may not be aware of the cultural and religious nuances. Especially in a place like the UAE, which has over 200 nationalities, this can result in strained relationships and decreased productivity. Provide cultural sensitivity training and respect local customs and religious practices. This fosters a positive working relationship and ensures mutual respect and understanding.
  2. Overwhelming with paperwork
    Independent talent differs from permanent employees in their response to extensive paperwork. While permanent hires might accept lengthy paperwork, independent professionals often find it burdensome, leading to stress and negative first impressions. But operating without formal paperwork can lead to misunderstandings, data breaches, and intellectual property theft.

Draft clear contracts and NDAs that outline the project scope, confidentiality requirements, and IP rights. Legal counsel can help create enforceable agreements to protect both parties. Streamline the paperwork process and communicate it clearly to the new hire. Consolidate all necessary documents into a single package, making the requirements clear and manageable. This approach eliminates the overwhelming paper trail and facilitates a smoother onboarding experience.

  1. Overlooking mentorship
    Independent professionals are frequently viewed as outsiders or temporary staff. However, with the rise of flexible workforces, integrating and supporting these professionals is essential for attracting and retaining them. Implementing a mentorship system, such as assigning a buddy, gives on-demand talent a go-to person for questions and support. Regular check-ins with a manager and opportunities for professional development are also crucial.

Offering mentorship and support boosts productivity and fosters goodwill among freelancers.

  1. Project-related expenses
    Unplanned expenses can derail a project and cause financial strain. Plan and budget for all potential project-related expenses, including unexpected costs. Maintain transparent communication with independent talent about expense policies and reimbursement procedures to avoid surprises.
  2. Ignoring local market rates and practices
    Offering rates that are too low or using unfamiliar payment practices can make it difficult to attract and retain top talent. Research and adhere to local market rates and payment practices to ensure fair and competitive compensation. Timely and fair payment will help in maintaining good relationships with on-demand professionals.

To fully capitalize on the advantages offered by the independent talent economy, such as agility, cost savings, and access to essential skills, organizations must implement customized onboarding strategies for such talent. Common mistakes to avoid include neglecting access planning, disregarding collaboration, overwhelming talent with paperwork, ignoring the need for mentorship, and failing to develop a specific onboarding process.

Addressing these issues ensures a smooth integration of on-demand talent, which boosts productivity, improves project outcomes, and fosters positive relationships with them. This approach makes freelancers more likely to return for future projects. Embracing these best practices will position organizations for success in the evolving independent work landscape.