6 Tips to Manage Contract Workers
For companies that want to save money and stay lean, contract workers can be a boon. If your company’s just starting out, or you need specific knowledge to solve a problem, hiring a contract worker can be a great way to make sure you get just what you pay for, without excess overhead.
What — you have some doubts? Let us guess:
“But will they do as good of a job?” “How hard will they work, if they’re not officially part of the company?”
Important questions, certainly. One hopes that “do good work” is a sufficient enough goal. But just in case, here are some things you can do to ensure you get the most from your contractors:
1. Describe the job or project clearly
The easiest way to make sure your contractor does what needs to be done is … to tell them! The more worked out your SOW (scope of work) is — details, timelines, expectations, schedules, methods for feedback — the fewer surprises await in the future.
“But what if I’m hiring a contractor to solve a problem nobody in my company can solve? What if I’m hiring them to do something, but nobody’s quite sure what that something is yet?,” you may ask. The answer: it doesn’t matter. Be as specific as you can at the time, and include something in your contract that stipulates that you’ll revise later, as the details of the project become more clear.
2. Throw contract workers some recognition
Employers often worry that contractors won’t feel invested enough in the company. Here’s a way to encourage them: recognize their work. When a contractor does something good, send a recognition email to anyone affected, acknowledging the contractor’s good work.
This goes a long way towards making a contractor feel like part of the team. It also makes your full-time employees more aware of the contractor, and what they’re doing.
3. Maintain communication — positive and negative
Sure, you’ve got 20 full-time employees to manage, a boss breathing down your neck, and enough paperwork to fill up a suburban pool. No wonder you’ve forgotten to ping the contract workers to see what’s up.
Sound familiar? Well, losing track is an easy way to end up either A) getting a product that’s not what you wanted, or B) paying money for work you don’t need. The fix is pretty easy, though it requires you to be organized: communicate!
Set up a regular schedule for checking in and/or submitting work. Keep to it! And be sure to tell the contractor if things aren’t quite right. Make sure the boat is pointed in the right direction; this will save you time and money later.
4. Find the pay structure that works best for your business
Depending on what you’re looking for, it’s sometimes worth trying out different pay structures. If you’re worried about to contractor taking too much time to get something done, you can pay by the project. Sometimes paying by the hour can be most cost-effective. If your contractor is more of a consultant, you might try a retainer model. You can even break a larger project up into smaller parts, and set the pay structure for each part.
One thing that employers rarely do, but which can be very effective: give bonuses! If your contractor’s done great work, why not slip them a little extra, to cultivate some loyalty? Check out How to Harness Employee Competition for more motivational ideas!
Either way, it’s worth trying out different models to see what works best.
5. Utilize all of the contractor’s skills
Often, we hire contract workers because they possess a specific skill. As a result, their job description is often quite narrow. This can lead you to miss out on the other ideas a contractor can bring.
How to fix this? Ask for feedback! Encourage contractors to give you ideas about your company, or about the things they know best. Be open to their suggestions, and if they suggest other things they can do for you, think hard about them.
Sometimes it’s useful to think of your contractor as a one-trick pony, but it’s always worth checking to see if there’s more they can bring.
6. Deliver when you say you’ll deliver
You know what will discourage good contractors from working with you? Not delivering when you say you will. Late payments, zero feedback, going weeks without responding to emails: unless your contractor’s hard up for work, they’ll walk.
You’d be less than happy if you hired someone to do a job and they didn’t do it.
Sometimes, we can be a little overly ambitious when it comes to deadlines. Whether you're the employer or contract worker, simply communicate where you stand so as to avoid an unpleasant surprise!