Just a few years ago, before the pandemic turned so many of us into remote workers, it was presumed that all high-level executive positions must be full-time, in-office jobs. These days are long gone.
In today’s rapidly evolving employment market, many companies have found that fractional employees are a cost-effective way to bring in talent without increasing overhead, especially top-level leadership talent.
What Are Fractional Employees?
Fractional employees are professionals who work for companies on an as-needed basis: full-time for a limited period, part-time on an ongoing basis, or some combination.
While there will always be a few top-level jobs that require a full-time position, many businesses have discovered that a broad range of executive positions can be filled using the fractional model in a way that improves operations without disrupting teamwork.
Fractional vs. FTE
When the 2020 shutdown compelled executives to work outside the office, many C-suite professionals discovered the appeal of alternative working arrangements. The pandemic also forced companies to begin thinking outside the box, devising ways to maintain productivity in a more cost-effective way.
Filling C-suite positions can be an expensive, time-consuming, and high-risk endeavor. Hiring fractional executives to serve in consultant-type positions can be more cost-effective with less strings attached compared to full-time employees, and fractional executives can be brought in exclusively for a one-time project or initiative.
Gertsburg Licata’s Talent Acquisition attorneys assist companies of all sizes in filling fractional executive positions. Our firm has located a wide range of professionals looking for this type of work, from high-level executives to startup executives who recently left their positions and want to take some time before jumping into another high-intensity industry.
Because they work fewer hours than traditional W-2 employees, your business saves on the cost of benefits, taxes, and other expenses associated with full-time employees.
Most Common Positions for Fractional Executives
Chief Technology Officer
IT experts will tell you that very few startups and small- to mid-range companies need a full-time CTO. Too often, a CTO brought in to help plan strategy ends up spending most of their time developing software and supervising other developers.
The special skills needed to envision and develop strategy differ from those needed to lead and manage a team of developers. It’s not realistic to find both skill sets in one person. A company that thinks it needs a CTO would be wise to consider hiring two fractional executives: one to help with strategic planning and one to lead the developers. The latter could be given a different title, such as Vice President of Engineering.
Another instance where a fractional CTO can be useful is when a company already employs a fairly young or new employee who clearly has the potential to grow into the CTO position but lacks key skills. An experienced fractional CTO can bridge the gap while the other person gets up to speed. If that person doesn’t work out, a fractional CTO will allow the company time to find the best possible candidate instead of rushing into hiring a less-than-ideal candidate because of the urgent need to fill the position.
Chief Marketing Officer
During economic downturns, marketing staffs are often the first to be laid off–companies tend to consider those costs to be optional. But given the omnipresence of digital marketing in today’s media environment, with social media constantly pulling at consumer attention, every business, no matter how niche, needs an online presence targeted at its customer base. This is often the case with small, growing, and mid-sized companies.
Alternatively, a company may feel its marketing has grown stale and unimaginative. A fractional CMO with a track record of previous success can bring a much-needed outside perspective and fresh ideas.
As with CTOs, hiring from within is not always the smart thing to do. A good manager with a special knack for keeping the marketing department happy and productive will not necessarily have the vision and experience that your marketing department needs.
Too many business owners believe they don’t need an HR person until they hire 50 or more employees. But by the time a company has grown that big, there’s a lot of catching up to do in terms of implementing best practices in office policies–and by that time, ordering employees to modify standard operating procedures can generate discontent and lower employee morale.
But hiring a top-notch full-time HR person may be too expensive for a startup with 20 to 45 employees. Here’s where a fractional HR executive can prove cost-effective by working only enough hours a month to take care of the needs of a small but growing company.
Another problem with hiring a full-time HR person is that it can be tough to find one person who is at the top of the game in terms of all the different skills required. By hiring fractional HR executives, the company can hire one person with experience developing employee handbooks, another who is good at recruiting, and so on.
Cyclical Fractional Executives
In the same way that retail stores hire extra employees during the holiday season, many businesses have cyclical hiring needs for handling tasks that are labor intensive, but only for limited periods—when planning an annual conference, for example.
Reserving one or more fractional executives months in advance of a busy cycle provides security that the best person for the job will be available when they’re needed. It also provides economic security for the fractional executive, who can build that anticipated income into their budget.