The 4 most common mistakes to avoid when working with tech contractors and consultants

Do you know how to work with tech consultants successfully? Because now is the time to learn. One in five jobs in the U.S. is held by a contract-based worker, according to a 2018 NPR/Marist poll. By 2020, the number of self-employed workers — contractors and freelancers — is projected to triple to nearly 42 million people, according to a 2018 Deloitte study. Considering we are currently living through year after year of the lowest unemployment rates in recent memory, this also means the current candidate-driven hiring market won’t be changing anytime soon.

Which means more and more employers are turning to contract-based consultants as their go-to hiring solution for urgent talent gaps and project needs to produce the innovative solutions companies need to stay competitive. This is even more true for in-demand, hard-to-find talent like tech experts.

What employers should be focused on now is how to get the most out of their relationships with tech consultants, along with ensuring a positive consultant experience to save time and money by retaining this talent for any future needs. To help you do so, here are the four most common mistakes to avoid when working with your next tech consultant.

1. Failing to approve hours on time

There’s a reason the top complaint from consultants is late payments. While working as a consultant or freelancer means accepting a certain unreliability when it comes to your day-to-day, that level of uncertainty shouldn’t apply to receiving payments for the contracted work they produce.

If you sourced your contractor from a staffing agency, they likely have a process to follow to ensure all consultants are paid on time. Which means staying on top of submitting billed hours to their portal if you’re a hiring manager or risking delayed payments for your consultant, which can be anywhere from one week or longer depending on the next pay cycle — an easy way to upset your on-demand talent and ensure they never accept a contract from you again. If you sourced talent via internal recruiting efforts, take the time to connect with your finance department to verify all documents have been received, and payments will be sent out on a timely and reliable schedule to your consultant.

2. Expanding the scope of the project post-contract

Tech consultants expect hiring managers to have a fully mapped out understanding of the scope of the project or business need they are hiring for, which is why most consultants will insist this is provided in writing through a contract and signed by all parties. However, this doesn’t stop employers from expanding the scope of the project post-contract because they failed to take one element or another into account. Doing so is a guaranteed way to frustrate your consultant — many of whom adhere to strict deadlines and bandwidth constraints as they tend to be working more than one contract at a time — receive a lower quality of work, and make it impossible to retain this talent for a future need.

To avoid this, make sure the hiring manager and team involved with the project or business need have a chance to sit down and thoroughly map out the scope of the contract. Run through all possible delays, issues, or questions until you’re confident you’re providing an accurate and detailed project scope description and timeline to your top consultant prospects.

3. Not valuing consultant’s feedback or input

The reason you are hiring a tech consultant is usually because you require a subject matter expert that you don’t currently have in-house. So why do so many employers fail to take their tech consultant’s feedback or input into account throughout the contract? Well, it’s challenging to trust an outsider with your internal business needs. Many employers make the mistake of thinking only they have a true understanding of their business and target audience.

While you are definitely the expert on how your business runs and who your audience is, it’s crucial you hear your consultant out and consider the feedback and input they provide. After all, their insights and expertise are the very reason you hired them. If they tell you there’s an additional infrastructure need for your business application, then it’s most likely true. Before vetoing your next tech consultant’s insights, give it a day, and return to their feedback with an open mind. You might be surprised to see how helpful and applicable their insights actually are.

4. Treating consultants like one of your employees

Along the lines of failing to really listen to your tech consultant’s feedback is the common mistake of treating these contract-based experts like one of your full-time employees. You hired a tech consultant to work with you, not for you, which is a crucial distinction. Unlike full-time employees, consultants don’t receive benefits, and, as a result, shouldn’t be expected to deal with typical day-to-day issues full-time employees are expected to, like office politics, meetings canceled at the last minute, or lending a hand when needed. In many ways, they are closer to a client than an employee. If you want to work with your tech consultant again in the future, it’s important to keep this in mind throughout all of your communications and interactions with them.

Maintaining a successful relationship with your tech consultants is as simple as keeping these common mistakes in mind so you can work to prevent them. If you fail to do so, you may be shocked at just how costly it becomes when you go to hire a tech consultant in the future.

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Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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