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Reasons Contract Employees Leave and How to Avoid Them

Organizations often rely on contract employees to support their teams, and a great deal of work goes into each hire. Making the most of those relationships seems like a no brainer, but there are times when contract employees leave before the assignment ends. This costs the company time and money, and will likely put the projects behind schedule. Here are common reasons contract employees leave abruptly – and how to avoid them.

No one provided training or direction.

Your new contract employee arrives on the first day of the job, enthusiastic about the role and excited to get to work. He or she sits at their desk and settles in, eagerly awaiting instruction; but time passes, and nothing happens. The hiring manager might be tied up in meetings, or it simply could be a lack of planning and the company wasn’t prepared for the employee’s first day. Whatever the reason, the employee sits for hours looking for direction, only to leave feeling underutilized, bored and forgotten.

The solution is simple. Prepare for your contract employee’s first day like you would for a permanent hire. Make sure their workstation is set up, and have someone provide a tour and introductions to the other members of the team. Have a list of projects and deadlines for the newbie, and show him or her how to get started. Give as much training and information as possible, so they’ll be ready to work and can be productive from hour one. A little planning will go a long way in making the contractor feel valued and happy to stay.

There were inflexible hiring parameters.

It’s understandable for hiring managers to have strong considerations around the education, skills and experience they want their contract employees to possess. But, it goes beyond the resume. A person could be the right fit based on factors such as personality, character traits and success in similar work environments. When hiring is fully focused on having the exact resume requested, with no thought to proven success and culture fit, the company often hires the wrong person.

While the right skill sets and experience are important for getting the contract employee up and running quickly, others with similar attributes can also ramp up fast and can be an even better, longer-term fit. If your gut tells you someone is right for the job – even if they don’t possess 100% of everything you’ve requested – give them a try. More often than not, you will have made the right hire.

They were not made to feel part of the team.

Everyone wants to feel included and a part of something bigger. And even if they don’t, they at least appreciate being asked! When companies treat contract employees like something less than their permanent people, it’s a miss. If your contract employee is left alone in their cubicle and not made to feel part of the company or your team, there is a good chance the employee’s stint will be short.

This is an easy one to avoid. Invite the employee to lunch, ask to get them coffee on your next Starbucks run, include them in your coworker’s birthday celebration or ask them to join the company’s summer outing. Whatever the opportunity, offer it. These small gestures will make a big impact, and encourage the employee to perform well and stay on for the term of the contract (or longer).

They don’t have enough work.

Professional people want to be busy, challenged and feel like they are making a meaningful contribution. If your contract employee has intermittent work with lots of down time in between, they may have trouble keeping their focus and attention. Unlike their permanent colleagues, they don’t always have other work to catch up on if the main projects are completed or held up. If you know you’ll need your contract employee for a while but don’t have consistent work, find it!

Ask other teams if they need help. Delegate tasks from your own to-do list or from others in your group. Invite them to meetings or training sessions they may find helpful and interesting. Finding ways to keep them engaged and feeling productive will encourage a lasting relationship.

The hire was made with the wrong budget.

Problems arise when budget constraints prevent the hiring manager from bringing on the right talent. If, for example, the company needs a mid-level person to handle a specific project, but can only budget for a junior person, there is a good chance the contractor won’t see the work through completion. The under-qualified contractor may feel overwhelmed and not able to produce quality work during the time required. The hiring manager may end up feeling frustrated as well, and they will part ways before anything is accomplished. It’s always better to budget a little more to get the right talent in the door the first time.

The hiring manager is not open about the temp-to-perm opportunity.

It’s no secret that many contract employees ultimately want a permanent role. But hiring managers, at times, are reluctant to share the true perm potential of the job because they don’t want to disappoint someone down the road or set the wrong expectations. The problem is, when you have talented contract employees who want to plant roots but don’t see the chance with your company, they may leave in favor of other roles with temp-to-perm potential. It’s understandable.

The solution is transparency. Be open and honest that there is a temp-to-perm possibility. Don’t worry, you are not making any promises about the contractor getting the job; they know they need to earn it. You are just giving them the chance to do their best work, and in return, they will be more likely to stay through completion.

You invest time and energy into bringing on contractors. By being mindful of the reasons contract employees leave before the assignment ends, you’ll have a better chance of retaining them and getting the work done. And, it may even turn out to be a long-term fit.

Photo Credit: Sarah Pflug from Burst