By David Bennett
During my career, I have genuinely heard both success and horror stories of contractor engagement. From contractors giving me feedback on how fantastic the client company is and how they have made them feel at home, to “I’m an expert, get me out of here NOW!”
With this in mind I thought it was time to share some of the basic rules of how to successfully deploy a contractor and navigate those first couple of weeks of a project ramp-up.
1. The Greeting
There’s no better way to introduce a new resource into a team than to do it in a positive and professional manner. From day one both the contractor and client have to put their best foot forward. Clearly explain their role and set the right environment from the outset conducive to a productive working relationship.
DO – Welcome them warmly to the office and be organised. Inform reception they are starting, arrange introductions to the team, announce the person to the key people via a welcome message and have the desk, computer, and phone organised and ready to go.
DON’T – Leave them waiting around, don’t position them away from the team or department. Don’t have them phoning I.T and asking to be set up on the intranet or email system.
2. The Project
Know what your deliverables are and have them mapped out for the contractor. Set out the expectations for what they should deliver early and gain agreement. Engaging the contractor from day one will assist in familiarising them with the tempo of the procurement team.
DO – map out who the key stakeholders (both internal and external) are. Ideally, set up the meetings for your contractor and mandate their role. Be sure to give them an appreciation of the relationship that procurement has with the business and explain in more detail where procurement adds value and why this piece of work is critical to the overall picture.
DON’T – let them “feel their way” into the project and don’t leave them under prepared. By clearly setting the KPIs up front you give the project and everyone involved a better chance for success.
3. The Team
I’ve worked in recruitment companies where contractors have been sat in the corner and don’t get to speak to anyone for their entire term – no one says hello or invites them out for lunch. This is certainly not the best way to engage your contractor and achieve good quality work.
Category or industry experts can add immediate momentum to a project because they have usually seen the issues and roadblocks before. They know your supplier markets and understand the nuances of each local or off-shore market. Bring them in to the team discussions early, establish their role within the team and validate them.
DO – be inclusive. If you’re not around, assign a senior member of the team to help with any desk based queries. Give them ample opportunities to present their skills to the team and ensure they make the contractor feel welcome.
DON’T – leave introductions too late, don’t play politics or discuss personal views on team members. Don’t exclude them from meetings or isolate them. Don’t call them “The Temp”.
4. The Project review
DO – set up regular reviews and diarise early. If you can’t be available, arrange for a senior team member to engage with them. Make time for them and be inviting of their questions.
If the expectations are set early they should know what the key milestones and deliverables are, but it’s still important to regularly check they’re on the right track. The head of the team and mentor should check in to ask where they’re at.
DON’T – create an email relationship or go missing in action. The “I’m too busy” card isn’t an option. Don’t let them figure out the project by learning by their mistakes.
5. The company culture
Got an on-site gym? A social club? Friday night drinks? Discounted retail? Make your new starter feel part of the company culture by inviting them to join social activities and giving them access to appropriate company benefits.
DO – have these benefits readily accessible with information, booklets or relevant passes available from week one. Invite them to attend social functions - their stakeholders could well be there. If there’s a team lunch, invite them. Get them involved and help them to fit in to their new team. If everyone starts to know each other better it will always improve the team’s dynamic and therefore assist with the quality of work.
DON’T – create a “them and us” approach. Don’t organise a team event and exclude your interim resource.
Procurement contractors may have previously been looked at as less qualified than permanent workers however the current level of experienced contractors on the market and demand for their skills means the shoe is now on the other foot and contractors often have their choice of multiple roles. Make your company a place where the best contractors want to work. Treat contractors as you would expect to be treated yourself or any other valued member of the team for that matter. In the end it’s just basic good management practice. A happy employee is a productive one.