By now, we’re all aware of the growing contractor footprint on the modern workforce. In the U.S., for instance, recent projections show that contractors will constitute half of the labor force within the decade.
Sure, the U.S. might be an edge case. But it seems wherever you look, contract workers are occupying an ever-larger percentage of the labor force, across industry. Case in point: a 2016 Experis report found that 71 percent of employers across ten countries currently employ contract workers in the IT sector, due in part to of a perceived skills shortage.
Despite the numbers of contractors onboarded, firms rarely take the extra steps to develop the internal management competencies that would help businesses recoup the advantages they seek to gain from hiring contractors in the first place, i.e. reduced cost, increased flexibility, improved productivity, and higher profitability. More concerning still, with so many moving parts and people, plenty can go wrong if companies don’t adopt an ongoing process to help manage the contractors that work on their sites.
So what should companies do? For starters, firms need to get serious about using an ongoing, lifecycle approach to managing their contractors. That process begins at the contractor procurement stage when firms first engage contractors. At this point, integrating health and safety (or other core business) requirements directly into the contractor procurement process will provide a valuable opportunity for sharing knowledge.
Of course, the lifecycle doesn’t end with procurement either. In fact, too many businesses make that mistake. Ensuring effective contractor management through the lifecycle of the contractor engagement requires proactive management from pre-qualification to post-job evaluation. Here are some best practices firms can adopt:
- Pre-qualification. Whether undertaken by the host company or a vendor, initial contractor vetting should go beyond assessing quantifiable data. That approach only provides a limited understanding of future work need. Instead, companies should try to involve more stakeholders to get a broader, cross-functional look at pricing, use, and process-related costs. Getting a clear picture of the engagement during pre-qualification can also help improve efficiencies and productivity down the road.
- Pre-job task and risk assessment. Additionally, it’s essential to accurately gauge a contractor’s risk rating so as to put the contractor in a predetermined risk category. But host companies shouldn’t stop there. They will need to make subsequent assessments, using a dynamic risk matrix to allocate points based on project risk factors. Clearly, projects that receive higher risk ratings should get more safety attention.
- Contractor training and orientation. Host companies, especially in heavy industry, should perform stringent, site-specific safety orientations and skills training for their contractors before those employees actually begin work on the site.
- Monitoring the job. Host companies, again especially in heavy industry, should demand regular safety observations and up-to-date incident logs from their contractors, as well as undertake routine performance reviews and field verifications.
- Post-job evaluation. Too often, subpar contractors end up getting rehired with little (or no) requalification oversight. What’s to blame? The fact that companies don’t use sufficiently rigorous standards for evaluating contractor work after the engagement ends. Firms ought to get in the habit of conducting post-job work assessments for their contractors. It doesn’t have to come as a surprise for contractors either. Companies should be upfront and candid with the fact during the procurement process.
To learn more about contractor management, download our work health and safety guide to contractor management.
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