Effective assimilation helps contractors make an immediate impact on projects
By: Leslie Stevens-Huffman
Even veteran contractors can feel a bit uncomfortable and apprehensive when starting a new project. After all, jumping into the middle of an engineering venture and bonding with a diverse group of unfamiliar teammates is like trying to board a moving freight train. The sooner a professional feels comfortable and confident in a new environment, the more productive they’ll be. Follow these six steps to make contractors feel like part of the team.
1. Give them a home
Contractors won’t be grounded or fruitful if they need to forage for a quiet place to work in conference rooms and cafeterias. Give them a cubicle, an e-mail address, a phone and access to the network as soon as they arrive. Co-locate them with teammates and critical stakeholders whenever possible, so they can nurture productive working relationships. And remember to provide the necessary resources, safety equipment and tools (including operating manuals for machinery, software programs, etc.) to help engineers get off to a fast start.
2. Show them respect
“Honor their skills by asking contractors about their strengths and work preferences,” advises Joanne Greene-Blose PMP, president and CEO of The Project Solvers of America, Inc. “Then use the information to strategically fit them into the project and team structure, instead of forcing them to work in an unfamiliar situation.” Remember, contract engineering professionals bring a lifetime of knowledge and experience to the table, so take the opportunity to cultivate a reciprocal learning environment by openly soliciting their ideas and feedback.
3. Review the scope of work
Joel Kohler, a certified engineering project manager with 20 years of experience, spends several hours with new contractors reviewing the scope of work and making sure their goals and vision align with the project’s objectives. If a contractor will be joining a long-term enterprise, Kohler lets them review the project’s existing documentation and charter before getting down to work. This enables them to understand the project goals and history, as well as their individual roles and responsibilities.
4. Introduce them
“It’s not enough to give contractors a roster and force them to fend for themselves,” insists Kohler. So he personally introduces new contractors to key stakeholders and other engineering managers before asking the parties to collaboratively define their goals and develop a timeline and a process for achieving them.
5. Outline the rules
Engineers flourish when they understand their boundaries and limitations. Clarifying the chain of command and ground rules also prevents rogue teammates from assigning contractors extra duties or issuing directives that usurp the engineering manager’s authority. Savvy managers assign a coach or mentor to new contactors, so they have another trusted resource for questions and advice.
6. Include them
Copy contractors on e-mails, memos and project correspondence. Make them feel like part of the team by inviting them to meetings and social functions, and engaging the entire group in team building activities.
“The key to managing mixed teams is to respect each member’s individuality while creating an inclusive environment,” notes Kohler. “Because you won’t inspire great teamwork and collaboration, unless you take steps to make sure that every member of the team is wearing the same jersey.”
Leslie Stevens-Huffman is a freelance writer in Southern California who has 20 years of experience in the staffing industry.