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How to make ‘quiet hiring' part of your employer brand

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Employer Branding, Brand Authenticity, Talent Attraction

A recent rise in contractor roles has gone somewhat under the radar, and while this so-called 'quiet hiring' is proving crucial for filling gaps, should you go further and make these freelancers part of your employer brand?...

In employer branding, we often talk about “employee experience” considering the whole employee lifecycle: from candidate to alumni, which also includes hiring, onboarding, growing and developing, and separating.

As we consider employer branding as the perfect mix between reputation and experience, we don’t tell companies only to create ground-breaking and super attractive external communications (to help talent audiences form a perception of them as employers). We also encourage organisations to deliver a memorable and exciting experience that matches their employee value proposition, throughout the whole employee lifecycle.

It need not stop at candidates and employees. Those companies that are mastering their employer brand efforts are also creating wonderful experiences for potential candidates and alumni.

But normally, contractors, freelancers or external consultants are not included in these initiatives. Which is surprising, considering how much those kinds of jobs have been growing, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic.

As people tasted the benefits of working from home, managing their own schedules and watching their kids grow, remote work became a basic demand for employees. Whoever owns and can use a computer can work from anywhere, at a time most convenient for them. And the information on how to do this is out there: there are thousands of TikToks and Instagram reels where people talk about their favourite online portal to get remote jobs and make interesting money for very little effort. 

Previously, companies weren’t interested on adding contractors or freelancers to their employer branding initiatives because they didn’t need them. But in this new context, with many organisations having to lay off employees, but still needing new skills and capabilities to ensure growth and revenue, companies are looking at freelancers and contractors as a viable option.

This so-called “quiet hiring” is becoming a strong trend especially in the tech industry. While in January 2021 contracting roles of paid tech listings on LinkedIn were 5.7%, by October 2022 those roles had more than tripled into 19.9%.

It can also mean reassigning current employees to different positions or asking them to take on additional responsibilities to fill a gap.

In the case of hiring contractors, however, the benefit for companies is that they can cost less than full-time employees and can be booked for a specific project or timeframe without having to retain them once it is over. But bearing in mind that freelancers and contractors have a greater choice about where to work, it’s important to not take them for granted. You still need to ask the question - why would a contractor/freelancer will choose to work for you? What’s in it for them? And how are you going to deliver the best experience possible to them?

Here are some tips for you.

Build a sense of belonging

As usual, it is very important to feel like you belong to a workplace to give your best. But of course, it is tricky to create a sense of belonging with people who don’t actually belong to the organisation. What we need here is a change of mindset: freelancers and contractors do belong to the organisation, maybe not for the long term, but they are part of it. Invite them to all the relevant meetings that you can: all hands, internal parties, after offices and team buildings, for example. Send them company swag when they start to work for you. Include them in the onboarding process. Create moments in which they can share and have fun with current employees. In short, make them feel part of the company. 

Share some benefits

Maybe there are some benefits that you are offering in your organisation that are easy to share with freelancers. A gym membership, a book allowance, access to internal online courses or some discounts with nearby stores. It is an easy way to show appreciation and make freelancers and contractors feel welcome at your company. Also, at the moment, almost no companies are giving freelancers this kind of treatment. So, this is an opportunity for you to stand out.

Create a unique goodbye experience

Freelancers and contractors know their time working for a company will eventually come to an end. But this doesn’t have to be an impersonal moment. Invite them for lunch, give them proper and thoughtful feedback, maybe even a nice goodbye present. If you are thinking about hiring them again, you can even discuss the possibilities of taking new assignments in the future by asking them about their availability and interests. 

Recommend them

After the assignment is done, freelancers and contractors will always appreciate a nice recommendation. Could be a letter that they can send to their next employer or a LinkedIn recommendation. Either will give them a nice confidence boost for the future, and a wonderful memory of your company as a temporary employer. 

Don’t close the door

Freelancers and contractors that have worked with your company already know some of the processes, the internal culture, the people and the tasks to be done. And if the overall experience was positive, they should be happy to continue working with you. They might even be ideal candidates when you are ready to hire full time employees again. Send their profiles to your recruiters and make sure they are kept on file as valuable candidates when the moment comes.

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