How to maintain your company brand when your staff is self-employed

With disruptive working practices evolving the workplace faster than ever before, self-employment is on the rise: but if your workforce isn't on your payroll how can you ensure your brand stays strong? AJ Forsythe of iCracked advises.

With disruptive working practices evolving the workplace faster than ever before, self-employment is on the rise: but if your workforce isn’t on your payroll how can you ensure your brand stays strong?

The sharing economy brings numerous benefits for staff in that they can be their own boss, work as little or as often as they like and work around their own schedules.

However, despite the numerous benefits, the fact that your staff is self-employed can be challenging for your brand identity. It’s important to provide staff with the right tools and materials to empower them to be advocates of your brand. In addition, it’s vital to inspire them to want to be brand advocates and create a working environment that encourages collaboration, loyalty and job satisfaction.

Choose your team carefully

In a service-based business, it’s all about the people.   Be clear about what kind of people you need – with yourself, with your team, with applicants. Vetting, approving, training and deploying people is resource-intensive. Use those resources wisely and be doubly – triply – sure that the people delivering your service are going to do a great job every time.  At iCracked we accept only about 5% of iTech applicants. We could grow faster but we choose to grow better.

>See also: Turn your company’s coffee culture into a revenue stream

Set up a mutually beneficial system

The majority of companies who exist in the sharing economy generate revenue (and criticism) by taking a commission from the work of their independent contractors. In turn, this creates friction between the two parties and the relationship is harder to maintain. It’s vital to put faith and trust into staff and to make sure that their hard work is compensated with the full value of the work they complete.

Give them a direct line to resources and employees at HQ

Your independent contractors are the ones who are the true brand ambassadors, and have the most interaction with customers so take advantage of this. When recruiting new staff, provide them with marketing courses, business cards, marketing collateral and design work on top of the official training and tools. To help all independent contractors thrive as individual businesses, they need to feel supported by HQ.

Focus on community building

Competition will exist when you have a network of technicians who are skilled at the same trade and overlap in some of their local areas. Many companies in the sharing economy face this, and many do nothing about it. Use social networks like Yammer as well as hosting regular meet-ups for employees so they can engage with each other. This will lead them to pool their knowledge and learn from each other. It’s important to have yearly summits that bring all employees together for a session of knowledge sharing and community building.

Keep open lines of communication

When you power a network independent contractors, it is crucially important to make sure there are open lines of communication with HQ. Set up dedicated regional managers that networks of independent contractors in different areas can report back to. Encourage feedback from all employees and funnel it to the relevant department so they can make a positive change. Don’t just listen to feedback, take action and make things right.

Related: How to make the most of the home office

Empower your network

Your network of contractors relies on your corporate staff for certain resources, but empower them to go out and truly market themselves as small business owners. In the long run it’s beneficial to your brand if your contractors are seen as personally skilled technicians, not just an extension of your brand. It’s also important to promote a work life balance that works for each member of the team.

Living the Brand Means Doing the Work

In the start-up world, work is life and life is work – and internalising the brand often comes from the 24×7 experience we share with co-workers.  Being part of a geographically dispersed team – and one in which a few people are full-time employees and most are not – shakes up that standard.  But a shared experience is still key. At iCracked, we recently started requiring every new employee at HQ to fix a broken smartphone before they receive their laptop. It’s proving a great way for our centralised team to quickly get what our de-centralised global business is all about – and truly appreciate the work our iTechs do each day.

Brand-building is a long game. But the rules are changing – accelerated by the fact that we increasingly live in a world of truly dispersed workforces.  Putting that power – and trust – in the hands of extended team members who work for themselves can be daunting.   Seeing what they do with it – when done right – is inspiring.

AJ Forsythe is founder and CEO of iCracked.

Further reading: The importance of cyber security for SMEs

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