Making contract work a success: keeping projects on track
Embedded Expertise, Published: November 30, 2020 - Updated: August 31, 2022
Every organisation’s most valuable assets are its people. The employees of an organisation hold a wealth of knowledge on the day-to-day operations of their teams and the best approach to handling complex tasks. Tapping into this knowledge using a relational approach is key to helping experts sift through the demands that start to accumulate as a contract term progresses.
Clear communication from management is also critical for keeping priorities on track once an expert is established as a support for their team.
In our previous blog, we covered setting expectations in the first days of a new contract. Today we offer some further advice on keeping things on the right track as the engagement progresses.
As you read, you’ll notice contractors are referred to as ‘experts’ – this is a reflection of the value Embedded Expertise places on the technical knowledge contract workers bring to their roles.
Build your network
You’re a few months in and up and running. You’ve tamed the new IT environment and starting to kick productivity goals. With a working knowledge of the business under your belt, building stronger relationships with your co-workers rises in priority.
At this point, your network starts to grow beyond your immediate team and you can look to people in the broader business to provide an extra layer of support. Creating a new network of contacts within an organisation helps to build a sense of belonging and creates a valuable resource for information.
Seeking out tenured work mates for a soft place to land with questions and advice is a highly effective strategy for continued establishment within a business. So effective, in fact, that many organisations are implementing structured buddy programs as part of their multi-dimensional onboarding system.
Finding connections within a well-established workplace can be tricky, especially when an ‘us and them’ mentality can divide contractors and permanent staff. Our advice in this scenario is to be friendly. To everyone, all the time, even if your warmth is not reciprocated (which can be a common occurrence when there’s a perceived disparity in pay rate impacting the mood of an office). At the end of the day, you only need one colleague to hit the ball back over the net.
Once rapport with colleagues is established, their helpful input can give that next layer of context to operations. A friendly team member can rescue you from drowning in a sea of unfamiliar acronyms and give context to the assumed knowledge that can sometimes leave you feeling out of the loop in meetings and email threads.
Having someone to go to for background information can eliminate the need to ‘fake it til you make it’ – an approach that can eventually frustrate your new colleagues. A friendly workmate can also be invaluable in helping you discern the best approach to a problem when reality starts to stray from the ideals presented in your induction, or when you have been given well-meaning, but incorrect advice from another colleague. This sounding board can save hours of unproductive time and help produce the best results for the team you are working in.
The positive impacts of a work buddy, established by design or default, is well supported by research. The gains extend beyond the individual expert, to the development of leadership in tenured employees and a boost in work satisfaction across organisations.
Establish regular check-ins
Normalising honest feedback with experts is critical to a successful engagement and routine is the key to making this happen. An out of the ordinary summons to the boss’ office can be interpreted negatively by experts, and so too can radio silence.
To avoid these reactions, it’s best to establish clear communication through scheduled check-ins with contract employees as well as permanent team members. This creates an open dialogue and ensures timely action to keep projects heading in the right direction.
It’s once a week, putting half an hour aside to just talk about how things are going. The focus of these chats should not be a specific piece of work, but a look at the bigger picture of how the expert’s workload is all coming together. I’ve noticed that people can tend to get stuck in the specifics of projects, but if you rise above the detail and take a high-level view for a little while, the individual priorities will fall into place.
The combination of formal and informal sources of information plays a key role in the success of a short-term contract work engagement. The helpful advice of a tenured work buddy can save experts from spending time and energy on the wrong priorities and provide a discreet answer to the questions that can arise as a result of new office-speak. Routine check-ins from management help keep the big picture in focus and align tasks with broader team goals. These two elements in partnership provide a multi-layered support structure for contractors that enables them to give the most valuable input and best use their technical expertise.
For specific advice on navigating contract work arrangements book a phone chat with the experts at Embedded Expertise today.