The contract situation throws up many challenges for both contractor and client alike. Contractors may not have the same bond with their new employer so it’s easier to break it. That’s never encouraged but what do you do to stop it happening? The answer is don’t throw them in at the deep end and walk away.
Contractors, in the main, don’t mind the deep end. It’s part and parcel of what they do. But if you walk away after throwing them in then invariably they’ll flounder around for a while creating all manner of waves. If they survive they’ll probably talk about you and the company as a bad career experience at every interview they go to. Worst scenario of all is they jump ship at the first opportunity.
Whichever route they take, one thing is for sure, you won’t get the best from them if you simply drop them in it and leave them to their own devices.
Yes of course, often the key criterion is to find a contractor who can hit the ground running. But without clear direction and leadership, will they produce the results you want?
Most leaders realise everyone needs some level of direction but often when a contractor is involved the danger is to be overwhelmed by the fact that they can hit the ground running so they are pretty much left to fend for themselves. In the words of one contractor ‘the team leader seemed to think I had magical powers that enabled me to know and understand what had happened in the business at the time of the integration and what would be required of me for the next 2 months without even so much as a half hour briefing’. This particular contractor was smart, well qualified and hard-working. She made a point of asking around and finding her way through the fog, but she wasted time and resources that could otherwise have been better spent and candidly admits the outcome could have been better if only she had been given more time at the start of the contract.
So what needs to be done to manage your contractor well?
- Treat them as part of your team.
- Assign them a colleague who can help them settle in and answer any day to day questions they may not want to bother you with.
- Make sure your contractor understands the detail of what they are there to do and give them the resources to do it.
- Give them some context. Explain the background, history and personalities they’ll be dealing with.
- Be candid about the challenges, what’s going well and what isn’t.
- Set your own and their expectations, give them some KPIs, set review dates.
Show professional interest in their career too, after all every contract role they undertake is a significant part of their career.
Account for the fact that they only have hours or a few days at best to get to grips with everything that a permanent person might take weeks to do.
Be clear about how you, and any agency, will manage the length of their contract and any review or contract end date.
Be reasonable in your expectations. HR contractors are a valuable resource. If mistreated, you’ll earn yourself and your company a bad reputation in the marketplace.