One habit many managers have is to dump the boring, unpleasant work of their team onto contract workers. The thinking is that full timers deserve the best treatment and contractors are mercenaries: they deserve whatever they get since they won’t be around long.
It’s a mistake – good managers finds a way to treat everyone well. And there are some reasons contractors deserve special attention:
Here are three reasons why:
- Contracts are scouting missions. Smart companies hire interns since they know the one in five chance of finding a future employee are worth all the overhead. It costs an amazing amount of energy to hire a good employee. Any contractor you hire should be thought of as a potential full time employee – possibly not even for the skill they’re contracting for. If you treat them like idiots in a box, you’ll get idiots in a box. But give them a chance to outperform your expectations and your next star recruit might already be in your office. Sure this is uncommon, but it costs you nothing – tell them if they exceed your expectations you’ll consider, or refer, them for hire and see what happens.
- Contract hires create your network. While you’re climbing the corporate ladder, every contractor has a long sequence of future companies and bosses ahead of them. What stories of you will they tell? If you ping them in 6 months about job openings on your team, will they recommend you to their peers in their new company? Contractors are true worker bees. They fly from place to place spreading reputations – will they be your ambassador or detractor?
- They bring new ideas. Forget what job you hired them for – they bring experience your team might not have, and exposure to ideas new to you. If you constantly push their heads down into the pidgeon hole, never letting them advise based on their unique perspective, you’re cutting yourself off from potential knowledge. Give them a voice – it costs nothing. If the three times they speak up with recommendations they sound insane, ask them to stop. But if you get some good ideas and reward them, they’ll be happy and so will you.
I’ve seen dozens of smart people sequestered away in the worst offices, never asked for an opinion and given no opportunity to shine, simply because they wore the label “contractor” – what a waste for everyone. Some contractors run circles around their FT counterparts – in fact that’s why they’re contractors: they’re good enough to make a living freelancing and taking part of the year off something many full-timers (FT) don’t have the talent, or the guts, to do.
The fear managers have is that treating contractors the same as employees raises legal issues, or threatens the full timers, but that’s nonsense – you don’t have to treat them the same in order to treat them both well. And if your team is threatened by talent, you’re in trouble for different reasons.