Culture is a nebulous thing. Rather than a set of do’s and dont’s, it is an unspoken code that employees understand and relate to. It is the character and personality of an organisation, shaping the employees who work there, and being shaped in turn by them. Difficult to pin down, isn’t it?

Add to this another element of the unknown—a freelance remote worker— and it seems that most companies simply accept that a freelancer can never meld with their company’s culture. As a result, most companies tend to treat freelancers with a degree of professionalism and courtesy that is almost impersonal. While this may help get the job done, winning the loyalty of a freelancer is akin to winning the loyalty of a full-time worker—they perform better, retention rates will be higher and freelancer attrition rates lesser.

If you have a remote team, here are a few ways to build camaraderie and acquaint them with your company culture:

Onboard your freelancers

While most companies have a process in place to onboard full-time employees, they dispense with this practice for freelancers. Give freelancers a bird’s eye view of your company and its culture. Convey the personality of your company and let them know what the company values. Communicating your long-term visions and goals help remote workers feel part of a team that is working together to achieve something larger than themselves.

Schedule online meetings

It’s always great to put a face to the person you’re working with. Whenever feasible, schedule video meetings to discuss the project. Introduce members of the team that the freelancer is likely to work with via video. You could even ‘show them around the office.’ This gives your company an identity in the freelancer’s mind and builds a sense of loyalty and solidarity with your company. It will also reflect in the enthusiasm with which they approach your projects.

Keep communication lines open

Let your freelancers know if there are important events happening at your office. Perhaps you are moving buildings or you’re refurbishing the office space. While the event in itself may make no difference to your remote workers, keeping them in the loop helps them feel valued.

Include them in the brainstorming process

Most freelancers are brought on board after decisions have been taken. This approach could work with a new freelancer that you’re engaging. However, if there are regular freelancers that you work with, include them in the ideation process. Many freelancers report that they miss the excitement of bouncing off ideas with team mates. You could also invite to contribute towards regular group meetings. Technologies today support remote working and there are several group meeting tools that allow freelancers to network with the core team and with one another. Besides building rapport, this would bring forth valuable perspectives from specialists in various fields.

Appreciate them for good work

Most freelancers lack a feedback mechanism that indicates how they’re progressing in their careers. There are no appraisals and promotions to recognise efforts. While companies provide year-on-year increments—a freelancer cannot demand this from a client with whom he/she has an ongoing relationship. Take the first step and provide financial incentives if you really expect the freelancer to continue onboard. Not only will this ensure that they prioritise your project over others, but they’ll feel a sense of loyalty that will be no less than that of your full-timer.

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