You Reap What You SOW

SOWIf you’re looking for comforting words, the phrase “contractually obligated” doesn’t usually fill you with warmth and friendship. It seems to imply a bit of frustration — some underlying tension with a situation that maybe not everyone is entirely happy about.

But for a business owner and an employer, “contractually obligated” should sound like a cozy blanket and all the comfort and security of home. The key is just in putting together the right contracts and finding a way to manage them all – something the staffing industry is starting to do for businesses more frequently.

Personal Protection’s Laura Pierson last month dove into all the reasons that employees should never be skittish about employment contracts, arguing that these documents are meant as much to protect employees as the companies they work for.

Essentially, in any case where some aspect of a job is not dictated by law or by contract, the choice is ultimately up to your employer. This can mean changing hours, pay or any number of other aspects of the job. So, in essence, every tidbit laid out plainly in a contract beforehand means one more part of your job that you don’t need to be worrying about.

Companies Are People Too
The same can easily be said for a business looking to hire workers. While it may be easy enough to demand that employees meet whatever requirements you set as they occur to you, there’s no guarantee that they can meet your needs. With your own employees, that can leave you on shaky enough ground for a legal challenge, but when you’re talking about project-based workers there’s a good chance that making too many added demands beyond what’s clearly laid out in a contract will lead to some sort of legal challenge.

An increasingly common solution to the problem is to put together a detailed Statement of Work (SOW) before ever striking a deal. These SOWs break down every aspect of the job you’re trying to get done, from the who, what, where, when and why to nitty-gritty details about specific regulatory standards to be followed and how performance will be ultimately be measured.

These contracts are particularly common for the federal government, which operates under excruciatingly detailed requirements – so much so that businesses generally need specialists on staff simply to work through all the various red tape involved in the job.

But sometimes there’s good reason to want to be thorough, especially when you’re talking about bringing in outside work to complete crucial tasks — specificity can only help in an environment where you have no direct control once the process gets started.

Minimizing the Work
Of course, it’s easy to say that you want to detail every aspect of your relationship with project-based workers or consultants beforehand, but it’s not always as easy to write out a point-by-point contract each time, keep track of a contract for each job and ensure that your processes are remaining the same throughout.

That has opened the door for managed service providers to step in to oversee this process for companies.

These MSPs offer a variety of services from simpler tasks like invoicing and bill payment to actually providing a forum for project-based employees to compete for different jobs and putting together standardized contracts. Staffing Industry Analysts found in a survey that the vast majority will manage payments, but less than one-third will actually put together a Request for Proposal for a client, so finding an MSP that provides the exact services need can be a task in itself.

In the best case scenario, however, an MSP offers a level of information into your own contract work and a degree of efficiency that is difficult to accomplish even with a well-developed internal SOW program.


Paul Gartland

Paul Gartland
Paul Gartland is director, services procurement at Allegis Group Services. He can be reached at pgartlan (at) allegisgroupservices (dot) com.

Paul Gartland

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