Fractional Employment: A New Model for Gig Work

I’ve been writing about – and making a living – doing gig work for over a decade, but I’m still learning about ways companies and skilled gig workers can collaborate. I’d never heard the term “fractional employee” until I came upon it in a great article by Scion Executive Search. The post positions fractional employment as a way to retain talent y allowing the worker to spread his/her time among several employers or divisions.

They define fractional employment as “an emerging employment model in which an employee is hired for a fraction of the 40-hour work week. Similar to a contractor or freelancer, a fractional employee spends a specific amount of time each week with an employer or multiple employers, offering a portion of their time and expertise.”

Fractional employees don’t do project-based work; they may be working in the same way as a full-time employee, but choosing their own hours and schedule. They’re also often under long-term contracts, so fractional employment offers steady hours and security for these self-employed gig workers.

They differ from contractors in that contractors usually have an agreement for a project with a definite duration and specific deliverables. Freelancers work in much the same way, although they almost always have multiple clients; a contractor might just take on one at a time.

Employers can benefit from offering a fractional option for highly skilled or specialized workers.  The part time schedule means they may be able to hire talent that they couldn’t afford full time.  Because fractional employees work regularly with the staff, they develop relationships that may enhance their employment satisfaction and make them more effective in their role.

The U.S. Chamber says, “The retainer-style nature of fractional hiring allows the expert to become more familiar with your organization over time, investing more time and attention to your business than a freelancer who would only care about completing the scope of work.”

Fractional employment makes it possible to fill in gaps in specialized skills and leadership teams. Organizations can even hire fractional executives, professionals who may still want to contribute but not work full time. It’s a great alternative for workers who are ready to step down the pace of their careers but not yet ready to retire.

The U.S. Chamber endorses fractional hiring as a strategy for many organizations.  “Fractional hiring is a great strategy for executive roles. The CFO is one of the most common types of positions for which fractional hiring works well. Some companies also hire for positions like chief operations officer or chief marketing officer, rather than outsourcing to a third party or trying to race to fill a full-time position under pressure.”

For years, workers with executive experience or expert skills didn’t have options for part-time or temporary work. Fractional employment gives them the opportunity to extend their earning potential  and keep their skills sharp.  It may also be a way to ease the labor shortage that three quarters of U.S. hiring managers report has hampered their ability of to find experienced talent.

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