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Best practices for onboarding IT contractors

January 27, 2015 | By Lisa Dare, TEKsystems Digital Content Strategist

two professional women shake hands across a table

As the need for IT skills increasingly outstrips the supply of talented IT labor, contingent IT labor is an increasingly important component to companies' talent management strategies. Organizations just can’t afford to keep the hottest skill sets on their permanent staffs, or businesses want the flexibility of scaling up staff as projects demand. So contingent labor is growing. But that doesn't mean IT leaders—or workers—always like everything about contingent working arrangements.

Why are managers often dissatisfied with IT contractors?

It’s not about qualifications—the majority of IT leaders feel contingent IT workers' skills meet their expectations. So why aren't IT leaders completely happy?

There are two main culprits:

  • Onboarding: Although they know onboarding is critical to new hire success, only 18 percent of IT leaders strongly agree their organization has an effective onboarding program
  • Lack of integration: A mere 16 percent of IT leaders believe their temporary IT staffers are seamlessly integrated and performing well with the existing team

How can you realize the full benefit of contract workers?

3>Why you need a defined onboarding program for contractors

Defining a clear onboarding process is an investment in contract workers’ success—and your time. Without one, what happens?

  • IT managers and leaders spend excessive time training contract workers on basic work needs, handling HR and other admin tasks
  • High-paid workers waste precious days getting the right equipment, receiving systems access and figuring out how to get their time cards approved
  • Workers suffer from a lack of consistent guidance—without a documented program, it’s too easy to forget to tell people critical things about your processes or company
  • Companies have a hard time bringing on temp IT staff for large projects quickly

Elements of a successful onboarding plan

A checklist of items needed before a worker starts

  • Systems access
  • Documents to be filled out, such as contracts and HR forms
  • Equipment

Role-specific info

  • Procedures for elevating issues for resolution
  • Task expectations
  • Project management software and expectations
  • Knowledge management (where and how to document knowledge created)

A repository of training and reference materials

  • Company and department info
  • Time and expense procedures 

Is there another way to manage IT contractors?

Some companies find the process of onboarding simply takes too much of senior managers’ time, particularly with larger projects. For example, we recently this client dilemma: A big investment firm brought on dozens of IT contractors for a major project, but the company's managers quickly found themselves unable to keep up with the rush of new hires. The managers were overwhelmed, and it was taking contractors two to three months for contractors to become productive—a major cash drain.

We offered a solution in the form of a managed IT services engagement in which we’d source and hire contractors, supervise their day-to-day work (but not assign tasks or projects) and, critically, onboard them. Our delivery manager was the key to ensuring highly paid contract workers could become productive right away. In fact, his work brought the average timeframe for contractors to achieve full productivity down to 15 days (from a previous 60-90 days). By the client’s own estimate, this saved them $275,000. Even more importantly, it freed up their IT managers to focus on more strategic goals.

Whether you hire an IT services company to manager onboarding for you, or spend real time creating a formal process, your investment will pay off in the long run. Your company will get the most out of contract IT workers, and IT managers will get back valuable time. 

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