Change is a fact of life. Every day, we’re handed new technology, new ways of communicating, new ways of working from anywhere, and so on. Rapid change has even worked its way into the job market. More and more people are leaving “traditional” jobs and entering the market as freelancers and entrepreneurs. According to a study conducted by Intuit in 2010, by 2020, 40% of the US workforce will consist of independent contractors, freelancers, and those pursuing opportunities in the gig economy.
Contractors are quickly becoming the norm, not the exception. As the need for more contractors grows, their expectations grow and change. At the same time, your clients’ are changing, both strategically and tactically; their businesses shift as technology and market demands change. For your business to grow, it’s critical that you’re prepared to re-align your expectations quickly, as your contractor base, your client base, and their expectations change.
There are two critical areas in which your ability to realign quickly can improve your contractor retention and match those shifting contractor expectations.
Everyone is excited when a contractor comes on board and is matched with a client. Your recruiting team is excited to have a new contractor on board. Your sales team is thrilled to have a new contractor placed with a client, especially if the contractor’s skill set is hard to find.
But no matter how seamlessly the path is from recruiting to sales to client hand-off, every new contractor brings with them an expectation of how the client engagement will work. Often, that expectation has nothing to do with the reality of the engagement; the idea of how the engagement will play out may be very different than reality.
As the engagement moves forward, from vision to reality, contractor expectations often shift. Why? The contractor begins to gain a greater understanding of the client and your company, and the reality of how that shakes out becomes clearer. This realization can result in an aha moment – of either excitement that expectations have been met or of disenchantment because of the conflicts between reality and expectation. When it becomes disenchantment, the Post-Engagement Hangover sets in.
It’s at this point where your ability to adapt quickly to changing expectation comes to the fore. As your contractor learns more about working with your team and with the client, it’s important for your team to reset expectations by focusing the contractor’s attention on the desired outcome. How? In four steps:
- Meet frequently with your contractor during the first two weeks of engagement. As they talk about the conflict between expectation and reality, reset the expectation by bringing the contractor’s attention back to the desired outcome.
- Be upfront about the challenges and speak frankly. Does the reality of the engagement match the expectation set in the engagement documents? Don’t cover over the differences or reject them out of hand. Address them head on and then reset the contractor’s focus on the opportunity, the experience and the chance to make a difference to the client.
- Document the challenges your contractor is facing; this will make your contractor feel their concerns have been heard and allows your team to find ways to improve the onboarding process.
- Automate contractor engagement. As a staffing agency, with clients spread throughout the country, it’s almost impossible to meet your contractors face to face. Using an engagement platform, like Sense, to automate contractor check-ins keeps your contractors engaged. It also helps your Contractor Care and Contractor Success teams stay ahead of any issues your contractors may be facing, either with the client or in adjusting to being part of your agency’s team.
The goal of this approach – regular meetings and documentation of the challenges – is to make the contractor feel heard and appreciated, while providing transparency into the process. Contractors who feel appreciated and listened to are less likely to walk away from an engagement and are more likely to continue as brand ambassadors for your company.
Seventy-eight percent of contractors who have a bad experience will talk about it with their friends and family, and another 17% will post about it on social media; it’s more cost effective and less time consuming to address the issues as they come up, rather than ignore them and face the possibility of a poor reputation, all because of a lack of open communications.
Starting an engagement comes with lots of activity. The contractor and the client are the center of attention during pre-engagement, launch, and the first few weeks of the engagement, so when that activity tails off, it can be difficult for your contractor to adjust to working on their own with the client. The result can be a contractor ill-prepared to work independently, without the constant support of your team.
No matter how well you prepare your contractor to stand on their own with the client, if you leave them to fend for themselves, they are going to feel cut adrift. That feeling is made worse when your team gives the impression they’re too busy to help, or, worse yet, they are yesterday’s news because your team has moved onto another contractor, another client. The result? The trust that was built during the engagement phase is gone and with it, the contractor.
Can this be avoided? It can, but only with a plan that acknowledges the potential issue.
- Stay in close touch with your contractors with Sense. Our contractor communication and analytics platform keeps communications open through NPS surveys, which allow you to get a quick snapshot of how your contractors are doing, and through automated text messages sent from the app.
- Create a “Post-launch Success Plan” with the contractor specifically in mind. Include in the plan an extended calendar of check-ins that goes beyond the first few weeks. Include 1-on-1 discussions, conversations that include the sales team and your IT team. Talk about how the contractor is feeling about the engagement and about your company.
- Create an “End of Assignment” survey, using the Sense platform, so you can get feedback on how each assignment went for the contractor. It also gives you the opportunity to find out what expectations were met and what the contractor would expect from the next assignment to be successful. Asking your contractors for their opinion at the end of each assignment helps them feel they’re still connected to your agency and will make it more likely they’ll redeploy through multiple assignments.
Keep in mind the overall goal of long-term contractor retention that goes beyond the present engagement. The idea of managing contractor expectations can seem to be a waste of time on the surface, but unmet expectations, when unaddressed, lead to discontent and, eventually, you’ve lost a contractor, often times in the middle of a contract.
Remember – changing expectations are inevitable, but the two main reasons for managing expectations, realigning and resetting never change:
- To retain good contractors through the length of a contract and beyond; and
- To foster a good reputation that builds on your existing base of both contractors and clients.
Sense has the ability to let you see into your contractor’s minds, to understand their expectations and where those expectations are not being met. For a demonstration of our system and to see how you can benefit from using Sense’s NPS-integrated system, request a free demonstration.