Getting the Most from Contractors

Jennifer Bridges, PMP offers her practical tips on how project managers can manage contractors on their projects.

In Review: Getting the Most from Contractors

Jennifer cautioned that an us versus them environment with contractors on the project is a sign that your project is out of balance and could veer off track. Your contractors need to be viewed as intrinsic to the project and you need to foster ways to work together for the good of the project.

You also need to make sure you’re getting the most value out of contractors, especially if they’re external. She noted the seven strategies she developed to help her to manage contractors:

  • Know why you’re hiring
  • Document the contract
  • Solicit their input
  • Provide support
  • Foster teamwork
  • Maintain focus
  • Set them up for success

Jennifer noted that hiring the right contractor for the right task, and making sure you get the “most bang for your buck,” is one more aspect of shepherding a project to its successful termination.

Pro-Tip: When projects change and more duties are required, the scope of contractors work can quickly escalate out of control and the bounds of the original contract can easily be exceeded. Avoid this trap by renegotiating terms proactively, rather than reactively. You can better guide your contractors and the project and avoid unnecessary conflict. Before you can get the most from your contractors, as Jennifer showed, you have to settle on their contract.

Thanks for watching!


Hello. I’m Jennifer Whitt, Director of Well, hello and welcome to our whiteboard session today on getting the most from your contractors. Have you ever experienced one of those environments where you have contractors on your projects and they are the “them” so you’re in the “us” versus “them” environment? Or have you been in the environment where the contractors are like the rock stars so they get all the attention and everything they do is right and people are like “What are they thinking?”

Well, I myself have been on all sides of this coin, and today what I want to share with you are seven tips for the biggest bang for your buck for contractors. So, first of all, I want to actually explain the concept of contractors because there’s a lot of misnomers, misunderstandings about what contractors are. So if you have a project and your project environment, generally you have employees and-or contractors.

You have legal requirements, so with employees there are specific legal requirements that have to be met. Same with contractors, there are specific things that contractors, due to legal reasons, can and can’t do. Then there’s accounting, so more along the lines of, “How do we pay these people and what frequency and how is that done?” Then human resources, there are also constraints due to human resources what contractors and can and cannot participate in, what training they can or cannot receive.

So there are just simple things that need to be remembered when you have contractors on your project. So what I want to talk about today are things to remember and things to avoid, the “us” versus “them” environments and likewise, avoid the rock star syndrome. So these are a couple things.

First of all, know what you’re hiring. Know why you’re even engaging contractors. So, are you hiring talent or are you hiring labor? For instance, the difference being, if you’re hiring talent you’re looking for specialized people, resources, with some specific experience, maybe some specific expertise, or a specific value that they’re bringing to your project, versus if you’re actually just hiring labor, hired hands.

You need more people to do more work at usually a decreased rate. So hired hands, you want them to do just hourly rate, just hourly work, just churn it out, churn it out. They’re producing task and deliverables. So if you know going in what you’re hiring then that way you know how to set them up for success in your project.

So once that’s done, you document a contract. It’s very critical to document, get a signed and approved contract, a statement of work some people call it, where you’re identifying all the specifics of the project and the work. For instance, you’re identifying what specific project or projects they’re being brought on board for.

You are identifying the start date and the end date so they know when this contract ends and the pay rate and how often they’re going to be paid, their specific roles and responsibilities in your reporting structure. What organization, what person, what group are they working with and who specifically do they report to? More importantly the expectations, that is a loaded one and left without the person knowing what expectations you hold for them on the project, then things certainly do go awry.

After you document the contract or statement of work then it’s important to solicit their input. They are on your team. Remember, it’s not the “us” versus “them”. It’s the “we”, so they are part of our project. We’ve hired them for specific reasons, whether it’s talent or strictly labor. It’s always great to get an outsider’s perspective. By having someone who’s not in the environment all the time can always bring in a different evaluated perspective.

Number four, provide support. Provide support to these people, like making sure you provide to them anything they need to get set up. Do they need help, support, showing them around? What do they need and when do they need it?

Number five, foster teamwork. It’s the team. It’s the concept of the “we”. They are not the enemy. I’ve been in some environments, like I said, the “us” versus “them” where they’re treated like the enemy, like “Ooh, they’re the bad thing and they have to stay over here.” That’s just not a good environment to set up for any project. It leads to a lot of tension.

Number six, maintain focus. It’s important for you to hold up your deal of the project. I’ve seen and I’m sure you have too, when you get new resources on your project, specifically this happens all the time with contractors, so you bring new people on board and you think “All right, we have additional people, additional resources, we’ll get them to do everything.”

So you bring them on board for some specific deliverables tasks, roles, and responsibilities and now they’re assigned to everything. You have now assigned them to different projects, different roles and you find out what all they can do. Then so now you’ve diffused their focus and now they can’t complete what you’ve brought them in to do.

So, it’s important to maintain focus or if you find a better project. Or a better fit or role for them, then if that’s okay and they agree, then stop the process and renegotiate. Go back here. Renegotiate the contract and statement of work. So they can truly work on, be assigned to, and be paid from the appropriate project.

Then, again, it’s always setting them up for success. They are part of your team. They are part of your “we” and it’s important to set them up for success. It’s important to say “How can I support you? Let me help you help me.” So if you help them help you then everybody is set up for success.

So these are seven of the most important tips that I found that have given me the biggest bang for the buck and I hope they do you too. If you need any tips, tools or techniques to help you manage your contractors and get the biggest bang for the buck on your project then visit us at, and try out our software free for 30 days.

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