The cultural challenge of embedding contractors within your organisation
Author: The Oxford Group, Published: 04 September 2019
Contractors can provide an organisation with the freedom to up and downscale as needed – but embedding them into your organisation can prove tricky. How do you best deliver onboarding information and training on values and culture to these shorter-term staff?
The gig economy has created a labour market characterised by short-term contracts and freelance work. This is empowering for the worker and has many benefits for your company as you’ll have instant access to expert service and won’t need to worry about too much admin. You will also have the choice of hiring a range of highly skilled people that will help you to eliminate project bottlenecks.
However, embedding temporary staff into your culture can certainly have its challenges. With the adoption of a more elastic workforce, you’ll need to keep a firmer grasp on quality standards, brand values and the alignment of corporate vision.
The challenges of working with contractors
The partnership between a temporary worker and a business can often feel insecure, as it lacks the thorough onboarding process involved in full-time employment. It is easy for a contractor to feel cut off from the organisation and they won’t stick around if they feel unhappy and isolated. It shouldn’t be difficult for them to find another contract as freelancers are in increasingly high demand. This can impact your turnover and cut your productivity and profitability, as replacing freelancers can be costly.
Avoiding contractor onboarding mistakes
Traditionally, gig economy workers have been kept at arm’s length, but to get the best out of your blended workforce and retain contractors in the long-term, make sure you avoid common contractor onboarding mistakes such as:
- Overloading the contractor with information
- Having a haphazard onboarding process
- Failing to introduce the safety culture
- Not asking for feedback
- Not streamlining data collection
- Going silent after the initial hire
- Neglecting to make the contractor feel welcome
How to successfully embed contractors into your company culture
An important part of retaining freelancers is hiring the right people to start with. Don’t compromise on cultural fit; do a thorough background check and look for candidates with the right skills and attitude, who understand your company values.
Keep onboarding consistent
As remote contract workers are rarely in the office, it is even more important that they are getting the same messages as full-time employees. Ensure that freelancers get a good introduction to your company culture and hit the ground running with a streamlined onboarding process. Having a consistent approach will help retain workers for longer, boost their productivity and keep them engaged whilst working for your company.
Have clear briefs
It is important to provide contractors with detailed context of the project they’re working on so that they can understand the bigger picture. Make sure that their contract clearly outlines specific deliverables including completion dates and give them an internal contact for any queries they may have.
Maintain open communication
Open communication is a key part of healthy company culture and shows that you value the participation of all your employees, regardless of title. Clearly outline your expectations from contractors and show that you are open to them sharing their ideas so that they have the best possible chance of being successful contributors.
Make contractors feel like part of the team by inviting them to company events and including them in meetings. If they can’t attend, then forward them relevant notes and newsletters. Also take advantage of the multiple communication platforms available such as Slack, Asana and Trello, which allow a constant flow of dialogue.
Build a relationship
Humans are social creatures and, though a contractor may often work from home, it shouldn’t mean they feel isolated. Take the time to have regular catch ups in the same way you would your permanent team. Video calls can work just as well as face-to-face lunches – make sure you check in on freelancers and get to know them.
Although contractors don’t have formal performance reviews, they will still appreciate feedback on the work they’ve delivered. Even just having a quick phone chat, thanking them for their work and discussing what went well and what didn’t, can give them the reassurance they need to continue to deliver high quality work.
Take advantage of available technology and tools to source, screen and manage contractors. This should streamline your hiring process as well as workflow. Optimum digital workplaces can bridge the geographical divide and improve speed, efficiency and collaboration.
Don’t take advantage of contractors. If you want a job done well, then pay the market rate if not more. Gig workers often lack the benefits packages available to full-time staff but if you pay them competitively then they’ll be happy to purchase their own perks. Also make sure you pay on time, if freelancers have to keep chasing invoices they won’t stick around for long.
Good freelancers will know how to manage themselves and probably chose to take on contract work because it gives them the autonomy they need. Be clear with exactly what you need from them then allow them the flexibility to work to their own time.
Our 5 Conversations programme is a must for all managers working with contractors as it provides the framework and tools to build trusting productive relationships with all employees.
Also, our colleagues at Kineo recently re-launched Sitepass a platform for effective contractor, supplier and individual management.