By: John Natarelli, Project Manager with T.A. Cook in North America
More and more organizations are finding that they don’t have employees with the skills or expertise to perform certain types of work. In some cases it’s by choice – employing people throughout the year when their skills are only required for maybe two months is not cost effective at all. It’s often easier to pick up the phone and call a contractor that supplies temporary labor and tell them what resources are required.
However, just because a company enlists the help of contractors, shouldn’t mean that they are free and clear of actually managing them. The cost of employing contract labor is almost always more than employing your own labor. As such, employers need to make sure that contractors are managed in much the same way as their own employees. If jobs are to be completed safely and on time, contractors must have the same set of expectations that in-house employees do.
Expectations and engagement
Organizations and contractors alike should see and understand the value of doing business together and therefore want to be engaged with each other. Respecting each other’s interests will in turn build the long term commitment and dedication that is often sought. If the contractor does a good job this year it’s very likely that they will be brought in the next time that a need arises, as the hiring organization wants people familiar with their equipment and site. This familiarity should lead to higher productivity and could result in lower safety incidents as risks may also be known ahead of time.
It’s also easier to hold contractors accountable when they’re engaged. In most cases, they want to do a good job, but many companies that hire contractors have no clear way of determining that. The easiest way to accomplish this is to set clear expectations up front, preferably before any contract to engage is signed. Some companies refer to these as performance agreements. Setting these expectations will allow the hiring organization to hold contractors accountable for a multitude of things, such as safety incidents, productivity of workers, quality of work being performed and, depending on the type of contract, cost. It should also spell out consequences if the goals outlined in the agreement are not met, as well as potential incentives if targets are achieved or exceeded.
To say contractors are going to be held accountable and actually holding them accountable are two different things. To administer accountability, contractors need to be met with on a regular basis. Performance on all agreed-upon indicators should be reviewed at this time. In addition, if goals are not being met both sides should strive to understand why. Contract site managers should also have regular meetings with their foreman and general foreman before meeting with their client for these reviews. The transfer of information from mid- levels of the organization to the top is key to understanding why things are going the way they are. Employees at the ground level also need to be involved as often they’re the ones that know the specifics of the work being performed and potential ways to do it better.
The frequency of these reviews can vary as well. A highly paid contractor with a large scope of work may be met with more frequently than one that is only onsite a couple of times during the year to perform smaller jobs. Yearly reviews might suffice in those instances. Larger contractors however should probably be met with monthly. The shorter increment allows the hiring organization to be more hands on and force changes on the short term rather than waiting, resulting in performance lagging for a greater amount of time.
At the end of the day the methodology behind managing contractors is not that much different than managing your own employees. Everyone needs to know their role and what they’re being held accountable for, as well as how to determine whether they’re doing well or not. The process may be slightly altered, but the purpose of managing an employee remains the same. After all, the end goal – that the job be completed safely and in a reasonable amount of time – will always be mutual.
For more information, call (919) 510-8142.