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Using Contractors to address Business Critical challenges in a crisis

23 April 2020, by Michael O'Leary

If we have learned anything from the last economic crisis, it’s that the use of contractors is the most consistent talent acquisition initiative deployed by firms. During periods of growth, contractors provide expertise when you need it and reduced costs when you don’t. For business critical activities during a challenging period, contractors tackle the must do tasks, help to manage down costs and ultimately help local leadership navigate global headcount freezes.

Whatever the driver of talent demand resourcing, using professional contractors is a highly successful tactic to support organisational agility, however, it requires planning and management to ensure full value is realised. Contractors can bring more than a solution to a current need; their previous experience in other environments can bring new ideas to many different areas.  Maximising your return on contractor investment is best achieved through “The Three O’s” of agile talent management:  Onboarding, Oversight and Offboarding

1. Set out in writing clear delivery expectations at the beginning of every assignment, iron out any wrinkles at this point. 2. Have regular feedback sessions with the contractor, drawing where possible on their prior experience to add additional value to your organisation. 3. Ensure a permanent employee is appointed to track all documentation and work product and that the contractor is not leaving any gaps when they complete the assignment. Risk minimisation from contractor engagements require you to consider 3 main challenges to the use of agile talent:

1. Their engagement
Though they must hit the ground running, professional contractors are most impactful when they engage in a meaningful way with others to achieve their aims. Yet they do not have established relationships with many of these stakeholders. It’s true, that some firms see this as a positive, citing objectivity and absence of bias as yielding faster results. It really depends on the nature of the assignment, but if they are reliant on others for historical information or practices, consider supporting their engagement with the most important of these. 

2. Cost
As contractors carry a premium, the perception is that they are expensive. However, permanent employees are in fact more expensive when you factor in health insurance, holidays, paid sick leaves, Employer’s PSRI, pension and other benefits. 

3. Loss of intellectual capital at contract end 
Contractors are often central to a change (product or process) in an organisation. Firms fear that once a contract is complete, much of the intellectual capital leaves with the contractor. Address this by creating a simple offboarding process map that starts during the contract. Ensure all stakeholders are looped in and as referenced above, appoint a permanent employee to be accountable for its execution. Keep a copy of all meeting notes and project documentation related to the contractor’s work in a single password protected file. Keep lines open with the contractor after they leave in case additional information is needed. 

Contractors are an essential part of any organisation’s talent plan, so plan all your contractor engagements to maximise value, set joint objectives and conduct regular feedback sessions. Use these to gather additional observations about your firm and processes, borne from the contractor’s prior experiences. Maintain a personal touch to these relationships and remind the contractor of the importance of the contribution they are there to make. 

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