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A dummies guide to contractor onboarding

Independent Contractors
CXC Global7 min read
CXC GlobalMarch 14, 2024
CXC Global

In uncertain economic times, such as the current state of the global economy, employers tend to hire more contractors over permanent talent. The need to streamline organisational processes and be able to scale up and down quickly, calls for fewer overheads and slick workforce integration strategies.

So, when contractors are hired into a business in this context, it’s important to the host employer that they get productive, fast. Why? Because companies can see time spent onboarding them, as money spent. Instead, they want them in the seat, working – pronto!

Conversely, when a new employee starts at an organisation, there’s an expectation that they’ll need some time to learn the ropes and assimilate into the new culture and the new role. But contractors often don’t have that luxury. They’re expected to hit the ground running, with very little time spent with their direct team, other relevant teams in the business, or business leadership. It’s a flawed, problematic introduction to a role.

And alarmingly, there can be legal implications for substandard onboarding of independent contractors. Ensuring contractors are correctly classified, setting boundaries around accessibility to company files and IP and other operational considerations must all be factored into a quality contractor onboarding process.

And that’s what we’ll cover today.

Unpacking the contractor onboarding process

Key components of contractor onboarding

There are multiple, varied factors to be included in a quality contractor onboarding process. But this doesn’t mean onboarding needs to be protracted or painful. Below, we’ve provided a guide to all the mandatory issues you need to consider:

Legal and compliance: covering all your legal and compliance issues is key to a successful working relationship. It also means you’ll avoid misclassifying the worker as a contractor, if in fact, you’re treating them like an employee. The various legalities and compliance issues you need to address, in line with your local legislation, are:

  • Contractor agreement: A comprehensive legal contract should cover all aspects, such as the terms of engagement, nature of work, deadlines, payment conditions, liability clauses, and more.
  • Scope of work: This is a more granular outline of the scope of work, compared to the detail of the Contractor Agreement. It ensures there’s absolutely no confusion as to what’s expected of the contractor.
  • Other legal documents: Depending on the type of work the contractor will be performing, you need to consider other contractual documents such as NDAs, confidentiality agreements, non-compete agreements, protection of IP and trade secrets, and more.
  • Compliance documentation: Ensuring your contractor isn’t engaged as an employee will involve setting them up in your payroll (or with your contractor management company) with their personal company and tax details. This ensures the relationship is compliant with all relevant legislation and tax rules. A contractor management company – like CXC – can take care of these issues for you.

Orientation and training: Contractors need to be briefed on your HR policies, broader company policies, cultural expectations and general ‘lay of the land’. They also need to be briefed on the project objectives, the expectations of their role, and the roles of team members with whom they’ll be working. Meetings with a member of your HR team, your leadership team and their direct team, will ensure all bases are covered.

Tools of trade and systems access: Grant access and permissions to your company system, to the extent that the contractor can do their job. Make sure these permissions adhere to company privacy and security policies. Avoid sharing passwords and any privileged company information, unless essential. Involve your IT specialists in this process. And importantly, organise access to all the required tools and software before your contractor begins work. Avoid last-minute arrangements as delays or hiccups could mean the contractor is idle on their first day. It will also result in a bad impression on the contractor – which will bode poorly for your employer brand, and for your contractor’s engagement levels.

Safety and security training: It may sound like a no-brainer, but providing training on the safety and security protocols of your workplace can save you time and headaches in the event of a breach.

Overcoming challenges in contractor onboarding

Once the mandatories are taken care of, don’t be lulled into thinking that’s it for onboarding. Challenges can – and often do – arise. Here are some additional tips to avoid any roadblocks in getting your contractor working:

  • Maintaining compliance: Labour laws and regulations vary between different countries and local legislations, and they’re constantly changing. Therefore, while you may be familiar with onboarding contractors in your country or local area, the process can differ significantly when hiring individuals offshore. Also, it’s essential to ensure that any modifications to the scope of work does not impact a contractor’s classification.
  • Consistency in onboarding: Take the time to document and establish a workable, efficient process for your contractor onboarding; one that can be easily adapted for contractors in different roles, departments and projects across your organisation. Review this process periodically to ensure it remains airtight and compliant. And ensure you document any process changes or updates that may be required, over time.
  • Integration with teams: Establish a clear timetable for your contractors to meet the team with whom they will be working. This is a critical step in the process, as it makes the introduction to your company a positive experience. These introductions must include your internal team members, other contractors working on the project, clients they may need to interact with, and any other stakeholders to the project. While contractors may work independently, they are a crucial part of the team, and overlooking this human element in the collaboration is important.

Best practices for effective contractor onboarding

Try to think of your contractor onboarding as another best practice protocol of your business. Establish and maintain it to that standard. Here are the key best practices for onboarding contractors, to factor in:

  • Automated onboarding system: The multi-faceted nature of onboarding contractors can present complications and challenges, particularly if you’re using multiple technology platforms to manage the process. So, an automated onboarding system is a great solution. Not only will you have everything in one location, but the experience for the contractor will also be far more positive, their time-to-productivity will be faster and this in turn will save your organisation in both time and resources. (The alternative of course, is to engage CXC to do this for you).
  • Clear communications: Throughout the onboarding process, make sure you communicate with your contractors with clarity, precision and efficacy. Leave nothing up for interpretation. This is key to establishing a productive, high-performing contractor/host company relationship. Once your contractor has been onboarded, make sure they’re aware of the open lines of communication to their project host with respect to:
    • expectations of the contractor and the project, including timelines and deliverables of the project, both from the team and from the contractor; communicate performance standards for the project, including benchmarks, goals and KPIs.
    • the opportunity to provide feedback, make suggestions or recommendations regarding the project; this allows the company to tap into the contractor’s industry expertise.
  • Feedback opportunity: Ask for feedback from contractors regularly to build trust, keep engagement high, and enhance operational efficiency. Establish weekly or bi-weekly meetings to ensure everyone is aligned.
  • Establish a system: Create a system where your contractors provide feedback on their onboarding experience. Where shortcomings, concerns or oversights occur, ensure these are factored into the onboarding process moving forward.

Maximising the benefits of effective contractor onboarding

A well-planned, comprehensive contractor onboarding workflow is essential for a successful contractor/host company relationship. It protects the company from noncompliance risks, and it allows the contractor to assimilate quickly and efficiently into the business.

It’s important to clearly communicate each stage of the onboarding process, so the contractor understands their time in your business is optimised and their services to your organisation are important. Remember, a well-planned onboarding process will leave the contractor feeling welcome, engaged, positive about your business and keen to get working. And therefore, it will play an important role in enhancing your employer brand, making your organisation an appealing option for returning contractors and new contractual hires.

Set clear project expectations, deliverables and success metrics to contractors during the onboarding process, and always keep lines of communication open, so your contractors are never ‘lost in the wild’ of your organisational engine.

Importantly, comply with best practices in your contractor onboarding – this alone, will ensure a smooth integration into your business, that will benefit all parties to the relationship.

And finally, engaging contractors during the current global economic uncertainties is not only a smart move to keep your business overheads contained. It’s also an excellent way to leverage top talent who, increasingly, are opting to ‘career contract’. To ensure your contractors are integrated into your business seamlessly so they can hit the ground running, a smooth onboarding process is vital.

This is where CXC can help. With over 30 years of managing independent contractors across the globe, CXC has the technology, the manpower and the expertise to get your contractors up-and-running, faster than what you’re probably capable of in-house. We can redeploy high-value contractors within your business at the end of a project. And we will save you time and money in doing so. Check out our contractor management services here. Or simply give us a call and let’s talk.

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About CXC

At CXC, we want to help you grow your business with flexible, contingent talent. But we also understand that managing a contingent workforce can be complicated, costly and time-consuming. Through our MSP solution, we can help you to fulfil all of your contingent hiring needs, including temp employees, independent contractors and SOW workers. And if your needs change? No problem. Our flexible solution is designed to scale up and down to match our clients’ requirements.

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