In today’s day and age, change is the only constant. With this change comes a need to adapt to our internal and external environments, challenge existing strategies, take educated risks and reassess our workforce needs. One of the human assets that exist in the workforce around the country is the 1099 contractor/freelancer, the ‘non-benefit eligible employee.’ According to the U.S. Census; one of the fastest growing classes of professionals in the United States is the contractor/freelancer — the non-benefit eligible employee, and many companies rely heavily on this type of team member to add value to their culture and strengthen their workforce (i.e. UBER, FedEx, etc.). These team members support the changes we need to make to remain competitive in our respective industries.

I think most of us know what it means to get up and work hard every day knowing that if we meet our goals and accomplish something special we are likely to achieve something meaningful. Naturally, we all want to feel appreciated for doing this. If you have never been the individual working alongside a company, making things happen, and yet not a team member that receives all of the company benefits and other perks that come along with full-time, W-2 employee status, this may be hard to relate to. Nevertheless, let’s reveal some of the reasons these professionals choose this career path and what we can do to support them, make them feel more welcome in our company culture and help strengthen our own company in the process.

Also see: "Controversial NLRB ruling could reshape widely used business models."

More than 35% of the U.S. workforce are 1099’s and freelancers, according to Census.gov. These professionals mostly fall outside of the labor laws that would otherwise require companies to offer benefits and other perks to join the company as an ‘employee’… so why do they do it? Well, I can tell you from personal experience that flexibility and autonomy are often big reasons. The freedom they have certainly comes with tradeoffs, such as an increased responsibility to manage their own equipment, resources and tools to perform their job. Furthermore; some of these professionals simply like to have more control over how they are compensated, for instance, by cash or on contract terms.

Sometimes it’s the serial entrepreneur who finds themselves looking for these types of working arrangements so they can build their practice and another business they used to consider only a hobby or to develop supplemental income. In any case; you employ these professionals because you have a business need and they have the core competencies to get the job done. These contractors often work closely with your full time employees and sometimes feel a part of the team, but in most cases the company culture doesn’t support these employees in the same manner as its full time employees, and this can create problems, or opportunities. Excluding contractors can alienate and put-off these important team members, and a focus on inclusion, even in small meaningful way, can be the difference. Here are a few things companies are doing to mitigate these problems/opportunities to increase inclusion while avoiding any unnecessary negative employment ramifications.

Solutions

Many companies are beginning to look for solutions to help add value to the independent contractor without increasing their costs and liability. For instance; one of our corporate clients has more than 1,000 independent contractors who work in different states around the country. These contractors make up more than 50% of their workforce and are very important to them, but they do not directly offer health benefits, other retirement compensation or direct support. We deliver a way for our clients to offer these team members access to something they wouldn’t get unless they worked as a full-time employee elsewhere: individual health and wellness benefits in whatever state they reside; at little or no cost to the employer. This increases retention and strengthens the relationship between the employer and independent contractor, and of course strengthens the company culture. Other companies are simply offering more passive resources on their intranet sites to help the contractors feel more included. Whether your company actively or passively addresses this opportunity, everyone will stand to benefit from its implementation. Don’t forget that all your team members want to feel included.

Hanner is cofounder & COO of Benifit LLC, a health and wellness platform for individuals and communities looking to improve their health through better behavior and personal health insurance options around the U.S.

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