A young woman stands in front of a table in a brick-walled office space with a large floor-to-ceiling window at her back. She talks and gestures with her hands. Around the table sit three of the woman's colleagues, who look up at her in interest.
Fractional hiring can be used to fill positions throughout your business's hierarchy. Even a senior executive can be a fractional hire. — Getty Images/fizkes

Fractional hiring refers to the practice of hiring an employee for a “fraction” of the time a normal employee would work. This hiring method is similar to hiring a contractor, with the key difference being that fractional hiring is not project-based. Fractional hires lend their expertise on an ongoing basis to help the business achieve its goals.

As such, some positions are better suited for fractional hiring than others. Here are some examples of the best positions for which to employ fractional hiring at your business.

Senior executive positions: CMO, COO or CFO

Fractional hiring is often used by startups to bring on experienced experts who will take a great idea and turn it into a fantastic business. Often, the founder of a startup is someone with specific knowledge: a software developer or engineer, for instance. This person may have a wealth of technical experience, but less business acumen.

Fractional hiring enables this founder to bring on a partner to fill in a skill gap. Because fractional hiring is not project-based, it’s a good strategy for bringing in an executive who can apply their expertise to help the company reach a new funding stage, launch a product, or recruit early investors.

Common senior executive positions for which fractional hiring is used include the chief marketing officer (CMO), the chief operations officer (COO) or the chief financial officer (CFO). Rather than outsourcing marketing to a third-party agency, for instance, bring on a CMO who can offer extensive expertise at a fraction of the cost.

Technical advisors

Fractional hiring originated in the academic world, where professors frequently wear many hats and divide their time between teaching, consulting, research and media appearances. The same model works for other technical advisors. If your company is developing a new product line, hoping to boost public relations or seeking long-term web support, a technical advisor or fractional consultant might make sense.

Fractional hiring can help you fill a role while you search for the right full-time employee, or give you a chance to work with someone before extending a full-time offer.

Fractional hires typically work more hours than a freelancer, spending two days a week with one company, two days a week at another, etc. Many fractional hiring contracts extend up to six months on a retainer basis, meaning that person will be available to oversee day-to-day responsibilities on a regular cadence. And because this person likely works at different companies simultaneously, they will be up-to-date with the latest research and market trends.

For interim help

Some companies choose to hire fractional employees while overseeing a long-term executive search or to fill a temporary skill gap. Recruiting and hiring is a big expense for many organizations, and the cost of making a wrong hire is at least 30% of the individual’s first-year expected earnings, according to the Department of Labor.

Fractional hiring can help you fill a role while you search for the right full-time employee, or give you a chance to work with someone before extending a full-time offer. You’ll have the opportunity to see a person’s talent in action. “Fractional hires aren’t likely to have long-term ambitions at your company, which means there’s little room for politics or posturing when it comes to getting their work done,” wrote The Receptionist.

A mid-level manager

Sometimes, all a business owner really needs is someone to delegate to. Hiring a fractional mid-level manager can help you take operational, financial or marketing tasks off your plate. This move allows you to focus on big-picture, high-value tasks.

When you hire a fractional worker, typically they agree to a set schedule. Their limited availability means your employees need to be organized to make the most of their time with the fractional worker.

This can be a double-edged sword: On one hand, your employees may be more motivated, organized and productive. On the other hand, things can fall through the cracks when you employ a manager who isn’t available all the time. Work with your existing team to learn about their collaboration and whether or not a fractional manager would work in your company culture.

[Read more: How to Develop a Plan for Fractional Hiring]

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Published November 01, 2021