The Contracting World Has Changed...

Perhaps it’s because I’m getting older, but it doesn’t seem long ago that it was widely accepted in IT that hiring a contractor was all about capability. Actually - only about capability. Doing a job and doing it well, nothing else. Culture fit? Only around permanent hires thanks.

Over the years since, it really has become apparent to me how crazy this thinking is.

Let’s have a look at the factors in play when contractors join a project with a business:

  • It’s typically under high pressure – constrained by time and budget
  • There is also a high expectation for the contractor to show value immediately
  • Incumbent permanent staff may show some resentment toward contractors, given they know they’re being paid more and may think of them as arrogant hotshots
  • There is little time to induct and get contractors properly integrated in the environment

Does this seem like the kind of environment that, culturally speaking, ‘any old Joe’ would thrive in?

Hardly, right? What’s worse is that any old Joe may make an already difficult environment even worse. The potential for damage is immense, particularly around team morale and the degree to which incumbent staff feel respected or even valued. Should these affects be realised a multitude of dire consequences can follow on – from budget blowout to project failure and staff turnover.

A number of conversations I’ve recently had with clients have emphatically proven this to be the case. Four letter verbs were uttered about the degree of which the wrong contractors can, and have messed up teams. Furthermore, these senior managers went on to talk (equally emphatically) about how culture fit is the number one factor in hiring contractors. As much a big deal as it is with hiring permanent staff.

In case you didn’t know it already, the world (of IT contractors anyway) has changed. So what do you need to do about it?

Managers

Respect the value of getting the total fit right with contractors. Manage them as you would any staff member and set expectations with them of what appropriate conduct is. Perhaps most importantly, take care of your existing team.

Contractors

Appreciate the extent of the impact you can have on your new team. You are part of that team, not a stand-alone automation. Furthermore, your future success and ongoing reputation is now contingent upon you having a positive impact on the environments you contract into.

Though IT seems like it’s all about technology, it’s not. It’s all about people and always will be.