Building a Team That Works: A Guide to Integrating Contract Staff

Vladimir Golub

COO

Outsourcing
June 13, 2024

Table of content

The modern workplace thrives on flexibility. Companies are increasingly turning to augmented staff – contract workers brought in to fill specific needs – to address project demands, bridge skill gaps, and access specialized expertise. This approach allows for agility and rapid scaling, but its success hinges on one crucial factor: team integration. A team that feels unified, regardless of employment status, fosters a more productive and successful environment.

However, integrating contract staff isn't without its challenges. They might feel like outsiders, struggle with unclear expectations, or have difficulty building rapport with the core team. These obstacles can lead to disengagement, impacting project outcomes and overall team morale.

At Olive, our core mission has always been to ensure a frictionless client experience. This extends to how we integrate our augmented staff. We believe that contract workers shouldn't feel like outsiders – they should be valued members contributing their knowledge and collaborating with their in-house counterparts.  This philosophy has been central to our work with both our clients and employees.

This article shares our insights to help any organization, regardless of employment structures, cultivate a truly inclusive and collaborative team.

Whether you manage full-time employees, part-time contributors, freelancers, or augmented staff, building a unified team is key to success. We'll explore the challenges and strategies to achieve this, ensuring everyone feels valued and contributes to a thriving work environment.

Challenges of a Diverse Team

Building a team with a diverse range of employment structures offers many advantages. However, it also presents managers with some unique challenges. In this section, we'll explore some of the common issues that can arise when managing a team with a mix of full-time employees, part-timers, freelancers, and augmented staff. By understanding these obstacles, we can develop strategies to overcome them and create a truly unified and productive environment for everyone involved.

Feeling Like Outsiders

New team members, especially those on contract or freelance arrangements, can often feel like they're on the outside looking in.  Imagine yourself starting a new project without the full backstory – it can be daunting! This can lead to feelings of isolation and uncertainty about how to best contribute their expertise. This can be due to several factors:

  • Lack of Context: Without a clear understanding of the company culture, history, and ongoing projects, contract staff may feel lost or unsure how to contribute effectively.This lack of context can lead to hesitation to participate and a feeling of being out of the loop.
  • Limited Social Interaction: The temporary nature of their role might lead to a sense of exclusion from informal communication. These interactions are crucial for building rapport and a sense of belonging. Contract staff missing out on these opportunities can struggle to connect with colleagues on a personal level, hindering team cohesion and potentially impacting communication and collaboration.
  • Unclear Expectations: Uncertainties about their role, responsibilities, and long-term goals within the project can create anxiety and hinder performance. Without a clear roadmap, it's difficult to feel confident and motivated. This lack of clarity can lead to confusion about priorities, duplication of efforts, and even missed deadlines.

Communication and Collaboration Issues

The very things that make a diverse team strong – a variety of perspectives and experiences – can also create communication hiccups. Full-time employees accustomed to in-house channels and daily interactions might not consider the needs of remote contract staff. This can lead to information silos and a feeling of being out of the loop for those on temporary engagements. Let's explore these communication challenges and brainstorm strategies to ensure everyone has a clear voice and feels empowered to contribute their best work.

  • Communication Style Mismatches: Communication styles can vary greatly. Full-time employees accustomed to internal channels and regular meetings might not always consider the needs of remote contract staff who rely on project-based communication. This can lead to missed updates, misunderstandings, and a feeling of being out of the loop for contract staff.
    Information Silos: Without clear communication protocols, information might not be readily shared across different employment groups. Contract staff working remotely or with flexible hours may face difficulties accessing real-time communication channels used by core team members. This can create information silos, hindering collaboration and fostering a sense of disjointedness within the team.
  • Accessibility Issues: Contract staff with limited access to internal resources or communication tools can struggle to participate effectively in discussions or contribute their ideas. This can lead to frustration and a feeling of being disenfranchised from the decision-making process, ultimately hindering collaboration and innovation.
  • Different Time Zones: Adding another layer of complexity to communication style mismatches are time zone differences. Imagine trying to have a conversation with a colleague who's 12 hours ahead – you might miss crucial updates sent overnight, leaving you scrambling to catch up. This can lead to delays in project progress, frustration, and a feeling of being disconnected from the team.

Building Trust and Relationships

Building strong, trusting relationships takes time and consistent interaction. The temporary nature of some positions can make it difficult for contract staff to fully integrate and develop the same level of trust with colleagues compared to full-time employees. Unconscious biases, even unintentional, can also create barriers. Imagine a team that's been working together for years – welcoming a new member, even for a short time, requires a conscious effort to be inclusive and conscious effort to be inclusive and bridge that initial gap. This section explores some of the key problems that can impact trust-building in a diverse team:

  • Limited Interaction Time: The temporary nature of some positions can make it difficult to build strong, trusting relationships with colleagues. This can impact team cohesion, as contract staff might struggle to feel like they're truly part of the team.
  • Unconscious Bias: Unconscious biases, even unintentional, can also create barriers. These biases can lead to perceptions of contract staff as less invested or knowledgeable, hindering collaboration and respect. By actively acknowledging and mitigating these biases, we can create a more welcoming environment for everyone.
  • Lack of Mentorship: Formal or informal mentorship opportunities can be invaluable for new team members, regardless of employment status. Contract staff often miss out on these opportunities, hindering their integration and knowledge transfer within the team. Providing mentorship programs, or even assigning a "buddy" to new team members, can bridge this gap and ensure everyone feels supported and empowered to contribute their full potential.

Motivation Matters

A diverse team thrives on a shared sense of purpose and individual motivation. However, the varied employment structures within a team can present challenges in keeping everyone engaged. Let's delve into some of these hurdles and explore strategies to foster a motivating environment for all:

  • Short-Term Focus vs. Long-Term Goals: Contract staff, especially those on short-term projects, may struggle to feel as invested in the long-term goals of the company compared to full-time employees. This can lead to a decreased sense of ownership and a focus on completing immediate tasks rather than contributing to the bigger picture.
  • Unclear Career Path: The temporary nature of some positions can make it difficult for contract staff to see a clear career path within the company. This lack of a long-term vision can hinder motivation and lead to a feeling of being stuck in a rut.
  • Differing Compensation and Benefits: Differences in compensation and benefits packages between full-time employees and contract staff can create feelings of resentment or a sense of unfair treatment. This can negatively impact morale and motivation within the team.

Strategies for Effective Team Member Integration

We've explored some of the challenges that can arise when managing a team with diverse employment structures. Now, let's turn our attention to solutions! Here are some key strategies to foster a truly unified and productive team environment:

1. Communication: Building a Transparent Bridge

Communication is the cornerstone of any successful team. When it comes to integrating contract staff, clear communication takes on even greater importance. Here's how to make it work:

  • Project Kick-Off: During the project kick-off, ensure everyone (including contract staff) understands the project goals, expectations, timelines, and deliverables. Provide access to a centralized document outlining these details for easy reference.
  • Communication Channels: Establish clear and preferred communication methods for everyone. Utilize a project management tool for task updates, discussions, and file sharing. Regular team meetings (in-person or virtual) foster information sharing and collaboration.
  • Over-Communication is Key: Don't underestimate the power of over-communication. Contract staff may not be privy to all company conversations. Briefly loop them into relevant discussions to avoid confusion and ensure everyone is on the same page.

2. Onboarding: Setting Up for Success

Onboarding isn't just for full-time employees. A well-structured onboarding process for contract staff sets the stage for a successful collaboration:

  • Company Culture: Brief contract staff on the company culture, values, and work environment. This helps them understand expectations and adjust accordingly.
  • Project Specifics: Provide in-depth information about the project at hand, including its purpose, target audience, and key deliverables. Share relevant company documents and style guides to ensure consistency.
  • Tools and Resources: Equip contract staff with the necessary tools and resources to complete their tasks effectively. This includes project management software, access to relevant company files, and any specific software needed for the project.

3. Fostering Inclusion: Building a Culture of "We"

A team thrives when everyone feels valued and respected. Here's how to create an inclusive environment:

  • Team-Building Activities: Organize team-building activities that cater to both in-person and remote workers. These activities can be virtual or in-person, depending on the team's makeup. The goal is to break the ice, encourage interaction, and build camaraderie.
  • Social Events: Include contract staff in social events like virtual happy hours. This fosters a sense of belonging and allows for informal relationship building.
  • Recognition and Appreciation: Publicly acknowledge and appreciate the contributions of all team members, regardless of employment status. This could be verbal praise during meetings, highlighting their work in reports, or even small gestures of appreciation.

4. Shared Success: Celebrating the Collective Win

Shared goals and a sense of collective triumph are powerful motivators. Here's how to leverage them for a unified team:

  • Shared Goals: Frame projects with clear, shared goals that everyone contributes towards. This fosters a sense of purpose and unites the team in working towards a common objective.
  • Transparent Progress Tracking: Implement a system for transparent progress tracking. This could be a shared dashboard, regular team updates, or individual progress reports. Seeing the collective effort come together motivates everyone and keeps the team focused on the finish line.
  • Celebrating Success: Don't let project wins go unnoticed. Celebrate team successes together, highlighting the collective effort and the valuable role contract staff played in achieving the desired outcome. This reinforces a sense of accomplishment and motivates everyone for future projects.

5. Continuous Learning: Investing in Growth

A growth mindset is key to a successful team. Here's how to create a culture of continuous learning:

  • Mentorship and Knowledge Sharing: Encourage knowledge sharing within the team. Pair experienced full-time staff with contract workers for mentorship opportunities. This allows knowledge transfer, fosters professional development for contract staff, and builds stronger relationships within the team.
  • Training Opportunities: Explore training opportunities for both full-time and contract staff. This could be internal training sessions, online courses relevant to the project, or industry conferences. Investing in everyone's growth strengthens the team's overall skillset and keeps everyone informed of industry trends.
  • Feedback and Evaluation: Establish a system for regular feedback and evaluation, including for contract staff. Provide constructive feedback that allows for performance improvement and ensures everyone is aligned with project goals. Contract staff can also offer valuable feedback on processes and tools, leading to overall team improvement.

6. Bridging the Distance: Strategies for Diverse Teams

In today's globalized world, teams are often geographically dispersed and culturally diverse. Here's how to bridge the gap and foster collaboration across time zones and cultures:

  • Understanding Cultural Nuances: Invest in resources or training to help team members understand different cultural norms and communication styles. This can help avoid misunderstandings and promote effective communication.
  • Flexible Schedules and Asynchronous Communication: Acknowledge time zone differences and embrace asynchronous communication. Utilize project management tools, communication platforms, and document sharing to facilitate information exchange and collaboration, regardless of location or working hours.
  • Virtual Team-Building Activities: Don't let geographical distance hinder team bonding. Organize virtual team-building activities that cater to remote workers. These can be online games, collaborative brainstorming sessions, or even virtual social events like trivia nights.
  • Overcoming Communication Barriers: Be mindful of potential communication barriers like language differences or unclear instructions. Encourage active listening, clear and concise writing, and the use of video conferencing to foster better understanding.

Interested in Staff Augmentation? 

At Olive, we truly believe that staff augmentation, when implemented thoughtfully, can be a great tool for almost any business scenario. We understand that building a team is more than just filling roles – it's also about finding the right people who complement your existing team and fuel your company's growth, and creating a cohesive unit where everyone feels valued. 

Considering staff augmentation for your organization? We offer free consultations, with zero pressure and no strings attached. We're here to answer your questions and see if staff augmentation can support your team's growth.

Have a project in mind?

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