Using Contract Talent in a Tight Labor Market

Labor solutions

Using Contract Talent in a Tight Labor Market

If you will, think back to when you were a kid.  It is Easter and you and you brother and sister are hunting for eggs in the backyard.  It is sunny, almost hot (I was in Texas).  As you sit on the patio furniture you scan the backyard for eggs.    

There are so many, their bright colors make them easy to see.  You are the oldest (at least I was) and have the longest legs.  The egg hunt is yours to win!  Your younger brother and sister don’t stand a chance.  

GO!  You are off and running, aimlessly, from egg to egg.  You don’t have a plan, you don’t need one.  The eggs are everywhere, and your basket is filling up. 

Soon the frantic running slows.  Where are all the eggs?  The bright colors are getting harder to find in the bushes.  The hunt finally comes down to the last three eggs,  two eggs, the last egg.  You start to take your time and you are getting a bit frustrated.  Why didn’t you have a plan?    

This is the same feeling may of my clients have as they search for talent in today’s market.  Where are all the candidate?  What is our plan to find them?  Accept the stakes are much greater than a simple egg hunt.  Having open positions represents a real loss, a loss in productivity and revenue.

One solution that my clients and I have been using is contract labor to temporarily meet production needs and keep billing revenue and cash flow positive.  

So what is a contractor? 

Hiring a contractor is a cost-effective way for a firm to maintain staff levels and production when there is a higher work load, large project opening, or staff changes.  It is also a way to bring in expertise the firm many not have, or need, in a full-time capacity.  These are just a few ways contractors benefit the firms they work with.  There are thousands more.

For the United States, the IRS states that a worker is an independent contractor if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and how it will be done.  Basically, your firm can define the goal of the work but not how the work is done.

This is a general description.  Each state and county has its own laws on what constitutes a contractor versus a full-time employee.  And this broad definition is what you want because it gives the firm a great deal of flexibility around these candidates.  And that is the goal.

Hiring a contractor allows firms to fill the gaps in work as they search for full time employee in this tight and challenging market.  Many times, the hired contractor can be converted into a full-time employee.

Do your prep work

While any firm that represents contract talent will do the heavy lifting of finding, vetting, paying, and providing benefits for contract workers, each firm needs to do their own homework.  Most important, your firm and team need to understand what project the contractor will work on and what the expectation of the contractor are.  Be specific!

Put your expectations of the contractor into a detailed job description.  List expectation and goals, not duties.  Contractor are in business for themselves, it is up to them to find their way to the end goal that you define.  It is also important to inform employees working with, and overseeing, the contract of the expectation of the contract worker and give guidelines on how best to team with a contractor joining the team.

Team with the right provider

Shameless plug time.  It is critical that your firm team with a trusted provider.  Agencies have become the go-to place to hire and manage contract talent.  Below are a few tips when evaluating a partner agency.

  • Do they work in your specialty? The more specific and focused in your industry the agencies is, the better talent they have partnered with and the better they understand the needs of your firm. If an agency works with accountant and architects, they might be spread too thin.
  • Ensure the agency covers liability insurance. No questions asked!
  • Ensure the agency has the ability to move quickly. One of the biggest benefits of working with contractors is their ability to start immediately.  A good agency will have pools of strong talent ready to move.
  • Do you like the recruiter? This is critical as working with contractors is also a partnership with the recruiter managing the account.

I hope this starts you thinking about how a contractor might fit into your firm.  With talent difficult to find on one side of the equation and more and more projects opening on the other side of the equation, contract talent could be the solution your firm needs.