Questions About Managing and Training Freelancers or Employees?
What’s the Best Way to Manage and Train Freelancers or Employees?
Hint: Start With A Deep Dive on Why Your Company Exists!
Somebody recently asked me for advice for a startup regarding freelancer and employee training and management.
I took a look at their company page and it appeared to me that they specialized in sales, although the word “marketing” comes up in the company profile as well. A lot of companies and even entire industries (Such as MLM dominated industries) make the mistake of confusing “Marketing with “Sales.”
Marketing is NOT the Same as Sales
First, in composing an answer, I digressed. I started by saying I have been a CEO, a Manager, a Task Team Leader, and a Serial Entrepreneur as well as a Salesperson. At heart, I am a “Marketing Man” who has worked in and had success in management and in sales. But I much prefer working in the deeper practice of the actual discipline of “Marketing” – which means something different to me than it means to organizations focused on Personal Selling, Relationship Building, or Networking and Rapport Building as their primary drivers for acquiring clients or sales.
I am a solopreneur at present, with clients seeing me more or less as an SEO guy or webmaster working in digital marketing as a freelancer or consultant, working from a foundation of marketing skills. I shared that I don’t manage other freelancers so don’t have much to say from a management perspective about managing freelancers. But I do have strong direct employee development and management experience in sectors like manufacturing, personal service, and creative services.
In order to answer any questions about management, I first need to lay out a foundational understanding of “Marketing” as a philosophy and practice that addresses a company’s entire “raison d’etre” or purpose of being. All sustainable businesses require incorporation of these practices
The practice of “Marketing” is understanding and acting on the realizations that the purpose for a company to exist is to satisfy customers’ needs while making a profit. Thus, “Marketing” is the driving force to govern all organizational activities and processes – top to bottom, including management of freelancers, employees, and training programs as well as production and service after the sale.
Personal Selling is PART of Marketing
Overall, Personal Selling is only one part of “Marketing.” Marketing is best thought of as a values-driven practice of determining customer’s felt needs and then meeting them using the “5 P’s” of marketing. You may have learned “4 P’s” as Product, Place, Price, and Promotion. Newer models add the all important “People” consideration.
The Goal of Marketing is to
• Find out what the market wants that is not presently available
• Then make desirable products and services to meet those needs
• Fine tune your market segmentation to make sure you can reach out to prospects who actually have Desire and Need for Action (DNA)
• Then select communication channels and strategies to share messages about your value proposition and invite engagement
• Employ brand building and engagement tactics based on creating Attention, Interest, Desire and Action (AIDA)
• Craft and present an offer that is appealing, including offering a price that encourages value exchange and customer loyalty. They get a need met or problem solved, you get their money, and everybody lives happily ever after!
So What Is Marketing?
Marketing starts with determining market needs, establishing strategies governing new product or service development to meet those needs, then determining branding, value proposition, messaging, channel usage, channel segmentation, relationship-building strategies and tactics, pricing and distribution – as part of overall organizational performance. Marketing starts before the sales process, creates strategies and collateral to support that process, manages that process, and extends through order taking, delivery, follow up, and customer service.
Now We Can Talk About Managing and Training
Only now can we get back to the question of managing and training. I would say managing by objectives is a great approach. This means supervisor and employee develop short and long term goals together, with as much of this as possible coming from the employee having been led to water so that there is ownership on part of the employee.
Then the manager empowers the employee with authority or tools or both, to accomplish the short term goals. Weekly one on one 360 degree meetings are held to review what’s working, what’s not, and what could be better. Discussions center on progress, accomplishments, obstacles, and opportunities – followed by short term goal setting by the employee – with the manager’s help. Agreement is then reached about the date, time, and agenda for the next meeting. In all of this, I highly recommend Kanban, Agile or SCRUM style project management because it works better to allow faster time to market than traditional waterfall methods.
Hire Talent, Train Skills
All of this starts with recruiting – which is a whole other topic that can be summed up in the saying, “Hire Talent, Train Skills.” This is because most successful companies accomplish more sales from products created in the last 5 years than from older products. This means that whatever skills serve well today may be obsolete in 5 years – but raw talent (for learning and execution) is always useful. Anyway, once hiring is done correctly, we need to proceed to “Onboarding.”
Onboarding Is Crucial
These days, “Onboarding” is widely recognized as one of the most crucial stages of engaging and training a new hire as to the company history, values, mission, department relationships, and preferred communication methods and styles. Of course it is also the best time to provide educational training about products, and services. In larger businesses, much of the basic onboarding is usually done by an HR department or even an employee manual… But for most small businesses, especially startups, I think it should be done by the CEO. The CEO’s vision can be directly communicated this way rather than watered-down via assignment of training to subordinates. Alternatively, the employee’s direct supervisor can do the onboarding training. Either way, establishing collaborative relationships with clearly defined lanes or roles is the best pattern. Following onboarding, skills training is crucial. Again, every company should focus on hiring talent and training skills because skillsets needed will change over time but raw talent is useful always.
Don’t Reinvent The Wheel ~ Provide Best in Class Training
Putting it all together now… After imparting a vision of the company’s purpose for being, there is no need to “re-invent the wheel” when it comes to skills training. Rather than do it in house, I would recommend using a service like Linkedin Learning or Coursera where management selects the courses and establishes timelines for completion.
This then is my long answer to a short question: what advice do you have for a startup regarding freelancer and employee management and training?
First, make sure you are doing something unique that is in demand. Then hire people who will buy into your vision. Finally, do it well. Then rinse, wash, repeat!