Everyone that works within IT will either have been, be or have worked with contract staff. It’s often the experience that while these relationships start out on a positive footing, with clear goals, they often end up under delivering over time.
Common signs of trouble
Show me the money
The contractor hasn’t asked for any sort of feedback or performance review. Often this is coupled with some prior success. We can all be guilty of becoming over confident in our ability. Ensuring that you get feedback and holding supplier style reviews are vital in both looking for improvements (which surely everyone is looking for) and ensuring the relationship doesn’t just become about the day to day work focus activity.
‘I want, I want’ but I can’t tell you why
They start making requests for paid training and holidays that aren’t in the contract. While training can be a worthwhile investment it has to be linked to execution and value creation. Simply asking for the latest Project management certification or risk management course without demonstrating clear value to their engagement (rather than their focus on future employment) doesn’t work.
Contractors can forget that they are a supplier and that your the customer. A critical but not uncommon occurrence. After a period of time and relative success they stop looking on the relationship from your needs but instead focus on their own need for security.
This in turn is totally counter productive to their aim which might well be to maintain employment. As their view turns inwards they often miss the real opportunities for the future. Doing their very best for the customer, improvement, meeting needs and offering insight falls away and we’re left with an end date and a PO.
One team, one perspective
While its great that agency staff see themselves as one of the team, they started acting like an FTE (full time employee). They become embroiled in office politics and start grumbling about the air conditioning or vending machines. Joining the culture of the organisation can’t and shouldn’t always be resisted but losing that external perspective is value destroying for both parties.
Loss of focus
Losing what I’d call focus by seeing rate increases or long contract extensions as a right particularly when coupled with a challenging working environment isn’t helpful. When this is combined with a failure to demonstrate value alongside that increase in length of contract or cost the problem is compounded.
Mind the gap
Gaps in the contract can become all consuming. That’s to say that the contractor is aligned to one employer and they have zero tolerance for recognising the benefits of maintaining (and not destroying) a relationships with multi customers. Burning bridges by not seeing out contracts as they near an end or using threats as a negotiating tool is completely unacceptable. The mode of work has changed for us all , a single employer for our forty or so years of work is going to be unheard of. Keeping relationships in tact and not getting drawn into short term needs will pay dividends in the future.
Not cut out for contracting ?
It isn’t easy. It certainly isn’t easy to do it well. If your only comfortable with a rolling contract and only work your contacts and build skills when the contract is about to end perhaps the lifestyle isn’t for you. If you think you should get paid what you do as a contractor because your brilliant and take the rate as confirmation of that greatness you’ve going to come unstuck. You will achieve a rate above FTE rates either because you bring a unique or limited skill or maybe, just maybe, its just because your off the head count, competent, focused and flexible.
The future of contracting
It’s clear that with increasing use of contract and temporary staff off the companies established head count this type of working relationship is only going to increase. More and more of us will work fixed term contracts. Business aren’t willing to make long term commitments. What is vital to its success is keeping a firm eye on how it’s delivered and how both parties view the relationship. A collaborative relationship built on value creation, skill and capability which fits with business needs will see both parties meeting their respective goals.