Not too long ago, this question wouldn’t be on your radar. Of course you wouldn’t provide training to contractors. They would simply be expected to have the skills required to execute the tasks you hired them to complete, or you would move on to someone who did. Any money and resources spent on training would be reserved for your employees where you would enjoy the fruits of those efforts in the future.
Now things have changed. We’re in the midst of a gig economy that only seems to be growing. This means the number of businesses using contractors and other temporary employers is increasing. It also means that there is a shift in the relationships between business and gig workers.
In the past, a company choosing to exclude contractors from their training efforts might be dealing with a handful of temps working on a couple of products. Today, there are businesses who rely on contractors to complete a significant amount of their work, much of it mission critical. All of this makes the subject at hand a bit more complex. Here are some things to consider before deciding whether or not to provide training to contractors and other gig workers.
Consider Return on Investment
If this is your primary consideration, you aren’t alone. It costs to train people. When you think of providing training to a contractor, it’s not surprising that you might visualize that investment walking out the door to take those skills to their next gig. There’s also the concern that training efforts will take too long. In the meantime, contractors may be receiving compensation without truly benefiting the company.
Still, the solution may not be in eschewing training for temporary workers altogether. It might be in identifying training pathways that help businesses get the most out of them. This might include training that familiarizes these workers with a company’s branding, use of proprietary tools and methods, developing product knowledge, and other training efforts that can lead to an immediate improvement in the contractor’s ability to become productive and are best able to meet your expectations.
The Benefits of Providing Training
In addition to ensuring that temporary employees understanding your branding and are prepared to work productively quickly, there are other benefits. First, in some cases regulations simply require it. If your business is in a regulated industry, you may have to provide specific training to remain in compliance.
Even when training isn’t mandated, a well-trained gig worker is more likely to be able to do the work required of them without constant direction and teaching. The money invested in a brief training program for contractors may be more than recouped when you consider the time and efforts that may be invested in providing guidance and correcting mistakes. Ensuring that your contract workers are as capable and prepared to work accurately and productively can also result in less workplace friction and divisiveness between contractors and employees. This can lead to a more productive and cohesive workplace.
The Use of Training as Part of Compensation or Portable Benefits Packages
According to Ethan West, Operations Manager at MyJobQuote, “Today, nearly every sector of the economy uses and benefits from the services of contract workers. The idea that these workers should be excluded from the benefits of training programs makes no more sense than excluding them from other benefits. Having well-trained, skilled workers is something that society benefits from. This is an issue that goes beyond the business to contractor relationship.”
West isn’t alone in his thoughts, France is considering an initiative that would enable both contractors and employers to independently build up credits to be used towards work related training. Each individual would have a personal activity account that would bank hours that could be used by funding. The initiative would be funded by employers via a levy.
If this works, businesses will find it easier to connect with and hire contractors who have the training and skills they require. This also provides protections for freelancers as well. Their ability to access these benefits is no longer dependent on them having a relationship with a particular business or employer.
What About Businesses That Rely Entirely on Contract Employees?
For an increasing number of businesses the concern isn’t whether or not they should train contractors vs. employees. Instead, these businesses have or are moving towards having, workforces that consist nearly entirely of contract employees. Here the question isn’t whether or not to provide training, it’s how to best manage and deliver that training.
In many cases, this means identifying and adopting learning management systems and self directed training programs that are a good fit for independent workers, especially those who may be distributed without the ability to come to a centralized location for training. Keeping remote workers engaged in the training process is more of a priority now.
As businesses select learning management systems, they may find themselves needing to consider the training needs of contractors in addition to their employees. This will mean considering LMS options that work well for freelancers.
As the gig economy grows, businesses don’t just have to consider whether or not to provide training to contractors. They also have to figure out the best way to deliver that training. Then, there’s the elephant in the room to be addressed, should training be considered a benefit similar to healthcare in many nations and fully portable. The information above should help business owners decide on their approach to providing training to gig workers.
Independant inbound marketing consultant with 5+ years in the industry, including coaching and developing e-learning courses. Bylines at the Huffington Post, Tech Cocktail, Hackerspace by Lifehacker among others.