by Peter Johnston, founder and CEO of Kalo
Full-time employment affords individual staff members access to healthcare benefits, paid sick leave and several other notable amenities. But what about freelancers? The freelance economy doesn’t require businesses to provide such benefits, and many freelancers don’t even attempt to seek them out — potentially leading to long-term harm.
Thankfully, someone is trying to do something about this problem. Fair Care Labs, the National Domestic Workers Alliance’s innovation hub, is testing an online platform called Alia to address this long-standing issue. The service aims to help house cleaners gain access to benefits that travel with them between jobs, providing them with life insurance, disability insurance, critical illness insurance and paid time off.
Solutions like Alia are addressing real problems in the gig economy for freelancers. Business leaders have different needs, however. They want platforms and services that automate hiring and retention while ensuring freelancers feel as supported as their full-time colleagues.
Tech That Helps You Grow (And Grows With You).
When it comes to onboarding full-time workers, most businesses have processes in place that comply with local, state and federal laws. Onboarding a freelancer from another country, however, adds a whole new layer of complexity to your company’s processes.
There’s a genuine need for technology that can provide insights and automation in the freelance economy, especially as it relates to collecting the right tax forms and adhering to the right employment laws. IdentityMind produces RegTech, a platform designed to help small and medium-sized businesses remain compliant. The company this past fall opened IdentityMind Global, a store where customers can purchase compliance technology and integrate it into their existing workflows.
Companies like IdentityMind understand the need for technology solutions that fill in compliance gaps. From onboarding to taxes to benefits, there’s a large chunk of the freelance economy that needs some serious attention. But what type of technology can help?
Managing the Freelance Economy.
Micha Kaufman, CEO and co-founder of Fiverr, believes the freelance ecosystem will become a viable solution for entrepreneurs who need assistance with a variety of tasks for their growing businesses.
“The more we can nurture the freelance economy, by recognizing some of the instability that comes with it, the stronger and more diverse New York’s (and the country’s) future businesses will be,” Kaufman wrote.
Before the freelance economy can flourish, though, business leaders need technology that can help them manage and support freelancers as well as they treat full-time employees. Here are three types of technology that companies can use today to get started:
1. Freelance Management Systems: Many companies still onboard freelancers either as if they’re traditional vendors or through processes originally designed for full-time employees. Neither method actually fits the needs of freelancers, which causes headaches for everyone involved. There are new approaches available to help, though.
A freelance management system (FMS) can help businesses manage freelancers, authenticate credentials, create a roster of workers, coordinate payroll and much more. More companies have adopted these platforms in the past five years to have a dedicated system of record for this growing workforce. An FMS can handle the day-to-day record keeping, allowing your freelance operations to scale without compliance concerns.
2. Human Resource Information Systems: Human resource information systems (HRIS) historically have not met the needs of freelance workers, though it’s not for lack of effort. While they work well for full-time workers and contractors, HRIS platforms are only beginning to adapt to this new way of working.
They aren’t perfect in terms of freelancer needs, but these systems finally are creating opportunities for freelancers to engage directly with the companies employing them. An HRIS can monitor and tend to the high-level freelancer HR issues that can potentially weigh a company down, and they will only continue to improve with time.
3. Communication Channels: Open communication channels give freelancers and full-time employees a chance to connect consistently. Improved communication opens the organization up to more collaboration, which ultimately helps teams complete projects more seamlessly.
Platforms like Slack make forging these connections much easier. My company uses the messaging platform, and the ability to create guest access for our freelancers has smoothed out numerous kinks in our workflow. Instead of waiting for in-house employees to grant them access to a document or scheduling a meeting via numerous emails, we can collaborate with freelancers in real time to ensure our projects go off without a hitch.
The freelance economy is going strong, but it’s not without its own issues. To ensure freelancers feel like a valued part of the team, companies must treat their freelance workers with the same due diligence and open communication as their full-time workers.
By laying this freelance foundation, employers can build a workforce that scales effectively (and efficiently) while providing workers with the support they deserve. Technology can be the gateway to such a reality — we just need to embrace its untapped potential.
Peter Johnston is the founder and CEO of Kalo, the only all-in-one software platform that streamlines onboarding, integrating and paying freelancers. Johnston previously served as a designer for Google, a role that exposed him to the challenges presented by freelancer management and, ultimately, inspired him to establish Kalo (formerly Lystable). Named to the Forbes’ “30 Under 30” and Debrett’s 500 lists, Johnston lives in San Francisco.