How to improve relationships with contractors

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More than half of contractors feel they are treated differently to permanent employees, according to a new whitepaper from recruitment consultancy Robert Walters.

The whitepaper, Leveraging the Contingent Workforce, surveyed hiring managers who employ contractors as well as professionals across Australia and New Zealand, from a range of professions such as human resources, marketing and law.

Employers were asked if contractors are treated in the same way as permanent employees, referring to the day-to-day dealings in the office environment as opposed to any official workplace guidelines.

Three-quarters (85%) of them said contractors are treated the same way, however when contractors were asked whether they are treated the same way as permanent employees, the majority at 55% said that they weren’t. A further 32% said they didn’t feel included in the wider organisation.

Additionally, contractors flagged issues with business inductions with 60% reporting they have had difficulties logging on to IT systems; 53% had experienced incomplete or unclear induction procedures; 45% have had problems accessing information necessary to completing the project; 38% complained of poor communication with colleagues and/or managers and 32% have arrived on their first day to find no available workstation. This was despite most hiring managers stating that they take steps to induct new contractor staff.
Robert Walters Wellington Director Sean Brunner advised employers to take steps to improve their relationships with contractors.

“Effective management of contractors requires strong leadership and clearly defined goals and objectives. Taking steps to keep contractors engaged and happy will benefit the organisation in the long run by ensuring that contractors remain loyal and recommend the organisation to others as a good place to work,” Brunner said.
To foster better relationships with contractors the report recommends employers:
1. Set clear expectations and rewards
It is important for contractors to have some degree of certainty, otherwise they may look elsewhere. The best way to help retain contractors is to set a clear completion date for the project, as opposed to leaving it open or continuing to extend it. Employers should also consider offering completion and retention bonuses, the cost of which will generally be offset by the benefits of ensuring a contractor stays on until the completion of the project.
2. Commit to a double clause
To avoid losing valuable information and time when a contractor leaves early the report recommends that employers include a provision in their contract that requires contractors to give a period of notice, allowing for handover time and knowledge transfer. The “double” aspect to this clause is simply that the employer also gives a notice period of the termination of contract. Balancing the clause makes it fair for all and shows the contractor that the employer  is equally committed.
3. Don’t delay
Contractors may be fielding offers from competitors so it is important to ensure that the time spent interviewing candidates is used efficiently to help both parties come to a quick decision – an overly lengthy recruitment process can serve to deter candidates.
4. Improve the induction
When a contractor is approved to start, it is important to ensure they have a phone list of relevant contacts, a team leader or manager to show them around the office and to provide a clear brief. If it’s a role that is filled by a contractor on a regular basis, such as relief reception, it’s a good idea to have a short manual or ‘cheat sheet’ with logins and a run-down of main duties. For more senior roles it’s necessary to ensure that there is someone with good knowledge of the role to conduct a handover.
5. Become more inclusive
Inviting contractors to work events, including them on group emails and bringing them to meetings can help contractors like to feel like a part of the organisation. Taking steps to keep contractors engaged and happy will benefit the organisation in the long run by ensuring that contractors remain loyal and recommend the organisation to others as a good place to work.

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