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How to maintain company culture when bringing on contract workers
If your business relies heavily on a contract workforce working alongside your permanent hires, it can be difficult to maintain a strong, positive company culture that promotes great team work. Consistency is essential to creating a corporate culture, so how do you maintain it with rapidly changing personnel?
Induction and onboarding
A strong induction procedure will include information about the company and the kind of workplace it is—with not only the practical information about how to get paid, the code of conduct and the safety procedures, but also about the aims, values and culture of the company.
Ideally, this will be smoothly delivered to all employees (including contractors) in either a face-to-face meeting or via an online portal, so that all the paperwork can be completed on the first day. There should also be a chance for the new contractor to ask questions, but you can anticipate some of the major questions by describing the expected dress code, office hierarchy, and any of the fun stuff like work outings or office activities that makes your company what it is.
Part of the attraction of contracting across different businesses can be the acquisition of new skills. Some contractors may be interested in working for your company in part because you have a great project management system, or access to a particular marketing or customer relationship software package. By taking the time to train them, they will be able to jump straight into projects immediately—and they will be motivated to confidently add those skills to their CV.
One of the most important ways to maintain culture is to have strong team-building practices in place. This can have the dual aim of allowing the contractors you bring on board to build rapport with permanent team members, who might otherwise naturally stick together, and for ongoing team members to get to know contractors on a more personal level.
Often, specific team-building days happen once or twice a year—so a contractor will frequently miss out. To make up for this, try consistent, low-key team building that can include contractors, such as:
· Regular informal meetings to facilitate idea sharing
· Inviting contractors to all-team or all-company meetings
· Regular off-campus activities such as weekly drinks or lunches
The Harvard Business Review has excellent advice for making the team inclusive for contractors: “Try to avoid all the subtle status differentiators that can make contractors feel like second-class citizens—for example, the colour of their ID badges or access to the corporate gym—and be exceedingly inclusive instead. Invite them to important meetings, bring them into water-cooler conversations, and add them to the team email list.”
Remember your permanent staff
It’s important not to forget your permanent hires, who may experience some dissatisfaction in dealing with multiple short term hires. Crucial to the success of creating a team where contractors work alongside permanent members of staff harmoniously is ensuring that each can play to their strengths in different projects.
Strategically build project teams whose skillsets are complementary, clarify for both contractors and permanent employees what the role allocations and project aims are, and make sure there’s no potential for toes to be stepped on. If necessary, a clear hierarchy will assist in preventing conflict.
Additionally, make sure managers take a majority share in bringing contractors up to speed on office culture and processes so that permanent staff aren’t left having to do this extra job each time a new contractor comes on board.
Not only does extending the company culture to contractors pay off in the short term - ensuring that contractors feel part of the team makes them more invested and motivated. It also pays off long-term: next time a large project comes up or busy season rolls around, you have a contractor who you know can slot right into your systems and team with minimal training.
Contract workers can sometimes feel left out, so including them in a few key areas will maintain company culture across your team.
- Make sure your induction and onboarding include information about the company and workplace
- Train workers in company-specific systems and procedures
- Include contract workers in team meetings and events, making them feel valued