Contractors are to the construction industry what bacon is to eggs– they don’t HAVE to go hand in hand, but things are a lot better when they do. Because construction work is often broken up into different projects, many workers are brought in for a specific phase of the project, depending on their skillset. Within one project, a designer might be brought on during the initial designing phase of a new building or highway, while a scaffolder or excavator operator will be involved further along in the project once construction starts. Consequently, once they’ve completed their particular section of the project, they’ll then move on to another, which is why working on a contract basis often works best.
The added flexibility that contract work provides is also beneficial to employers, as when they are under-resourced and under pressure to finish a project on time, they can hire short-term workers to help soak up the work overflow.
However, contract work within construction (and contract work in general) comes with a unique set of challenges for both the individual and the employer, as well as a number of benefits. Individuals will often have to make quick assessments and move projects forward on schedule despite juggling multiple clients. On the flip side, companies working with contractors will face a number of hurdles – from unreliable partners to legal issues.
Today, we’ll explore the contractor/organisation relationship further and highlight key steps to take to ensure it remains effective and productive, no matter if you’re the worker or the employer:
Set Clear Expectations
The successful delivery of a project depends on whether there were clear expectations from the outset. Changing the goalposts halfway through a project, or confusion over key objectives will only lead to mistakes, having to re-do things and frustration amongst the team. In regards to contract work, setting out clear expectations is especially important as both parties will be looking out for their own interests. Consequently, when the specifics or key deliverables of a project aren’t properly communicated between both parties, cracks begin to form in the working relationship.
To avoid this as a contractor, be sure to get the key deliverables of a project in writing from your manager as well as the key performance indicators while working on a particular project. This will include important logistical details like the duration of the project, how many hours per week or month it will require, and the final total compensation
Similarly, from the employer’s perspective, you need to be upfront and clear about the desired outcomes of a particular project. Provide visual examples to help demonstrate your point. For example, if it’s a home renovation, show examples of previous renovations you want to model off. It’s also important to provide your contractors with context - especially very short-term contractors. Because short-term and temporary contractors will often be coming in mid-project, they won’t have the same understanding as longer-term workers. Consequently, leaders and managers should spend the additional time with these temporary workers initially, discussing key goals and objectives, how they connect to the big picture, and why it matters.
Be Honest About Qualifications & Project Scope
Contract work and the relationship between contractors and their employers revolves around trust. At Design & Build, our vision is to be Australia's most trusted recruitment agency and one of the key values we live by to achieve this is through honest communication. We believe this same value is crucial for any relationship built in trust, especially the ones between contractors and employers. Consequently, both contractors and employers need to strive to always be honest- when discussing your qualifications or when outlining the scope to be done on a project.
We've all been in a situation where we've exaggerated our abilities or experiences in order to appear more desirable for an exciting job opportunity. However doing this can actually be putting yourself at a disadvantage, as you could be trying to make something work that isn't necessarily the right fit for you. While you can get up to speed on a lot of skills with some help from Google and YouTube, claiming that you're a specialist, claiming to have software skills you don't, or representing any other talent that's outside your expertise can be a recipe for disaster. Especially within a high-pressure environment like construction, where there are tight deadlines for a number of deliverables.
There's a reason that organisations will put specific qualifications and requirements in their job description; because they are necessary to perform the job effectively. Consequently, make sure you look over the job requirements and mandatory experience or skillsets. If there is something that you aren't experienced with, be honest during the job-seeking process about this. Ultimately, you'll enjoy the work more if you're working a job where you're confident in your ability and can complete the project requirements rather than constantly scrambling or trying to learn things on the fly.
It is understandable as an employer, to want to get the best possible candidate for a particular project. You are expected to complete the project – whatever it may be- by a particular date and want it to go well. However, many employers can sometimes run the risk of getting bogged down in creating a shopping list of required skills, qualifications, and responsibilities when on the quest for the perfect candidate. While it is important to be sure you’re finding excellent and qualified candidates, you also want to be sure you're attracting the right type of candidate. It's unlikely you'll find someone with all 28 of your required qualifications, which means that people applying might be padding out their resume to meet requirements.
Alternately, what can be an easier approach to sourcing talent is determining the nice-to-have skills and experience and the core competencies that are required to perform a particular role. By drawing a line in the sand between the two and making sure it’s clear to candidates the skills that are essential for a role, they can make a proper assessment about whether they're a good fit and you’ll increase your chances of receiving legitimate candidates.
Become Part of The Team
A common experience for contract workers is feeling a lack of belonging within a workplace due to the temporary nature of their job. Especially workers who are on very short-term contracts (perhaps a few weeks or a month) can often feel disconnected from the rest of their team as they have not built the same rapport or are as familiar with the workplace culture and systems and processes. This can impact their morale and at times, negatively impact overall productivity.
When you first join an organisation – especially mid-way through a project – it can be difficult to find you’re footing, especially when the rest of the team have already been working together for a number of weeks. Consequently, it’s important to take the time to learn who's responsible for what within the organisation, how your role fits in, and where you can access necessary resources. Set up meetings with people, take the time to sit with the rest of the team at lunch or throw yourself into any social activities that occur. While this will take a bit of time initially, it will help you to work with your team more effectively in the long term and contribute to better communication and cohesiveness on a project.
For managers or team leaders, it is important to try and avoid all the subtle status differentiators that can make contractors feel like second-class citizens—for example, the colour of their ID badges or not having access to the corporate gym—and be exceedingly inclusive instead. Ensure that they are invited to important meetings, bring them into water-cooler conversations, and add them to the team email list. This way contractors can feel ‘part’ of the team and are aware of the key things/updates within the team that can impact the project – for example someone going on paternal leave or someone embarking on additional study.
Agree On Fair Compensation
If either the company or the contractor doesn't feel comfortable with the compensation offered or provided, it's a recipe for disaster and can lead to not only a damaged working relationship but also negatively impact the delivery of a project.
Especially when you're just starting to build a client base, setting rates can be difficult. It’s difficult to strike that balance of ensuring you’re fairly compensated but also pricing yourself competitively to ensure you don’t lose out on a contract. This underlying trepidation can result in quotes coming in too low, which can leave you unmotivated or commit to too much in order to make ends meet.
As a contractor, it's essential to have confidence in your ability and know your worth. While it can be tempting to use full-time salaries you believe are comparable as a benchmark, full-time employees receive more benefits than a contractor, including sick and annual leave days. Consequently, this needs to be factored in when you work out your daily or weekly rates to ensure you’re giving yourself enough padding to live comfortably, especially if there’s a future break between jobs.
If you don’t know where to start in terms of compensation or are unsure of your worth you can always reach out to a recruiter within your industry. They speak to a lot of other candidates and clients within your field and therefore will have a good grasp on the standard ‘rates’ clients are willing to pay, as well as what other candidates charge based on their experience and skillset.
For employers, it’s fairly simple; when you treat your contractors well, you’re benefitting the overall project. Paying contractors at market rate, if not higher, will show how much you value their contribution to your business, which in turn, will make your contractors feel more motivated to perform well and work hard, which ultimately benefits the overall project you’re both working on. Furthermore, it will help establish a positive relationship with your contractors and make them more inclined to work with you again in the future.
Employers should also invest in project management tools like Slack, Asana, Jira or Timely to easily keep track of billable contract hours.
If you’d like to find out more bout any of the above information or are a contractor seeking new opportunities within the construction space, why not reach out to our team of consultants. Design & Build specialise in recruiting within the construction, engineering and property space - one where contract roles are very common- and have some great positions currently available. Click the link below to find out more: