Stop Treating Contract Workers Like Second-Class Employees

In today’s workforce, businesses may need to rely on contract staff more often than they used to, due to new and shifting demands on the organization. While many businesses may prefer to employ staff on a permanent basis, it might not be possible. Contract or precarious employment is more short-term than “regular” employment, but it doesn’t have to be seen as universally negative. For example, some employees may enjoy the freedom of short-term work, while on the flip side, the employer doesn’t have to worry about expanding their team for the long-haul. But that doesn’t mean short-term workers shouldn’t be made to feel like part of the team.

Regardless of the circumstances, it’s up to the employer to stick-handle inclusivity, productivity and collaboration. Here are a few tips for employers to foster a comfortable environment in which short-term employees can work alongside full-time staff with ease.

Establish a connection offline
In many cases, contract workers are hired for a specific, often time-sensitive task or project. And sometimes they’re hired on to fill a temporary need that turns into a much larger one. Given these unique situations, these employees may work under more relaxed conditions, too — flexible hours and perhaps with the opportunity to work from home more often than usual. Given the anticipated brevity of precarious work at a company from the get-go, it’s critical to form relationships with the employee from day one. If they’re working from home, schedule weekly face-to-face meetings and make the effort to communicate over the phone instead of email when you can. If there is an in-office event during regular work hours, invite them to come in too. This will help to establish a sense of belongingness with the company and team members. An employer can also offer professional development opportunities to precarious workers that are a win-win for both parties. In addition, employers can also extend a buddy system for full-time staff to contract staff, too. This means that there will be a reliable colleague to teach the ropes of the business and integrate into teams and more socializing.

Offer professional development opportunities
As contract employees often prove to be independent based on where they work or the project they work on, employers should keep an eye on training and development initiatives to invite them to and engage in. For example, if a company already has an established learning program in the office with regularly scheduled seminars, asking contract employees to attend is a great idea. By treating them as a full-time employee in the office, you’ll help them grow and form relationships with other professionals that may be beneficial in their next career move beyond the company. No matter the agreement an employee has with a company, he/she is still contributing to the same broader goals and objective. Outside of the office, an employer can also offer professional development opportunities to precarious workers that are a win-win for both parties. Let’s say for example that there’s a networking event that is regularly attended by professionals in the industry. The employer could invite the employee to go and bring back key insights to a team meeting the week following. That way the contract employee is gaining valuable networking experience out of the office, while showcasing their expertise back in the office.

Show recognition
No matter the agreement an employee has with a company, he/she is still contributing to the same broader goals and objectives as everyone else.
Recognizing this already instills inclusivity in the interactions between people who are working in and out of the office. Even if employers find that they give praise and recognition to precarious staff one-on-one, showing that they’re valuable to the rest of the organization is important, too. Make sure invites are extended for any awards or staff appreciation events to let them know that their efforts and contributions matter. A sure way to encourage feelings of exclusion among contract staff is by physically excluding them from company activities.

Give kudos
And at the end of the day, giving kudos for a project well done may be the end of a contract worker’s role at a company. But in other cases, it may jumpstart continued opportunities within the company or ones in new territory. Certainly contract work isn’t something new in the workplace, nor is it for everyone, even if given the choice. But it is a reality that some employees face. Employers should be actively taking steps to make all staff, no matter how long their agreement is, feel included, welcomed and heard.


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