Using Contract-to-hire to Build an Effective Team
When it comes to developing team culture, hiring new talent can be both the most important opportunity for any manager, but also the greatest risk. The risks are obvious. No matter how healthy your team is, the introduction of even one negative player can send engagement and productivity into a downward spiral. On the other hand, the opportunity a new team member presents is just as important to consider. Hiring someone who can bring fresh energy, unique background and perspective, and a positive approach to work can energize and invigorate your team as a whole.
Part of the stress of hiring comes from a simple fact: you can only learn so much from a resume and an interview. Even “test projects” that we would sometimes do to get a feel for the quality of a candidate’s work are a risky evaluation. Work done in a vacuum can’t replicate the real world, complete with client interaction and real deadlines.
That’s why TEN7 has migrated to a different model when adding talent. Over the years we have moved almost exclusively to “contract for hire” positions, giving both our company and our new team members the chance to “try before you buy” long term.
I typically add new talent on a part-time basis, asking for perhaps five to 10 hours per week based on current client needs. This arrangement gives us time to bring the new employee into our processes, have them do meaningful work, and get to know the rest of the team through meetings and projects. We understand the contractor will have other clients and responsibilities outside of our work together. The contractor understands that the work and hours can be ramped up or down if needs change.
As our work together proceeds, I can see how the contractor fits the TEN7 values and practices. I get feedback on their work from clients and from the TEN7 team. We see how the contractor operates through informal interaction and collaboration. Just as importantly, this evaluation time is a two-way street. The contractor also gets a good idea of what it’s like to work at TEN7 and whether they might want to pursue a more formal role with us.
It’s at this point when we may decide to take things to the next level and make our contract an exclusive arrangement. If both parties agree, we can move to a full-time contract and start on a path toward full employment. This is when TEN7’s full package of benefits kicks in including retirement, healthcare, parental leave and even sabbaticals! (Learn more about TEN7s approach to employee benefits in the post TEN7 Benefits You Didn't Know You Needed)
At first, I wasn’t sure about this approach to hiring. I worried about whether the move to contracting would reduce our talent pool. Would I sacrifice access to exceptional talent who may not be interested in part-time work?
In fact, I have happily found the opposite to be true. There are incredibly talented people out there who are making things work in the gig economy. By opening the door to TEN7 without requiring them to make a decision to stop other work, I have been able to catch the eye of extremely talented people. Then, hopefully, becoming part of our team starts to sell itself.
At a recent staff meeting, I looked at my Zoom session and the faces staring back at me, and I realized that every member of the current team started out on contract. I’m extremely proud of the work we do. I’m also proud of the way we conduct ourselves with each other and with our clients. I know there are many approaches that can produce great teams, but for our purposes, contracting to hire has put us on a path to success.