How to Prevent Typical Contractor Onboarding Mistakes

12 June 2017

Contractor onboarding is a challenge. It’s also easier to talk about than do. Most contractors spend far less time with you than your direct employees. Yet, they’re just as important to your company’s productivity. So, you need to create a good first impression when onboarding contractors if you want them to stay. Keeping employees is hard in today’s workplace. It moves faster, demands more, and waits for no one. Like any employee, contractors won’t stay around long if they’re unhappy. And the place where turnover is highest is in industries such as utilities, construction, retail, hospitality, and service, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

So, if you want contractors to hit the ground running and stay with your company long-term, you must educate and engage them. To do that quickly and expeditiously, and get the most out of them long-term, you need to avoid the common mistakes companies often make when onboarding contractors. These mistakes can derail the onboarding process, boost turnover, and cut a company’s productivity and profitability. Since replacing contractors is costly, savvy companies use every tool at their disposal to help them avoid these mistakes and increase retention rates, including using contractor onboarding software.

Replacing Employees is Costly

Statistics show that even in a down economy, close to 50 percent of typical new hires leave their organizations before a year is up. Unhappy contractors tend to stay around a lot less time than this. Turnover like this can cost a company up to 150 percent of a worker’s salary to replace, according to a report by the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California, Berkeley. This finding probably comes as no surprise to anyone in business. Retaining employees longer can obviously cut your company’s costs and increase its profitability.

One key to retaining contractors is hiring the right type of people to start with. Look for candidates with the right skills, the right attitude, and right job experience as well as a passion for their work. Also do a thorough background check on the individual and test their skills before hiring them. Of course, that’s not always easy in the hard-hat industries, but giving them a simulated task can help. And make sure you chat with the candidate’s former employer before hiring him or her, not after, like many companies do. Often it’s too late by then.

A second key to keeping contractors is to develop a consistent approach to onboarding employees. Not doing so is another mistake many companies make. Keep in mind that making a good first impression with new hires is important when it comes to retaining employees. It often serves as the foundation for a contractor’s long-term success with your company. Focus this consistent approach to onboarding employees to achieving the following goals:

  • Embedding the employee into your organization’s culture, including its safety culture
  • Documenting paperwork from all new employees, especially contractors
  • Communicate key safety information and protocols that may apply to the worker
  • Bring new workers up to speed quickly on what their responsibilities are
  • Establish good communication between the organization and new employees

Creating a consistent approach to onboarding based on these goals will not only retain workers longer, but also boost their productivity during employment and keep them safe and healthy while working for a company. Creating a consistent onboarding process also allows you to continuously improve the effort as time goes by.

Avoiding Common Onboarding Mistakes

The biggest key to retaining contractors long-term, however, might be avoiding the typical mistakes companies make when onboarding new hires. Below are some of those mistakes and tips on avoiding them:

  • Failing to customize the onboarding process — Different groups of workers require different sets of information and safety training. So, tailor the onboarding process based to a person’s job. Some factors to consider when doing this include:

1. Role and tasks

2. Location

3. Language

4. Risks and job hazards

Some companies use spreadsheets to create different groups of workers, so they can target the right information and training to specifics groups. That approach can be cumbersome and confusing, but it works. Using contractor onboarding software, on the other hand, streamlines and simplifies this process. More importantly, it ensures that the right groups get the right information and training.

  • Flooding the contractor with information — In their haste to bring contractors up to speed, many companies inundate employees with too much information at one time, often on the first day. This approach fails to give the employees any context for the information, which prevents them from relating to the information once they’re settled in. Companies need to focus in on giving contractors the information they need to know right away. Onboarding software can provide this key information in a concise manner long before the contractors come on board. So, they’re up to speed their first day on the job.
  • Not creating a structured onboarding process — While this mistake might seem obvious, many companies lack a structured and documented onboarding process. In fact, it’s probably the most common mistake companies make when hiring contractors. Without a structured process, onboarding will be haphazard, incomplete, and arbitrary. A structured onboarding process is also key to creating a consistent onboarding process. It also enables a company to monitor and improve the process. The right onboarding software can serve as the heart of a good structured onboarding process—one that you can tailor to the needs of an employ.
  • Poor introduction to the company its safety culture — Too many companies fail to build culture integration into their contractor onboarding programs. More importantly, they fail to integrate employees into their safety culture. Managers can use onboarding software to kick-start this process before the employee starts. Self-paced learning, knowledge testing, and repetition of key information are additional tools onboarding software provides to help integrate a contractor into a safety culture. Managers can then introduce vision and values during a contractor’s first day and help them connect with their career goals and interests.
  • Failing to get contractors’ feedback — It’s important that contractors get feedback from employers as they become acclimated to a company to ensure they are developing the right habits. But it’s also important that companies get feedback from contractors on the onboarding process. Onboarding software can provide the tools companies need to generate feedback from contractors as the onboarding process unfolds, like email messages, surveys, and e-newsletters.

Additional mistakes that companies need to avoid when onboarding employees include:

  • Not streamlining or automating data collection (insurance forms, qualifications, personal information, etc.)
  • Not streamlining contractor safety training and orientation; failing to articulate a contractors’ responsibilities
  • Failing to make time to celebrate an employee’s hiring, making him or her feel welcome
  • Going silent after the company first hires the contractor.

Many of these additional mistakes can be avoided with the help of contractor onboarding software. It can also assure compliance, help generate employee engagement, increase onboarding efficiency, and customize forms and messages for new hires. Onboarding contractors is simply too critical a process not to use every tool at your disposal to get the job done.

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Jenny Snook

Jenny Snook is content executive at GoContractor with the job of researching the latest health and safety trends in the heavy industry. Her past-experience includes the research of large museum collections such as the Louth County Museum, many from the industrial age.

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