Sometimes your team needs a little outside help, whether its recruiting a contractor for their expertise, needing another warm body to share the workload, or filling in for an absent team member. But contractors are a whole different animal compared to people your company has recruited and trained through traditional channels, and present a whole different set of challenges to project managers. How do you get the best performance out of someone from outside your organization (and who might be working remotely)?
The answers might be simpler than you think:
Set Clear Expectations
You already do this (or should be doing this) at the start of your own project, so why not do it for your contractor? Set expectations for everything: hourly rate, expected work hours, method of communication, reporting structure, etc. But most of all, you should define the scope of his tasks. What exactly will he be doing? Will he be asked to help with someone elses tasks? What happens if youre not happy with his work?
The more you talk about these things before beginning the relationship, the fewer nasty surprises youll have to deal with and the smoother your relationship will go. Better to disagree at the start and end the relationship before it begins than to have an argument in the middle of the project when theres so much more at stake.
Make Yourself Available
Its important for you to stay in regular contact with your contractor, especially if your client is working off-site. This isnt just so you can check on his progress. You also have to warm up to him and make him see you as a person, and not just the guy paying his fee. This will encourage him to ask more questions about the project, give you his best work, and even set the grounds for a beneficial long-term relationship. You should make an effort to set up real-life meetings (or the next best thing), even if you work in different locations.
Offer Performance-Based Incentives
You might be thinking why give an incentive when Im already paying him a fee, but think about it: you pay your team a salary, but you still need to give them incentives, too! Contractors are no different. They perform best when they know their work is appreciated and rewarded. Set up a tiered or scaled system where the better/more a contractor does, the bigger the payoff. This could be a bonus or commission system, whatever works best with your process.
Managing contractors is the same as managing your team: difficult when done poorly, but easy when done right. With the right kind of planning, judgment, and motivation, your contractors will pay back their fees in huge dividends, and bring your project ever closer to a successful conclusion.