Back in 2019, when I first wrote about the concept of the Chief Freelance Officer - a new role within organisations, a few of the comments suggested that this role simply falls under HR/Talent/People functions.
I’d argue it doesn’t, it shouldn’t, and it can’t.
The role of a Chief Freelance Officer is to ensure external talent is effectively nurtured, found, on-boarded, integrated, managed and supported, invested in wisely, used effectively, and shift mindsets about dynamic and temporary teams.
This is not only a people function.
One: It’s a finance function.
How much money are you spending on your partners, and is that money being turned back into positive ROI for the business? What is the impact of tax legislation around IR35? How can we make sure we’re paying on-time? These require specialist financial consideration.
Two: It’s a project management function.
The freelancer needs to be briefed on the details of the job, shown how to communicate and capture their time, navigate the complexity of interdependencies; and be supported to deliver work on time.
Three: It’s a team leader function.
Understanding how good teams function, how to lead and support, how to create relationships between people, how to listen and be present, how to get the best out of your people, these are the hallmarks of a good leader.
Four: It’s an L&D function.
Ensuring that the talent you have access to is able to stay ahead of the capabilities you require, ensuring that they’re able to deliver new skills, that they’re aware of the new tools and approaches, that they can deliver to the quality you expect falls under a different discipline again.
Five: It’s a legal function.
There’s a different set of contracts, legislation, rules and compliance that needs to be upheld when working with external talent, even the simple invitation for someone to come and work on site with you needs consideration and legal diligence.
Six: It’s an technology function.
Connecting up the ability for internal, external, on-site, remote and ad-hoc members of your team to collaborate with security and ease requires different thinking, and rapid responses to changing needs.
Seven: It’s a marketing function.
Attracting temporary talent takes brand building, awareness in the marketplace, management of your reputation and reviews, and getting people excited about the projects you’re working on, and getting the briefs out there for people to apply.
Eight: It’s an organisational design function.
Spinning up teams which combine internal and external people, often at pace, requires a different approach to internal communications, on-boarding, performance review, feedback - team design and operations.
Nine: it's a quality of work function.
Responsibility for work done, and the quality to which it is done - especially done by those who are not inside your direct control, and, many times are an unknown quotient.
Ten: it's a strategy function.
Shifting towards new models of work requires thinking strategically about where and how different approaches to work can and should be applied, about how it affects you relationships with your staff and your customers, and needs careful consideration surrounding sustainability of your business's outputs, when you don't directly manage its inputs.
Eleven: It's an innovation function.
There are few established models for rapidly setting up new teams of diverse individuals, and running them effectively. This is new territory for many, so hoping that old models will be effective, or worse simply ignoring the challenge - will not lead to positive outcomes. Trying new approaches, new tools and techniques, being open to testing and innovating in how your teams work together is essential.
Twelve: it's a pastoral function.
Ultimately, someone has to care about this - and feel it's an important thing to do, not only commercially, creatively, qualitatively, effectively but from a human perspective. Care about the experience of everyone you work with, regardless of contract.
In reality it's a horizontal role which touches upon many disciplines - and requires engagement from many different departments and specialisms. Modern roles are increasingly horizontal - spanning different types of conversations, requiring skills to engage with a variety of challenges.
Yes, it takes a village - but it also takes an individual to stand up and say "we need to do something here to bring the village together, to welcome and work with our visitors".
I'm not suggesting this doesn't have it's feet firmly in people and talent functions, I absolutely believe that the best talent teams have their peoples' best at heart - what I am saying is, regardless of who and where the individual sits, someone needs to coordinate the efforts to get the most from and give the best to the people you work with and rely upon; and regardless of what level, what function, what team, what job title, whether it’s a full-time role or part of someone’s broader role - it is a missing part of many modern businesses.
I believe companies have a commercial, legal, qualitative and ethical imperative to actively design how they engage with their entire workforce, not just those who are under a traditional contract, and we will all benefit from working better together with others.