The ‘extended workforce’: new roles for HR and new tools

The number of freelancers has been increasing and companies are now becoming ‘extended’ organizations that handle both permanent employees and the contingent workforce within an ever-changing work environment where labor legislation is also changing.

Though freelance workers were initially experts in IT, communication or consulting, now all types of jobs are affected, due to a change in the way people think and the arrival of the ‘millennials’ in the job market. Many employees now have a different attitude towards their jobs and do not agree with how companies currently operate. These people want greater freedom in organizing their work hours and choosing projects they like.

The arrival of ‘marketplaces’ for freelancers

Companies are now faced with new challenges: How can they obtain a pool of outside resources to assist in their transformation? How do they manage these resources?

Many new online platforms have appeared in the past few years to help companies and contingent workers get into contact. Upwork (ex-oDesk), a start-up from Silicon Valley, is currently the leader worldwide, bringing together 12 million freelancers and 5 million customers via its platform, with 3 million ads posted every day in 180 countries. In France, the current leader is Malt, ex-Hopwork, created in 2013, with 60,000 freelancers and nearly 40,000 companies on its platform. Malt is seeking to accelerate its international expansion. There are also general platforms such as Findeur, Viadeo Freelance, Twago and ProvideUp and specialized platforms such as XXE.

There is, however, increasing competition between platforms, with the arrival of traditional HR specialists. The Adecco group announced in October 2017 that it would launch a new brand for freelancers known as ‘Yoss’ for ‘Your own boss’.

These new ‘marketplaces’ are a kind of Airbnb for freelancers where participants (both companies and freelancers) can be graded on their performance.

Such platforms are not only used to attract and retain the best expert profiles, they can also be used to create partnerships to provide services at attractive prices, which is what the Adecco group does with its ‘Harmonie Mutuelle’ for health insurance or the startup Qonto, which offers online banking. The Adecco group also offers freelancers an administrative management tool, with payment available in 3 days, automatic professional responsibility or automatic archiving of quotes and contracts.

The platforms are also trying to innovate by providing advanced features such as direct matching, algorithm-based automated contact with freelancers or the ability to find someone who will work for less than a day.

This is just the start of competition between platforms…

A new position for HR

HR departments must rethink their position while taking into account all the types of people that work for a company: permanent employees as well as the extended workforce. Up to now the extended workforce has always been managed by the Purchasing department or directly by the Business Units, since there was no employment contract. HR must therefore rethink its strategy and include freelancers.

In addition to searching for profiles on freelance platforms, HR should update its extended HR policy to include freelancers and attract, retain and even train its own talent. The selection criteria for this extended workforce are changing. Profiles need to include certain skills allowing them to adapt to the company’s culture. Such skills are essential today because companies are looking for people with good personal skills, capable of listening to others.

To appeal to the various communities of employees (both permanent and freelance), HR departments are offering similar work environments for all types of workers. Messaging, company canteens and access to collaborative HR tools are all now available to contingent workers.

HR departments are changing and jobs such as ‘Chief Freelance Officer’ are appearing in some large companies. HR is getting ready to manage and take care of the extended workforce.