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5 Tips for Managing Your Contract Workforce

The nature and needs of a contract workforce often vary widely depending on the industry, or even within a particular sector. There are almost countless segments of independent contractors within the universe of contingent labor, and understanding their individual motivations and their relationship to your business are keys to getting the most out of their value. And that, in turn, will yield tips for managing your contract workforce. 

For example, an hourly worker stocking shelves at Kroger one shift a week likely has different expectations from that job than a hard-to-find IT specialist has from their position. Similarly, a company is likely to invest more time and resources in supporting and cultivating the latter worker over the former, particularly if the plan is to employ that IT specialist for 2-3 years on a contract basis and eventually try to convince them to take on a permanent role along the way.

Contractors make up an increasing percentage of the overall workforce (our PeopleCaddie research shows roughly 30 percent), which may be the highest recommendation of their worth to a company. But a smart and successful contingent labor strategy is just a start. Here are five tips for managing your contract workforce:

Tips for Managing your Contract Workforce

A Clear Onboarding Process

You already have an onboarding process in place for new staff employees. Building a separate onboarding plan for contractors from scratch is probably a waste of valuable infrastructure and can lead to unintended divisions between independent contractors and full-time staff.

Instead, use your existing staff onboarding process as a baseline for contractors and modulate from there. Who do contractors report to within each department? What is the process for filling contractor invoices at the end of the week? Are contingent laborers needed for only a certain number of hours per shift or week, bar none, or is the expectation that they may be asked to work additional hours depending on project demands? Answering these questions upfront can be critical to employee satisfaction and retention.

Set Clear Expectations

Direct and transparent communication should extend beyond onboarding and into day-to-day contractor engagements. Your initial efforts are important to establish trust and set boundaries, but setting clear expectations for contractors isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it task. It’s a process that requires management and leadership to continually consider and reevaluate workflows, operational needs and what is and isn’t landing for contingent laborers.

For contractors joining a team or department, it’s worth the effort to set up a time to meet their new teammates and outline everyone’s roles. It’s more difficult to adjust expectations than to set them a first time, so any changes may require additional explanation and reinforcement to be most effective. Which leads to …

Consistency

There’s no magic spell to cast for contractors. Workers of all stripes prefer consistency and across-the-board expectations. The more often the goalposts are moved – or the rules are applied differently depending on the player – the more likely you wind up with a team plagued with bad chemistry.

Whenever you can expose all workers to the same (or very similar) onboarding process and whichever mechanisms your company uses to cultivate culture, all workers – including contractors – are more likely to feel part of the team and be motivated to work toward your business goals. To the best of your ability, make sure no one feels left out or singled out.

Retention Strategy

Much like your onboarding process, don’t try to reinvent the wheel here. Working from your traditional retention strategy, using dedicated resources, expand the plan to include contract workers. Apply the same competencies to an additional audience and, where necessary, adjust language or adapt to suit workers’ contingent labor status. Again, create consistent (or at least fair) expectations for all workers, and then clearly explain why on the occasions when they diverge for contractors.

Creating Opportunities

Some contractors are content punching the clock and keeping it moving, but many want more. That may include anything from a full-time position to company perks to building certain relationships or earning training opportunities that can launch forward a career.

No matter what you offer your contract laborers, and no matter how you handle your onboarding, retention and other strategies as they relate to contingent labor, understand your intention. If the idea is to keep your contractors, convert the best of them to full-time employees and maintain a vibrant workforce, take care to ensure everyone feels they’re a valued part of the team.

PeopleCaddie can help you manage your contractor workforce, facilitating everything from sourcing and hiring to onboarding and administration. Find out more about our platform here.

For more tips on managing your contract workforce, visit the PeopleCaddie blog.

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