Seven Steps To Building Your Global Liquid Workforce

Companies are increasingly turning to the liquid workforce as part of their overall talent strategy. This talent is not only supporting short-term needs but also providing strategic support with knowledge workers serving as on-demand advisers to executive teams and corporate boards. But how do you develop a robust and reliable freelance talent pool that can become a strategic asset to help your company quickly pivot and scale where needed?

1. Start by identifying your talent needs.

Always start with your strategic priorities. Consider each and ask whether the priority could be accelerated by engaging the liquid workforce. Do you have talent gaps? Could a blended workforce fill these gaps? What are your near term needs and how could on-demand workers help?

The answers to these questions will help you identify where best to engage the liquid workforce and what skill sets and experiences you will need to look for when considering 1099 workers.

2. Source your global liquid talent.

There are many ways you can find liquid talent, including through one of the many freelance workforce marketplaces that provide access to workers around the globe. In my experience, the best freelancers and consultants that I’ve worked with have come through referrals. Ask your network for referrals, making sure to share details about the kind of skills and experiences you need. Your existing global workforce is also a great source for referrals to freelancers.

3. Build an onboarding process with ease and efficiency in mind.

First impressions have a big impact. Creating a standard onboarding experience for all your liquid talent not only helps your company save time (and reduce potential compliance risks) but also improves the experience for freelancers. The initial onboarding experience says a lot about what your company is like to work with. For example, you can make onboarding easy and efficient with automation. Using an electronic, automated process can significantly streamline the process for you and the freelancer, saving both of you time and effort. Ensure that liquid workers feel welcome throughout the process, not like they are jumping through a series of hoops to begin work.

4. Establish best practices for your hiring managers.

Working with the global, liquid workforce is a new form of people management, and your hiring managers need training to successfully manage freelance and on-demand talent. Their goal should be to build a relationship with the freelancer, not just oversee the churning out of a project. Sharing best practices for managing freelancers will increase the likelihood that this talent will want to work with your company in the future.

5. Build an internal talent database.

Managing liquid talent is similar in some ways to managing employee talent. Develop an internal talent database where you capture all the information related to your workers. What are their skills and experiences? How are their communication skills? What areas or functions are they best suited to support? What projects have they worked on? How were those projects rated? Capturing and tracking this information makes it easy to identify the right talent within your talent database for any given project.

6. Create a positive work environment.

Like your W-2 workforce, the global, liquid workforce also wants to work in a positive environment where their work is valued. Don’t forget this is a mutual selection process — the talent also needs to choose to work with you — both initially and for any future projects. Lead with mindfulness, be aware of time zones and cultural differences and get to know your on-demand workers as people. In my experience, I’ve found that this helps freelancers feel less like task robots and more like valued team members.

Consultants and freelancers seek opportunities to learn and continue to build skills in an environment with reasonable processes and procedures. To retain talent for future engagements, make sure to always compensate fairly and make payments on time.

7. Structure a performance management system.

Providing feedback to your liquid workers throughout and at the end of a project is essential to building a successful and ongoing partnership. Gather performance feedback from anyone who worked with an individual freelancer. Incorporate these responses and share them as a performance review with the freelancer. Keep track of the performance reviews in your database and include notes on working style or other factors that will help for partnering on future projects.

The future of work is here (it’s more than just remote work) and it’s time to strategically engage the liquid workforce as part of your company’s talent strategy. These tips can help you continue to grow and build it into a strategic asset for your company.

This article was originally published in Forbes.

Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.

FlexTeam  is  a mission-based micro-consulting firm, co-founded by Yolanda Lau in 2015, that matches talented mid-career women with meaningful, challenging, temporally flexible, remote project-based work opportunities. FlexTeam’s clients are businesses of all sizes across all industries and sectors. FlexTeam’s most requested projects are competitor / market research, financial models, and investor decks. FlexTeam is also the team behind Liquid.