“Labor coordinator” has become something of a buzzword in our industry lately. Everyone thinks they need to hire a labor coordinator because jobs have gotten so much bigger. But that’s only part of the solution.
Good labor coordinators are huge assets, but they have much bigger shoes to fill today than before the pandemic. This is because:
- Teams are smaller, so businesses have fewer internal people available to schedule.
- The post-pandemic surge is far bigger than anyone anticipated.
- The availability of freelance personnel is about a third of what it was pre-pandemic.
The labor coordinator role has expanded, and not all of that expansion is reasonable. There’s only so much you can expect one person to accomplish. Let’s take a quick look at what the role often looks like today.
Asking Too Much
When you consider all the elements involved, it’s not shocking that the labor coordinator’s job description has ballooned. And it looks something like a person running around, frantically spinning a bunch of shiny plates to keep them from falling.
Right now, labor coordinators are often responsible for all of the following:
The labor coordinator’s first task is to search for referrals to qualified freelancers. It’s basically head headhunting.
It takes someone with years of experience who is well-respected by the freelance community to get the referrals, leads, and clues to put them in touch with potential matches.
The labor coordinator is constantly asking their existing contacts, “Hey, if you’re not available, who else do you know?” And then they follow those leads.
Recruit/Engage Targeted Professionals
Once the labor coordinator chases down their next referral, they have to engage with and recruit the targeted professionals they find.
Next comes vetting and references. This goes both ways, because the freelancer is also interviewing your company to see if you’re a good fit for them.
Remember, you’re in a situation now where you need freelancers more than they need you. They have plenty of work. Why should they open up their schedule and work for you?
It comes down to negotiating. The labor coordinator has to understand what a freelancer is qualified for and how they would be a good fit for your organization. They need a clear understanding of what skills the freelancer has and how your company can use them. These may not be the same skills the freelancer thinks they have.
There’s a lot going on there, including discussing their fees. The process requires a good bit of negotiation, which is a pretty high-level skill.
When the labor coordinator reaches an agreement with a freelancer, the next step is onboarding, which mostly involves getting them into your organization’s systems. This isn’t just your basic HR and payroll accounting systems. It’s also getting them set up in your project management system so they can get the information they need, stay updated on their projects, get their travel taken care of, and get paid.
All of this has to happen before they can work on a single project.
Labor coordinators are often tasked with assigning bookings and scheduling freelancers to work on actual projects.
Contract Purchase Order
The contract purchase order is an internal control that tells your business the exact terms agreed upon, so there’s no confusion when an invoice shows up.
This task falls squarely within project management. The labor coordinator supplies freelancers with all the details they need to do the job. When and where should they show up? What will they be doing? What will they have to work with?
Miscellaneous Practical Tasks
The labor coordinator’s job still isn’t done. They also have to:
- Book travel
- Keep freelancers updated on changing information
- After jobs, confirm that agreed-upon fees apply and extra time is approved
- Facilitate payment
- Say thank you (yes, you still need to thank your freelancers)
Now, think about these tasks happening concurrently over multiple shows. The labor coordinator’s workload increases exponentially the more individuals they have to deal with.
Finding a person to come in who can overcome all of these challenges on their own is, honestly, unreasonable. It’s just too much for one person.
Reframe Your Thinking
I think we can agree the above path isn’t a good one to follow. Instead, we need to reframe our thinking about the labor coordinator role.
In a post-pandemic, low-overhead, pseudo-agency business model, outsourcing is a core competency. Recruiting staff and freelance technicians and assigning them to the right jobs is a company project. Scheduling and caring for those workers is the responsibility of the labor coordinator. The labor coordinator is really an administrative role.
To trim down that monstrous job description, consider which tasks you can carve out and reassign — which basically means finding and removing all the tasks that aren’t admin. Then you end up with a job description that a real-life human being can actually fill.
If you need some help deciding where to reallocate responsibilities, take a look at the practical workflow example below. It can get you started, though the needs and structure of your company may call for something different.
- Management uses its connections to find and recruit.
- Onboarding involves Accounting and/or Admin/Labor Coordinator.
- Deciding who to assign where is a team effort between Company Management and Production Management.
- Admin of scheduling and booking is the Labor Coordinator.
- Purchase order comes from the Labor Coordinator.
- Schedule updates come from the Labor Coordinator.
- Travel is booked and information provided by the Labor Coordinator.
- Show information is supplied by Project Managers.
- Closeout is Project Management’s role.
- Freelancer submits an invoice that matches the purchase order, so they get paid quickly.
- Labor Coordinator says, “Thank you” — an important task that’s often overlooked.
- The Freelancer does more business with your company.
A solid team effort brings out the best in individual players, including the labor coordinator. With a more reasonably defined role, your labor coordinator has the tools and the breathing room to be successful in their job — and to make you more successful in the process.