How to manage remote contractors for your projects

One does not have to be in the middle of a pandemic to appreciate the usefulness of having a remote-first team. Companies of all sizes can benefit from being able to go where the best talent actually lives. It is also not necessary to always think of the team as full-time staff. There are great examples of where using independent subcontractors makes a lot of sense.

The challenge is how do you integrate remote contractors into your business, in a way that is effective. This guide offers five suggestions for how to do this, from onboarding and managing the mixed team of full-time staff and contractors all the way to exiting projects, and transitioning people into other projects as needed.

Contractors are different to your full time employed team

Unlike your regular team, contractors work across multiple clients and multiple projects, this means that they have limited time available during their days and they appreciate having the details of what they need to get done right at hand. They like to be able to start and finish your tasks as quickly as possible since they also manage other priorities and deadlines of their own for their other clients.

Enable all access for them, within the confines of the project they are helping you with

In many cases, especially with collaboration software, there are special user accounts for contractors, or guests or other similar names. If the software you are using right now is using this kind of concept, that’s a red flag. It means that bringing contractors into your projects is not a well-thought-out and planned requirement from the start but something bolted on top of the system. Instead look for a solution that allows you to empower your contractors with full access to the project they are helping you with, but for only that project and nothing else. At the end of the day, you want to be sure you keep your team focused and productive, and throwing them in the middle of a system that lists every project and client even if that doesn’t apply to them, is not effective at all. Not to mention the confidentiality and other issues that can arise from doing this.

Integrate contractors as if they are part of the core project team because in most cases they are

While working with them, make sure contractors feel as though they are part of the core project team. This will help you increase engagement, and help them feel empowered to contribute more and provide insights based on their experiences. It is not uncommon to have a contractor who is very experienced do their work and at the same time provide golden nuggets of insight or links and pointers to resources they have come across in the past that could help the rest of your team improve. Be prepared for this, listen and foster the spirit of cooperation and openness in your project work.

Be ready to swap people while keeping the work going

Because we are all human, things do come up that take us away from work tasks. From looking after family members in need to managing home-schooling of children; know that your people might need to take a break, or altogether leave a project. Your job then is to make sure that the structure and processes you are using to get the work done for your clients are structured in a way that allows for this. Likewise, any software you are using should let you very easily and quickly swap people while keeping the project going. This is a lot harder than it sounds - unless the systems you are using are built with that ability in mind, and very few are (keep reading to find out about one of them below). The idea here is to keep the work conversations and history, files and actions and everything else intact and accessible for the next person that’s taking over, so they can brief themselves and come up to speed a lot more quickly than they would otherwise.

Make onboarding for additional people, or replacement contractors as smooth, easy and friction-free as possible

This dovetail to point four above, where it is very important when you bring new people on board to have a process and a supporting system that allows your new team members to hit the ground running. It is not always about needing to get the entire team on hours and hours of conference calls to “download” the project status onto the new people - it’s more about having the ability to let the new people into the project so they can read and absorb the history of the work, key decisions, deadlines, actions and other information in their own time and at the pace that makes sense for them. Then if necessary run brief Q&A sessions to finalise any knowledge gaps and provide further context as needed and they can be up and running in hours, not weeks.

We have seen businesses that use contractors as a strategic resource to fuel their growth, and breadth of services they offer - and as a result, explode their revenue, reach and impact.

Now over to you - take a look at your teams and projects and if employing contract staff makes sense be sure to do it right, with the support appropriate software.
To do this in our business we have built Thanexa - from the ground up designed to support smart remote teams doing great work in their world.

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