Tips for Working with Contract Employees

business salesEmployers rely on contingent employees for a variety of situations, from an uncertain economy or an influx of work (tax season) to a short-term project that demands specific expertise. Contractors are an ideal stopgap solution in these situations due to the simple fact that hiring short term is an economical alternative to bringing on a full-time employee. Contract employees often come pre-screened and have specific knowledge or expertise, and while they usually demand premium pay, it’s for a limited time and employers do not have to provide employee benefits.

At the same time, while contractors allow for flexibility and rapid scalability of your workforce, it’s important that employers understand how to best manage contract employees to ensure a positive and productive working relationship. Fortunately, it’s a similar process to managing full-timers. Keep open communication, be clear about goals and hold them accountable for results. However, slight nuances in how you manage contractors can greatly improve output and allow you to avoid potential pitfalls.

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Here are a few tips to keep in mind when bringing in contract employees:

Make extra time for contractors. To effectively manage contract employees, establish consistent communication. Although most contractors boast a much-needed expertise for a particular position, they don’t necessarily understand the current industry landscape in relation to your business. Regularly check-in with contractors and be available to guide them through the more intricate parts of your business. Take time to explain the details. It can go a long way in helping a contractor accomplish their set tasks.

Set expectations from the onset of the relationship. Contract workers are often brought in as experts in a specific area such as coding, accounting or sales. As a result, employers do not expect to invest the time to train them as they would with a full-time employee. In absence of extensive training, it’s important to be clear about your expectations for the role. Consider taking a day or two upfront to stage a mini-orientation for contractors. It can pay dividends in terms of setting the stage for the relationship, level–setting for the role and establishing an immediate line of trust.

Reinforce their role in the success of the company. It’s understandable employers may be concerned that since contractors are, by nature, only with a company for a short period of time, they may not be invested in producing the highest quality of work possible. More often than not, the work of a contractor is critical to achieving business goals, which is why they’ve been hired in the first place. To avoid this issue, treat them as any other employee from the moment they walk in. Avoid micromanaging their approach to work, and instead, get in the habit of requesting updates to make sure the team is focused on the specific goals set at the outset of the engagement.

Employers always want to motivate employees to reach the full potential of their work output. When contracting out work, there’s even more pressure to ensure a high performance level given that employers are typically working toward a specific, near-term business goals. By creating a partnership based on trust and open communication, both the employer and contractor can benefit from the relationship. To do so employers must be ready to take on this slightly different approach and ensure contractors understand what a vital role they have in the company and what the impact of their work will be for the larger business goals.

Mike Weast

Mike Weast
Mike Weast is regional vice president of IT at Addison Group.

Mike Weast

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