9 Best Practices for Onboarding Contractors to Create a Sense of Team

by Corey Philip
November 9, 2022

So you hired a bunch of independent contractors for your business?

And they all performed poorly and eventually flaked off.

It happens. It happened to me.

In 2016 I had my first dip into the foray of mass hiring independent contractors. They were to take measurements online for a roofing business using a tool like Google Maps. Right from the get go on day 1 I didn't even have a training plan for them, nor my own time scheduled to train them (facepalm). It was a recipe for disaster that I walked right into.  

The onboarding process makes or breaks the work experience for contractors and employees, so ensuring you set a smooth sail for the people you hire is key. That may make you wonder about the best practices for onboarding contractors.

Creating opportunities for contractors to bond with other workers is key to making them feel like they belong to the team. That means assigning mentors, ensuring managers check on them regularly, and giving them a welcome gift. Starting the onboarding process before work begins is vital.

The sooner a contractor starts the onboarding process, the sooner they feel like they belong to the company. That means setting clear expectations and goals for them to accustom to. At the same time, getting the ball rolling with an easy task is vital.

In this article, we'll discuss why creating an effective contractor onboarding is important, as well as some best practices on how to build a sense of team for onboarding contractors.

Why Effective Contractor Onboarding is Important


Effective onboarding brings a number of advantages. It boosts employee retention, performance, and engagement. It has been demonstrated that a positive onboarding process can influence an employee's attitude toward corporate goals and values.

In particular, a good contractor onboarding yields the following benefits:

  • Ensures a higher retention and engagement rate. Taking a little time to explain company culture and ways of doing things to new contractors can skyrocket productivity from day one.
  • Creates a structure for newcomers to follow. By providing a schedule and structure for new contractors, a trial-and-error phase won’t exist, allowing new workers to build momentum.
  • Takes advantage of the human element. The right way to onboard contractors includes checking on them, helping them network, and assigning mentors if necessary, creating a long-lasting sense of belonging.

So needless to say, you need to get your process down pact. Follow these best practices to improve your contractor onboarding.

Here we go.

How to Create a Sense of Team for Onboarding Contractors


Did you know close to 90% of companies don’t have a successful onboarding process? That means nearly one in ten companies know how to ensure their workers start on the right foot. The very first thing you have to do is set clear expectations.

1. Set Crystal Clear Expectations


You probably talked about what you want from your contractors during the interview process. However, it’s not a bad idea to go over goals and expectations one last time during onboarding.

What does that mean? Describe your company’s culture to your contractor and what you expect from workers.

For example: Explain if you work on a task-by-task basis or by the hour. At the same time, explain what roles and responsibilities your contractor now has.

2. Start the Process Before the First Day of Work


Speaking about setting the tone, the first day of work is the worst for the onboarding process. Doing so makes your contractors lag behind right from the get-go, so you should try to get this process out of the way before the work starts.

If there’s anything to sign or explain before your new contractor rolls up their sleeves, make sure they see and sign it beforehand. However, don’t swamp someone with paperwork before they’re on the clock.

3. Think about a Small Nice Gesture to Get the Ball Rolling


It’s difficult to make contractors feel at home when they start working at a new company. They’re not full-time employees, yet they’re not strangers either. A contractor works for a company without belonging to the staff, though that doesn’t mean they should feel like they don’t belong.

Something small like a welcome gift is enough to blur the line between contractor and employee, at least emotionally. A warm welcome email may also do the trick. It’s all about making a gesture.

4. Create Opportunities for Everyone to Connect


Bonding also helps someone feel like they belong. Being new is far from easy, especially if you know you may be around for a few months at best. However, everyone should feel they’re working shoulder by shoulder, no matter how little their time at the company will be.

A small introductory meeting may be enough to let anyone know who’s who. If that seems too time-consuming, a short email explaining who does what and how to contact them will be enough.

5. Check on your Contractors regularly


It’s easy to lose track of your contractors, especially if you’re at a big company. However, making sure they have everything they need to succeed is your responsibility, which may entail checking up on them during the first week (and, sometimes, the first month) of their contract.

You can (and should) schedule meetings throughout the onboarding process. Experts say onboarding takes one to three months, though that may be shorter if your contractor won’t work for your company for that long.

6. Help Them Start Slow


Workers can’t start hitting home runs from day one, so it’s your responsibility to make sure they stay on track before they can fly solo.

Starting to work at a company is the same as riding a bike. You have to do so with training wheels first, then do it for real after a while. In other words, help your contractors find their footing before you give them more freedom to pick their tasks.

For example: Provide them with a task or two to get an easy win so they can build momentum that’ll carry them throughout their time working at your company.

7. Create a Structured Schedule for them to Follow


As you now know, the onboarding process can take up to three months, and it can be a confusing time for everyone, especially contractors.

How can you help with such a confusing situation? By holding their hand, at least for a while. To do that the right way, structure a schedule for contractors to follow during the onboarding process. After a while, new contractors will have a little experience under their wing, helping them figure out the best way to pace themselves.

8. Provide a Source of Information


Trial and error is a rather inefficient way of finding your footing when you start at a new company, and plenty of companies use it as their preferred method for new arrivals. However, going against the current will boost your company’s productivity.

How can you make that happen? By providing a source of information for new contractors. That’ll help get the ball rolling right from the start, making newcomers feel like they belong by creating no issues during their first few moments at work. A manual, slideshow presentation or similar will do the trick.

9. Assign Mentors if Necessary


The coldness of a manual doesn’t compare to the warmth of a human. Assigning a mentor to a contractor helps streamline the onboarding process and create a sense of belonging, all in one smooth move.

How does that work? A mentor can help new contractors find their footing faster than in any other way and, at the same time, create a sense of belonging by creating a bond between mentor and contractor, which is what you want to happen during this process.

Final Thoughts


Making contractors feel like they belong to the team is not an easy feat, though you can make that happen by starting the onboarding process before work begins, providing a streamlined way of working, and checking on your contractors.

If you have the manpower, assign a mentor to ensure a bonding experience takes place.

About the author

Corey Philip

Corey Philip is a small business owner / investor with a focus on home service businesses.

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