When Does a Full-Time Employee Make More Sense Than a Fractional Hire?

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By Dan Martin

If you’re an organization that needs to bring on expert help, you likely already know that hiring fractional talent offers many valuable benefits.

Fractional experts can join organizations quickly, onboard at high speed due to expertise and experience, and start making an impact almost immediately. Fractional hiring is also more targeted than hiring for full-time employees, because you’re hiring on a project basis. That means you’re able to bring on the right expert to solve a specific problem or problems, as opposed to trying to overcome every business challenge all at once. Last but not least, you get the very best talent without having to foot the bill for benefits or being on the hook for a salary long-term, which can save you quite a bit of money.

Like any type of organizational decision, however, bringing in fractional experts is not the right move in every situation. We asked our community of expert advisors to identify specific scenarios when a full-time employee could make more sense than a fractional hire.

Scenario 1: Organization Needs Support Above and Beyond a Project Basis

As one of our expert advisors noted, one way to identify this scenario is when your fractional expert’s hours are closer to 35-40 for a period spanning around 6 months. Even if you don’t use those numbers, you will know when you’re starting to move from a fractional engagement to something that more closely remembers full-time. From the perspective of the fractional expert, reaching this type of milestone represents a positive longer-term outcome of fractional work, as it means that the expert has brought the organization to a place where it can now sustain the work on a longer-term basis.

Many fractional experts prefer to work with a variety of different clients and would be ready to move on to a new client in this scenario. Others may be open to considering a full-time engagement with your organization.

Scenario 2: Organization Has Reached a Growth Tipping Point

When an organization reaches a certain stage of growth, needs often arise that only full-time employees can fill. This isn’t to say that the organization shouldn’t hire on any fractional experts; far from it. It simply means that there are likely to be both tactical and executive-level roles that the organization may wish to bring on instead of using fractional talent to fill those needs. As mentioned above, hiring for executive-level full-time roles could be partially based on the sheer number of hours needed to get the work done in specific functional areas. It could also be driven by the number of projects necessary for the resources to manage. For more tactical or mid-level roles, it could be an increase in the number of tasks that require constant interaction with customers or suppliers, the need to be available and/or tied into communications during business hours, or the need to manage other staff.

Similar to Scenario 1, Scenario 2 could also be a situation where your organization has worked with a fractional expert and reached the point where a full-time hire simply made more sense. As noted, organizations don’t outgrow all fractional expertise. They reach a point where both full-time and fractional experts should work hand-in-hand.

Scenario 3: Organization Only Needs Tactical and Operational Support

The primary difference between consultants and fractional experts is that, while all fractional work is consulting, not all consulting is fractional work.

Fractional experts actually provide a best of both worlds between consulting and freelancing in that they offer both strategy and tactical execution. Consultants, for the most part, offer the strategy piece through expert advice and guidance, but not the implementation. That’s what makes fractional experts so valuable. They give you the roadmap and then drive you at least part of the way there.

For organizations that are not in need of the strategic or expert-level portion of the equation, hiring fractional doesn’t make business sense. These resources come at a higher cost due to their expertise and experience, and the fact that they provide both strategy and execution. Freelancers or junior full-time employees are often more cost-effective if an organization is looking only for tactical support.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to bring the right fractional experts into your organization, contact Canopy Advisory Group today.

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