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What is a Blended Workforce and How Can it Help Small Businesses?

What is a Blended Workforce and How Can it Help Small Businesses?

Every business is different. Some organizations need full-time employees in every department while others only require certain skills on a project-by-project basis. As a result, many employers opt to develop a blended workforce of full-time staffers, independent contractors, freelancers, and more. Read on to learn more about blended workforces and how they can help small businesses.


What is a Blended Workforce?

A blended workforce is a staff made up of full-time employees and other part-time or temporary workers, including freelancers and gig workers


Pros vs. Cons of a Blended Workforce

Blended workforces offer distinct advantages and disadvantages for teams of every size. Consider the following pros and cons of employing a blended workforce: 

Advantages of a Blended Workforce

    1. Lower Payroll: Organizations that employ a blended workforce can benefit from more agile payroll budgeting. Instead of hiring a full-time employee and promising an annual salary, employers can simply commit to paying a predetermined sum or rate for a single project or set of projects.
    2. Streamlined Recruiting: Temporary workers can require fewer resources to hire. Why? Recruiting may require fewer steps if hiring managers are searching for a certain set of skills needed to finish a single project. In some cases, it may only require a phone call and reviewing the person’s portfolio versus the more traditional interview process
    3. Fewer Benefits Costs: In many states, employers aren’t required to provide benefits to independent contractors and freelance workers. The cost savings can be immense, as employers are often expected to cover significant portions of the cost of health insurance and other benefits. 
    4. Specialized Skills: Certain projects require specialized skills. For example, if an organization wants to completely redo its website, it may consider hiring a web developer or development team to build a new website—especially if their full-time team doesn’t have the training to get the job done.
    5. Staffing Scalability: Organizations may also need extra help during certain times of the year. Take, for example, the retail industry. Many retail stores hire seasonal employees to cover busy shifts during the holiday season. Contract workers help fill in these gaps without requiring employers to commit to full-time employment long-term.

Disadvantages of a Blended Workforce

  1. Tracking Budgets: It can be difficult to track budgets dedicated to blended workforce staffers, especially if projects extend beyond predicted deadlines and expenses. Another budgetary consideration is allocating funds to hiring contractors and freelancers. Depending on the organization, some HR teams and hiring managers might have trouble accessing appropriate funding from the payroll department. 
  2. Performance Management Difficulties: Another possible disadvantage of blended workforces relates to performance management. Contractors often operate with a level of independence that can be difficult to manage without proper preparation. 
  3. Worker Accountability: It’s common for employers to rely on 1:1 meetings to develop trust, skills, and accountability between management and staff. However, freelancers and contractors likely won’t participate in the same manager/direct-report relationship-building that’s common in certain organizations.
  4. Gaps in Company Culture: Organizations with strong company cultures may find that contractors and freelancers don’t quite fit in with the prevailing norms, customs, and expectations for employees. In most cases, this probably isn’t a big concern. But, it can present certain challenges depending on the situation and is worth considering during the hiring process.


Should Employers Build Blended Workforces?

Writing for the Harvard Business School, professor Joseph B. Fuller argues that building a blended workforce “may be key to lasting competitive advantage.” However, Fuller warns that simply paying for gig workers isn’t enough—cultures need to accommodate transient, outside talent

This requires employers to rethink how they recruit, onboard, offboard, and manage contractors and freelancers. One solution to this fundamental shift is using a human resources information system (HRIS)

By automating common HR functions, hiring managers and human resources professionals can efficiently and effectively centralize, organize, and improve day-to-day processes that keep organizations running. As a result, these same team members can dedicate more time and resources to building cultures that can properly accommodate gig workers and contractors.

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