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Keeping Contingent Workers Motivated

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Companies are forced to toe a fine line when trying to motivate their contingent workforces. On one side, labor laws prohibit organizations from treating freelancers and independent contractors the same way they treat salaried and hourly full-time workers when it comes to benefits, payment, and control over how the work gets done. On the other side, psychologists and human resources professionals advise firms to do everything in their power to make contingent workers feel welcome and part of the team by erasing the distinction between internal and external workers.

To realize the productivity and creativity benefits a contingent workforce offers, companies should strive to keep their contingent workers happy and loyal, just as they do when they deal with full-time staff. Like full-timers, contingent workers want to feel appreciated and know that their contributions are furthering their employers’ mission. But unlike full-timers, contract workers cannot be enticed by the prospect of a promotion or pay raise. There are reasons these workers choose the contingent route – flexibility, work/life balance, the chance to expand their skill sets and learn about different industries, etc. Motivational programs aimed at these talented resources should focus on helping them achieve these goals. Remember, too, that the pool of freelancers and other temporary and part-time workers is heterogeneous. They will not all respond to the same approaches; motivation is in the heart of the beholder. For instance, some contingent workers may be looking for the grounding and security an 8-to-5 job offers. If your company is in position to bring people with sought-after skills on staff, don’t be afraid to broach the subject with a contractor. Others may prefer to freelance and take the opportunity to work on a variety of projects. You can accommodate them by offering additional contracts in different departments and with new teams.

The best way to motivate your contingent workforce is to offer perks and intangibles that appeal to all types of workers and their individual values. Here’s a list of things to offer that will appeal to the greatest number of your non-traditional workers:

Skills Development

Just as full-time employees want to climb the corporate ladder (and the pay scale), contingent workers constantly are looking for ways to increase their value and earning power. The more they know and the deeper and broader their experience, the more jobs they become qualified to pursue. Diverse, specific skills and industry understanding are becoming even more crucial as hiring companies seek to atomize project tasks in order to manage risk and expedite project implementation. Exposure to technologies, strategies, and business models can be a selling point for your company, as well. Let contingent workers know how their contributions are furthering the company’s mission. Encourage them to include the lessons they learn from your gig on their resumes. That will spur them to take additional pride in their work, guaranteeing quality performance and high morale. As an added benefit, contingent workers who know that the jobs you offer will expand their knowledge and skills will be more likely to choose your firm over less challenging and beneficial offers from your talent competitors.


Though contractors and freelancers may cherish their independence, no one wants to be perceived as a loner or treated as an outcast. We all have a need for acceptance and camaraderie. There are advantages to both the contractor and the company to considering them as “part of the gang.” On the other hand, there are serious penalties involved in treating contractors like employees when it comes to administration and management. The best way to avoid co-employment and misclassification is to work through a managed service provider. This way, all negotiations, payments, and work assignments are handled through your partner. To be safe, this should include any disciplinary action that is warranted.

One acceptable way to make contingent workers feel at home in your organization is to bring them onboard early in the process. If you hire a freelance copywriter to work with your in-house marketing team on a new product launch, bring her in during the campaign’s conceptualization phase. This will not only give her and the team time to get a feeling for how each other works, but also provide a forum for soliciting her input and establishing her as a strategic asset rather than a word robot.

You can eliminate the feeling-out process by re-engaging exceptional contingent workers on future projects. They will know the company ropes and be familiar with hierarchies, unwritten rules, and teammates’ tendencies.


Independent contractors don’t necessarily value money above all else in their working lives, but they do provide valuable services. They possess specialized skills that are rare in the marketplace (if they were common, someone on your staff would have them, and you wouldn’t need an outside hire). Pay rates and promptness express respect for your contingent workers and show that you understand the intricacies involved in self-employment and contract work. External workers’ hourly pay is likely to be higher than full-time employees receive for similar work because contractors must pay for their own healthcare and retirement benefits and don’t get paid for sick days or vacations. They also have significant overhead that must be covered by their rates.

If you hire through an MSP or temp agencies, many of the details will be handled for you. But if you find talent through online marketplaces, view rates at face value and do not try to haggle with professionals. If you can’t afford someone’s rate, there is always someone who will be willing to perform a task for less. If you can accept less experience and proficiency – especially if the task is non-critical or low-skill – a lower-wage person may work out just fine. As the saying goes, “contractors can be fast, good, and cheap; pick the two you want.”

Whomever you hire, pay them on time. Freelancers appreciate some order in their financial lives. They likely have budgeted their foreseeable future income and are counting on the timely delivery of their fee to pay the mortgage. Your understanding and ability to pay promptly will be rewarded throughout the current project and in future encounters with temporary workers.

Metasys Can Help

Among the full line of contingent workforce management solutions Metasys offers, we can ensure you engage and motivate contract workers the right way. With expert understanding of labor and finance laws, our team can help you navigate tricky regulations and protect you from the dangers of co-employment and worker misclassification. We can show you ways to include contingent workers and integrate them into project teams while keeping their employment status strictly segregated from your human resources department. You will be able to insinuate freelancers and contractors into your company culture while keeping an arm’s-length relationship, with strict record keeping and reporting from Metasys. We insulate non-traditional workers from in-house managers and supervisors while helping your build bridges between external talent and rank-and-file employees.

For specific examples of how we can help you engage contingent workers while eliminating the risks associated with mixing in-house and contract labor, call Metasys today.


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