Freelance 4.0: New Opportunities in Global Freelance & Remote Team Management

Freelance is gaining popularity not only within national borders but across them as well. Fast access to skilled talent, flexible hiring options, lower labor cost and innovative thinking are one of the many reasons small, medium and large businesses turn to remote freelancers and individual contractors. In this article, EasyStaff CMO Julia Bataltseva talks about why freelancers are just as wanted as employees and how to manage a remote team effectively.

Freelance is Truly Global

Market matters. Obviously, reasons behind the trend go far beyond the seeming convenience of working from home, which freelance is commonly associated with. Today the world is going through the fourth industrial revolution, so-called Industry 4.0. Its core trait is synergy and convergence of scalable technologies. This has a considerable impact on the business environment and HR, or people management. Freelance is the most obvious consequence of the new labor market, so more and more companies rely on these kinds of employment.

VUCA world. Concepts of life and progress are going through an evolutionary change, and we live in the VUCA world. This term is an acronym that is made of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Indeed, a rapid change in economical priorities can be observed worldwide, and short-term workers, both freelancers and workers, are wanted all the more frequently as opposed to regular employees. The reason why is, full time positions are not always available. Companies gain more benefit out of freelancers as hopping on a freelance platform and finding a contractor is so much more time-saving than full scale employment.

International professionals are always valued. Global economy blurs national borders making the labor market truly international. One of the obvious consequences of the status quo is the tendency to work with contractors from countries with lower living costs. For example, in India freelance market growth rate is projected to reach $ 25 billion by 2025, where 60% is made up by young Indians aged below 30. The reason is the Indian workforce’s relative cheapness that is welcomed by the Western countries (e.g. USA and UK). HR, IT, Design and Finance are areas where Indian contractors are hired most frequently.

Employee hunting has become easier. On-demand apps are an important agent in freelance market acceleration. One of the leading apps are Uber and Fiverr. The concept of finding workers for a particular task gave way to further development of freelance platforms like Upwork. Clearly, Uber may not look like an alternative to Upwork. The latter caters for high-tech tasks that require a professional with a digital background. Yet the core principle behind freelance platforms is very much like that behind on-demand apps: a client user publishes a job and chooses a freelancer based on suggested options.

Freelancers are simply more affordable. For example, keeping an in-house design team is more expensive than outsourcing tasks to a freelancer. According to EuroDev, a European employer pays as much as 30% of a salary on top of it as tax. If a company runs a project with an independent contractor, this tax is negated as the contractor is not an employee.

Tendencies in International freelance team management

It should be noted that the way staff is managed is also undergoing a change. Companies today tend to actively engage in talent-hunt and humanize HR practices that are based on the ‘company is family' paradigm. In such system it is believed that an efficient worker is a healthy and content worker. It may not sound too much of a trend, right? What kind of company would not want to keep its employees healthy and content? In actuality, it is Generation Z, now entering the labor market, that gave this trend a strong push. Gen Z-ers are particularly demanding when it comes to labor conditions at workplaces.

Along with innovation in the business environment, organization models are also experiencing alteration. Hybrid and flexible companies grow popular, especially cross-functional teams structured heterarchically. There every team is a group of professionals with expertise in different fields that work together towards the shared goal. Therefore, in today’s business setting the accent is on teams, not separate individuals.

Indeed, this is reflected in the latest research by Deloitte — Deloitte 2023 Global Human Capital Trends where survey results of 10,000 people management professionals are collected and discussed.

Olesea Azevendo, Chief People Officer at AdventHealth, shares: "We gave our teams permission to try new things, fail fast, learn from it, and move on. We have a number of new ventures and strategies as a result.

Not only the attitude towards workers and team organization changes, but also the concept of a physical work space. Before an office was the center and the core of a business; today a physical work location is a place to unite and network. Offices used to be valued as a single access point to protected corporate data. However, thanks to digitalization, any employee can gain access through a protected channel from anywhere in the world. For Generation Z people, who were born into a digital world, an adaptive multi-layer office is a new normal and a must-have.

An HR specialist today is also seeing changes in what their role is in a company. HR-managers don’t exclusively run the personnel. Their tasks today encompass achieving business goals and solving actual business tasks. In particular, a marketing function is added on top of people management. HR departments now aim at offering a valuable offer and ‘selling' their company to a prospective employee even before they agree.

Challenges in freelance and remote team management

Any HR is constantly faced with a question: ‘Where and how can I find an employee that would match the team perfectly?'. Although this question pretty accurately describes the essence of HR, it doesn’t pay enough attention to additional questions related to operations behind hiring and onboarding.

First, hiring a remote worker (a short-term freelancer or an employee) may be problematic in terms of payment. If your team member is not in your country, then paying them may be difficult due to your local banking restrictions or even sanctions. Although some banks and payment services may allow cryptocurrency transfers, companies still are obliged to explain and register these kinds of spendings. Receiving closing documents for over-the-border money transfers is difficult.

Second, communication is also challenged when it comes to a remote teammate. HRs need to figure out how to help teams stay connected and united despite distances. There is no secret that true engagement requires a lot more than joining video calls with a camera on. A remote employee needs to understand and share business goals that a company follows. Third, concerning primarily individual contractors, HRs may wonder how much exactly of inside information should be shared with an individual contractor so that they are able to carry out their task. Normally, it is the team lead that works with a freelancer the most, HRs are still responsible for working out a clear process of onboarding, managing and paying outsource contractors that keep the company safe.

Increasing Engagement in Remote International Teams

To manage people at work effectively, knowing employees is of paramount importance. Obviously, knowing each and everyone personally may be quite challenging when it comes to medium and large business with a headcount of 100+ people. Convenient HR tools come to rescue in such situations. Surveys can be sent out in massive amounts with further response collection for analysis and decision making. To properly assess employee engagement in the team, Gallup Q12 is a reliable solution. It was developed in one of the oldest public opinion institutions Gallup. As a result of years of research and massive numbers of respondents, the 12 statements were selected as most accurately measuring and assessing employee engagement. Essentially, they make up the whole survey.

  • How satisfied are you with your company as a place to work?
  • I know what is expected of me at work.
  • I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  • At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  • In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  • My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  • There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  • At work, my opinions seem to count.
  • The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
  • My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  • I have a best friend at work.
  • In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  • This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

The impact that employee engagement has on a business can actually be measured. Productivity is 21% higher in companies where employee engagement level is high. In those same companies, staff turnover is 87% lower. Additionally, revenue grows by 22% and talent realization among employees is 64% higher.

Employee engagement with their work is proportional to how much a company is involved with its employees. There should be a real human relationship between the business and its workers that highlights a worker’s importance and value in the team and the organization on the whole. To build a relationship like this, you need to run surveys that help employees receive healthy feedback on their performance and personal input.

Gallup Clifton Strengths is a good place to strat. In this poll, personality traits are divided into 4 domains: Executive, Influencer, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking. After a test is taken, 5 dominant talents are provided that are an individual’s power sources. These talents are the basis that navigates future career decisions. Offering an employee a survey like this will speak volumes about how much interest a company is placing in its workers' development.

In remote work settings, emotional intellect (EQ) must be developed and actively used in any team-wide operations as well as at interpersonal level. Sensitivity and emotional awareness need to be practiced by managers in the first place. Emotional intellect is the major factor in effective remote team management. The skill to recognize emotions and manage them in a team has immense influence on team engagement.

Freelance globalization is a trend worth careful attention. Projects will become truly international in a company with fine tuned remote work practices. EasyStaff is your go-to tool to streamline the payment process to your remote teams. Stay compliant with EasyStaff and accelerate business growth with the reliable contractor payment solution EasyStaff.

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