There is a second class citizen in corporate America today. Though we do what we can as a country to equalize our society, this second class of corporate citizen is constantly down trodden. They are pushed for results, relied upon to get the company where it needs to be in times of crisis, compensated less overall, treated as an outsider while being required to keep company secrets or destroy their professional integrity. This is the life of the Corporate Contractor.
The perceptions applied to the Corporate Contractor
Many of us have been there. I've been one many times, I've hired them, I've terminated their contracts, I've had mine terminated. The view of those who are direct employees of the company are normally the same, "You're a contractor, you don't have any skin in the game." Such a tunnel vision type of statement comes from a place of misunderstanding and misconception. Yes, a contractor does have some additional freedoms, but at a high cost. They aren't always bound by the same long term concerns as your FTEs, but they always "have skin in the game." Usually more so than your FTEs.
It is not uncommon to find that management also treats the contractors with disdain. Pushing them into a hole of work only, not allowing them to feel as part of the team. This has the expected result, the contractor does nothing more than requested, why should they, you don't show them they have any value over the end result. Try treating your FTEs the same way and see how much more they put forth for you. See how long it takes before you're accepting their resignation for another company, sighting your bad management.
These misconceptions and subsequent treatment are not only detrimental to getting the results you require, they breed an elitist environment with the contractor on the defensive and your FTEs feeling they are better than those that work alongside them. Many times it causes your company to lose out on a great contributor due to your individual perception. I've seen it too many times.
First, consider if it the person is a contractor due to your company or their personal preferences.
Lots of companies only offer contracting opportunities because the company can't commit to an FTE role, the workload or a myriad of other reasons. Should you hold that against the contractor? They need a job too, they need to feed their family, pay bills, just like you. Just like everyone. Does that make them any less vested in your success? Quite the contrary, they have a greater need for you to succeed. If you fail, you cancel their contract. They are out of work and can't feed their family. The company also needs these people to complete work they have to get done or it will fall to the shoulders of their FTEs creating a burned out effect. Not good for anyone really.
Some people prefer to be contractors, but probably not for the reasons you think. There have been a small group of people with which I've worked over the years that prefer to be a contractor. Not because they are free from your long term concerns. A few have told me it allows them to keep their heads down and work, stay out of the politics and be rated solely on results rather than how much their manager and peers "like" them. The reasoning I hear the most is, "It allows me to work on different things. I come in help as a Subject Matter Expert and leave when the job is done. Onto the next company that requires my assistance." Like a corporate super hero, they help with workloads that would ultimately burnout your current FTE base leading to an exodus of employees. What this really says to me is not that they like being a contractor, but they love being a consultant. These can be interchangeable. It depends on the work type specifics and goals. Figure out what the motivations are of your contractors before writing them off as a resource of little consequence.
FTEs have greater corporate protections
One might even argue your FTEs have less vestment in your overall success. At most companies, being FTE affords you the luxury of HR reviews, required write ups, improvement plans etc. before you can even consider terminating them. Additionally, companies then provide a severance package based on per year service. All of these things add up to major costs for your company should your FTEs begin slacking or missing their targets. Your contractor doesn't have these protections and as such has an even greater drive and desire to make sure you succeed. I'm not saying your FTEs are complacent due to these protections. I'm trying to help you understand where the misconceptions exist when looking at the treatment of Corporate Contractors. Having been there, having pushed myself 60+ hours a week to get my managers what they require while watching the FTEs leave early, get holiday pay, take multiple breaks to avoid work etc. I know there is a subset of all your FTEs that could care less if you succeed or not.
What can you do?
Don't view your contractors as adversaries to your FTEs or as non-human tools to complete singular tasks. We all have to get along, we all have to work for the overall success of the companies which employ us. There is no need, other than your own personal bias, to treat anyone any different due to their employment status. Remember, people treat you and your company as you treat them. The golden rule stands true here as it does everywhere else. Include the contractors in your meetings, lunches and company functions. Anything you would do with your FTEs do with your contractors. Remember, you need them as much as they need you. Putting anyone in a position of feeling lower classed than others around them will cause one of two outcomes. They will silently hate their position and only provide the bare minimum. Or the worst outcome, they will retaliate. Either way, you obtain a reputation for your treatment of others in your profession both individually and corporately.
When groups and their managers treat the contractor as an equal amazing things can happen, you might even find your next shining star employee. Please feel free to comment, let me know if you agree, if I missed something or if you feel I just have no idea about what I write.