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How Fractional Hiring Is Changing the Employment Landscape

A guide to the benefits and considerations for employing fractional executives at your company

Natalie Stones
Founder, CEO and Fractional Talent Officer with 15+ years of HR and recruitment experience
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Fractional hiring is an innovative approach to staffing that allows companies to access specialized skills on an as-needed basis. It is reserved for VP up to C-level roles (ie. executives), and not for individual contributors who would be categorized as consultants, temps, or freelancers.

A basic definition of fractional hiring is when a highly-skilled, experienced individual in the executive space works a set amount of hours per week, or days per month for a company in need of their skillset. The person then has the ability to engage and share their expertise with two or more organizations, depending on their availability.

The benefit of this is two-sided. Fractional hiring allows both young and established organizations to tap into the expertise of high-level professionals so they can focus on their core business with utmost efficiency and productivity. The professional individual gains experience at multiple organizations within the same timeframe. Thereby, building an impressive professional portfolio.

In this article, I unpack the nuances and considerations of fractional hiring so that you may best decide whether it’s a viable way of sourcing strong leadership in your business.

In This Article

A fractional leader offering guidance to full-time employees.

Why Fractional Hiring Makes Sense

As a leadership solution, fractional CxOs make perfect for businesses who are looking to cut costs. This is because it lets them access invaluable skills and experience without having to commit to long-term contracts or pay a C-level employee’s salary and benefits.

There are many reasons fractional hiring could benefit a company. With the current U.S. recession, companies are struggling to keep their businesses operating and scaling with a limited workforce. Here are a few examples to illustrate the point:

  • Downsizing of their senior-most leadership team due to the cost of full-time salaries
  • Teams are left without the proper leadership and guidance to operate effectively
  • Strategic initiatives are added back on the plates of Founders and Owners
  • Reductions in hiring across the organization, leaving the rest of the staff overburdened

Various fractional hiring platforms provide businesses with on-demand access to highly qualified executives who can work short-term contracts according to their availability. These solutions allow businesses the flexibility they need in order to remain agile and competitive while still accessing the best talent in their industry quickly and within budget.

If your business has big ambitions but limited resources, investing in a fractional executive (such as a COO, CMO, CRO, or CHRO) could be an excellent option worth exploring. The deep expertise you need is available to you, but without the high price tag of employing a person of that caliber full-time.

The same logic applies to any senior or expertise-dependent position, such as an accounting executive or brand specialist. As opposed to hiring permanent employees on the payroll, or engaging consultants for one project at a time, a fractional executive or expert can serve a more regular and defined role, but with greater flexibility. Their knowledge and understanding of your company’s operation would therefore be much more acute than a consultant who is brought on board for the sake of a specific project.

Fractal executive advising a junior employee on process optimization.

Fractional Engagements Defined

Fractional engagements are becoming more common among employers as they seek greater flexibility in their staffing needs. But how exactly are these arrangements set up between employers and their fractional talent?

Creating a Fractional Position

It all begins with a thorough understanding of the employer's needs and the desired scope of work for the fractional employee. From there, an agreement is drafted outlining the tasks to be performed, the duration of the engagement, and the compensation to be paid. This can be done through a contract or a simple statement of work.

It's important to establish clear lines of communication and measurable deliverables (KPIs and OKRs) to ensure that both parties are on the same page throughout the engagement. With proper planning and communication, fractional engagements can be a great solution for employers looking for skilled talent or executive leadership.

For help in setting project objectives, consult the SSR buyer guide for the best OKR software solutions.

Practicality and Remuneration for Fractional Hiring

Fractional executives usually work from home or onsite for a few hours per week, up to a few days per month to perform the same tasks as full-time executives. Their duties can include strategic planning and execution, mentoring other team members, and providing guidance and support.

Payments are usually set up as monthly recurring retainer fees, and average anywhere from $5,000-$15,000, depending on the level of engagement and qualifications of the executive.

An effective team consisting of fractional and full-time employees.

Fractional vs. Freelance vs. Consulting

How do fractional workers compare to freelancers and consultants? They share some similar strategies in getting projects complete but let's walk through each in detail.

Freelance Workers

Freelance work is a type of self-employment where individuals provide their services on a contract basis to employers or organizations. Freelancers are contingent workers who focus on the execution of a specific set of tasks or projects and are responsible for setting their own hours, determining the scope of work to be completed, managing their own resources, and meeting agreed-upon deadlines. The projects a freelancer would work on are usually entry to mid-level.

By the nature of this arrangement, the freelancer would usually not have in-depth knowledge of the company’s operation, mission, or values.

For insight into the management of freelancers, and the tools to do so, consult the SSR buyer guide of top freelance management systems.


Consulting work is a broad term that refers to mid and high-level professionals who companies or organizations hire on a contractual basis. The purpose is generally to obtain guidance on new initiatives, launches, project-based needs, or overcoming business challenges. Consultants prioritize advising a company on how to execute business strategies.

Generally speaking, the involvement a consultant would have in a company is project-specific, high-level, and limited to strategic input — not the execution thereof.

Fractional Workers

Fractional work can be considered a more elevated version of freelance and consultant work. By having a specific executive level of expertise, fractional leaders both help with guidance and take on the execution of projects.

Fractional workers are embedded as part of the team on an ongoing basis and provide the deep-set organizational knowledge of a team member or leader that freelancers and consultants generally lack. While the engagement is typically part-time based on weekly hours, it can span over six months or more. As a result, a fractional hire is as firmly initiated into the company culture as a full-time employee.

A fractal executive leading a meeting about strategic planning.

An Example of Fractional Hiring

When a company needs to develop a new product, time is often of the essence. This is where a fractional leader comes in— a professional who can quickly assess the situation and get to work.

With complete autonomy over the project, a fractional leader is tasked with providing guidance and executing the work necessary for a product launch. Their experience in strategic planning and execution makes them invaluable in identifying areas of opportunity and developing solutions for a successful project outcome.

By entrusting the task to a fractional leader, the company can be assured that the project will be completed in an efficient and effective manner. This enables the company’s full-time team to focus on other important aspects of the business. The alternative would be garnering knowledge from scratch that can easily be attained by getting experience leadership in on a fractional basis. The fractional executive can bring their expertise to the table immediately.

A recruiting team hiring a fractional executive to help out full-time employees.

Why Would You Want High-Level Fractional Talent?

Temporary or Interim Leadership

For companies in search of a C-suite executive, fractional hires can be the ideal temporary solution. You can trust that the tasks you need doing will be done right because the fractional executive talent can provide ongoing support until the perfect full-time hire is made.

While this arrangement is in place, you can benefit from their strategic advice, mentoring for lower-level staff members, assistance with establishing reporting systems, and so forth.

Even if no permanent hire is on the cards, bringing fractional leadership talent on for a period can offer other executives some much-needed respite during times of high stress.

Lower Financial Outlay

Effective leadership is essential for company growth, and fractional executives can offer the guidance necessary to take businesses to the next level without breaking budgets. Referring back to our list of economic considerations at the start of this article, it is easy to make a business case for fractional roles. Non-permanent hires have less impact on the company’s cash flow due to lower remuneration, and far fewer contractual obligations such as healthcare and other employee benefits.

The ability to secure a highly skilled individual without taking on additional overhead can make all the difference when it comes time for that next round of funding or expansion. And while fractional staff may not have access to certain full-time benefits, they enjoy greater flexibility, freedom, and work/life balance than traditional roles. Plus, their experience could position them first in line for other high-level positions down the road.

Necessary Expertise

When it comes to managing a business, hiring fractional executives can help take the challenge and stress away. They bring broad knowledge, expertise, and experience in working with large companies.

In addition to that, their leadership skills, such as having significant task orientation can tremendously benefit businesses today. Start-ups and small businesses have been known to excel because of hiring these professionals. Fractional executives offer tremendous value, allowing your company to move ahead quickly and access the resources you need when you most need them. There is no doubt that doing so will produce positive results in the long run.

A skilled individual can be a fractional hiring solution for your company.

Hiring Fractional Talent for Your Company

Who Uses Fractional Executives?

A wide range of businesses from startups and SMEs to large multinationals are using fractional executive services.

According to a recent study by the Association of Executive Search Consultants, the number of companies using fractional executives has increased by 20% in the past year. This trend is expected to continue in the coming years, as more and more companies realize the benefits of hiring fractional executives.

Companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Apple have all used fractional executives in the past— a testament to the efficacy of this type of service as a way of accessing highly skilled talent on an as-needed basis.

Where Can Companies Find Fractional Executives?

Companies in search of a specific fractional worker can utilize dedicated search firms or online platforms that specialize in fractional talent to find a perfect match. Many of these platforms require companies to create a profile and post job listings for potential candidates. Companies can also acquire fractional workers through professional networks, industry events, referrals from contacts, and social media sites like LinkedIn.

Lastly, businesses can use recruiting firms specializing in fractional hiring to help them find the right candidate for their needs. With so many options available, it’s easy for companies to locate tailored solutions that fit their individual requirements.

Why Fractional is Functional

Fractional hiring is an effective executive staffing model that gives you all the pieces to the pie that you need for your company to succeed. It is an ideal solution for hiring part-time work for full-time quality. You do not want someone who just looks good on paper, your business needs someone that will catalyze growth and do it fast.

Fractional hiring provides a flexible and cost-effective solution to current labor issues, as it allows companies to access the exact skills they need without long-term financial commitment. It affords organizations access to C-suite-level executives who bring unique expertise and experience that can help protect their business from potential risks.

Additionally, fractional hiring provides many benefits that are incomparable to freelance or consulting work, such as the ability for a company to monitor their workforce and leadership, ensure quality results, and establish continuity of work.

The comparison of full-time executive compensation vs. average fractional monthly retainers is staggering. With the steep compensation costs to employ a full-time executive, it’s almost a no-brainer, especially for a small business or startup.

Benefits of Being a Fractional Worker

Looking at the other side of the coin, if you are a PeopleOps worker that is tired of the traditional 9-5 corporate job and wants to work at your own pace, on your terms, fractional work could be a very suitable form of employment.

This is work that does not tie you down to a location. These days most of the workforce is remote and many employers find that working remotely is more productive. Although it would not be a guaranteed minimum income like a regular part-time position offers, a fractional worker would have the choice of multiple sources of income with different employers that need their expertise.

According to Reforge, fractional executives working 20 hours a week can earn 60-70% of what a full-time executive would get, as their value is not directly tied to the number of hours they work.

Fractional employment is becoming an increasingly attractive option for experienced workers. By taking control of their careers, they can work when they want where they want without having to worry about being tied down by long hours or grueling office jobs. Additionally, this type of career gives individuals more time for hobbies and activities outside of work— a freedom that many office jobs simply do not allow.

With recent data showing that the use of fractional executives is indeed growing rapidly with increases seen year after year, who knows, maybe this could be the perfect option for you!

Natalie Stones
Founder, CEO and Fractional Talent Officer with 15+ years of HR and recruitment experience
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Natalie is a strategic Talent Acquisition expert with over 15 years of experience helping companies of all sizes build and amplify their recruiting engines, design talent strategies, and hire at scale. After beginning her career in recruitment with Premier Talent Partners, Natalie jumped into the corporate world as Head of Talent with Sungevity (a late-stage startup), HomeSuite (a Series B startup), and Insperity (a Fortune 1000 professional services firm). Natalie then returned to Premier Talent Partners as their VP of Talent Operations and Revenue Growth. 

Seeing the need for flexible, cost-effective, on-demand executive engagements, Natalie founded Talent Refinery— an agency focused on curating partnerships between CxO leaders and unique client needs on a fractional, advisory, or project basis. Natalie serves as the CEO of Talent Refinery and Fractional Head of Talent for interim Recruiting engagements.

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