Consulting Business Tips: Skillfully Managing a Team of Contractors

11-May 2022
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Chelsea Williams COPYWRITER

Business leaders in 2022 have to level up. 

Staff shortages and pandemic worries forced all of us into temporary changes a couple of years ago. We packed up offices, hunkered down and did the best we could with the team of people we had. Circumstances have changed quickly and dramatically since those early, uncertain moments. 

Now, it’s time to face the new work landscape and make some big — and permanent — decisions.

The lasting power of the shift to remote work is the most striking economy-wide change of the past two years. As of March 2022, Gallup reported that 36% of the U.S. workforce participates in the gig economy. And it’s not just freelancers who have unprecedented flexibility; full-time workers and contracted employees have come to expect an array of location and scheduling options. 

Remote culture might feel like nothing new if you own or manage a consulting business: Consulting firms have traditionally hired independent contractors who spend many days off-site with clients. However, the fallout of the Great Resignation has reduced firms’ capacity to meet the rising demand for consulting services, given the competition for contracted consultants.

Instead of trying to find a way out of the economic pressure cooker, look for the way through. Enhancing your managers’ or coaches’ abilities to lead a distributed team can help you retain and motivate consultants so your business emerges from this year and the ongoing talent crunch stronger.

Read on to discover:

Leadership Fundamentals for Contractor Relationships

When you don’t have a long history or a guaranteed future relationship with direct reports, it’s easy to assume you don’t need to think about how you lead them. Contractors are, by definition, temporary workers. You might think, Why put in the effort to become a great leader for a team of people who will probably leave?

There’s a substantial risk associated with not fully investing in your team, no matter their status — or your title. Improving the way you lead is always a worthwhile investment of energy and time. 

Having a strong hold on what makes an effective leader will help you grow your firm and reach your goals faster. Solid leadership can also encourage contracted employees to stay and seek full-time positions with your firm down the road.

Start by examining where you stand on the three fundamentals of good leadership:

  • Communication: Though it’s a basic interpersonal skill, communication isn’t always easy in a workplace context. It’s not solely about the exchange of information. Effective communication happens when you consider the needs of the person you’re talking to. What do your contractors need to know, and how would they like to hear it?
  • Transparency: There’s a misconception that being transparent is about sharing every detail with your direct reports. Instead, think about transparency as honesty when it counts. Be real about what’s expected of each person and take care to reveal any challenges that will impact them. Being transparent means instilling a sense of emotional safety in your employees — even those who aren’t on full-time status.
  • Listening: People want to feel heard, regardless of their plans to stay connected with your business or not. Contracted consultants may not have many opportunities to share their feedback with the team, so it’s helpful to carve out time for conversations dedicated to listening to them. Most importantly, follow up and follow through on what you learn about their experiences.

Motivating a Dispersed Team as a Consulting Manager

Leadership is a core element of consulting firm management, but even an excellent leader doesn’t always succeed in getting people to apply themselves. Contracted employees can become excited to work hard for your business if you treat them well and make an effort to facilitate peak effectiveness. 

How To Motivate Contracted Employees

 

Get personal: Treat contractors like full-timers. Celebrate important life events and birthdays, and reach out when you know they’re facing a hardship. This human touch will make them want to give the job their all.

 

Insist on facetime: A Harvard Business Review study found that a face-to-face request is 34 times more likely to achieve the desired response than an email. Even a five-minute check-in can help to establish a rapport.

 

Build team loyalty: Even if you can’t set required hours for independent consultants, try to get them to attend at least a weekly team and/or company-wide meeting. Connecting to others in your firm will make them feel valued and inspired.

 

Offer tech support: Use tech that truly works for consulting. Don’t frustrate your team with disjointed platforms and too many logins. Pay attention to what’s not working now, and listen to their suggestions for a different solution.

 

Recognize a job well done: SurveyMonkey found that 63% of employees who feel recognized are unlikely to look for a new job. Your contractors don’t have access to the benefits they might get in a more permanent position, so acknowledgment is even more meaningful for them.   

Today’s aspiring consultants want flexibility and miss the fast, travel-heavy lifestyle because it afforded them both autonomy and fast career growth. It’s possible to provide a balance of the independence your contractors seek and the support they need to perform well in a remote-first environment. 

Make Your Firm Stand Out to Candidates

With a large number of remote jobs available globally, workers now have ample choices. That’s even more true for contractors because many companies are looking to cut costs by hiring non-full-time staff. Consultants could choose to sign a contract with any consulting firm, so they want to know why they should go with yours.

If you think the winning factor is higher pay, think again. Companies that demonstrate trust, ethics and progressive values are most successful in attracting and retaining young talent. Communicating company values and taking every opportunity to display your firm’s personality from the day they sign a contract can help excite new candidates who will be a great match.

Because they’re not going to be traditionally managed, consulting contractors often neglect to consider a firm’s management style in the job search phase. It’s up to you and your fellow leaders to communicate how you handle your remote team — and what you expect  — to any potential consultants. If you successfully highlight your leadership approach as a company strength, they’re more likely to see it as a defining factor when comparing your offer to others.

Consultants need to know your tech choices will help minimize their frustrations and maximize their efficiency. With a comprehensive client work management platform like Accelo, your full-time and contracted employees will have the visibility they need.

 

The People Factor: Retention Strategies for Consulting Businesses

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