There have been a few articles in various media outlets recently about how businesses will be shifting to more contract workers in lieu of hiring salaried workers through the year 2020. However, this practice has already been going on for more than two decades at most of the major companies in the world, so with it being on even more of an upswing in the coming years, some practical discussion is warranted regarding the subject .
Having lived on both sides of the fence myself as both a contract and a salaried employee, I can verify that there are some significant challenges that occur when both salaried and contract employees are mixed together in a department or on a business team. No one really likes to talk about these issues, but it is something that needs to be brought to the forefront.
Let’s look at two of the major components of the scenario:
First, there is the issue of paranoia among the salaried portion of the workforce. There are always a few individuals among them that have an irrational fear that the contract workers will ultimately be their replacements. So in many cases some of them proceed to treat those contractors with contempt, disregard, and subtle rudeness. Such actions are hardly conducive to a prosperous work environment, and they can occur daily. If these fears are not addressed by Management, it can lead to serious complications with the workflow.
Second, unfortunately many Managers and Executives view the contract workers in their respective organizations as little more than expendable commodities, (“human capital” is one of the current popular buzz terms) rather than viewing them as hard working individuals who are trying to contribute. This kind of “people are disposable” mentality can subsequently cause those Managers to begin to take things for granted, which is an extremely precarious line of thinking. They need to remember that yes, a person can be replaced physically by another person. However, there is also a caveat that is often not considered. That is, if the person being shown the door is of high quality, that level of quality is much more difficult, if not impossible to replace in most cases.
Fortunately, there are several things a professional can do to avoid falling into these problematic modes of operation.
1. Remember that contractors are people too!
By recognizing that the contractors are regular, hard-working individuals, just like everyone else, it will help a person from backsliding into the realm of negativity. If you are a Manager and find yourself unable to reward a contract person for exemplary work directly due to existing policies at your company, don’t stress about it. Many employment agencies do have awards for excellence and other recognition programs for their people working at client sites, they just rarely get a chance to use them. So, take the step to contact their employment agency and report their exceptional work, as it will make that person’s day a little brighter.
2. Don’t abuse the relationship.
Many Managers & Executives think that they can just continue to pile work on contractors and there will be no repercussions. However, while some extra work is expected depending upon the project(s) involved, there are limits written into virtually every contract. Managers had better be aware of those limits or there could be financial penalties levied against their respective departments for exceeding the agreed upon parameters.
3. Include the contractors in events wherever possible.
This one can be a bit difficult, but it is extremely helpful for team cohesion. The difficulty comes from the fact that virtually every company that utilizes contract employees has strict policies in place that prevent those contractors from attending many corporate events, meetings, and seminars in order to avoid lawsuits and other problems. Still, even being included in small events, such as a departmental potluck luncheon at holiday time, can go a long way to building a more unified team. So do the best that can be done under the existing circumstances, but always stay within the established rules.
In closing, it bears repeating to always adhere to the golden rule – Treat others as you would like to be treated. Keeping this in mind will help foster a far more productive work environment, and can help a Manager and/or Executive stand out as a true leader.