In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, operational practices are continuing to evolve for essential businesses like manufacturing facilities, construction sites and utility maintenance departments. What hasn’t changed is these businesses’ dependence on contract work — 51% of companies surveyed say at least a third of their work is outsourced to contractors, reiterating the need for an operational plan inclusive of contractors, in addition to employees.
By including all on-site workers in operational plans, organizations can build trust with both their contractors and employees, laying the foundation for stronger project execution and a positive partnership with your contractors.
Establish open lines of communication. Partnerships between businesses and contractors can go awry due to a lack of communication. Between misunderstandings about training expectations prior to arriving onsite for the job, to the safety rules that need to be followed while onsite, failed relationships can result from miscommunicated details.
Given the challenges of the pandemic and ever-evolving protection guidance, open lines of communication are a must. Proactively communicate what you expect from your contractors prior to the start of the job, while onsite during the job and after the job is complete.
Keeping an open line of communication creates a relationship of respect. At a time when operational protocol can shift rapidly because of a sick worker or new protection requirements, open communication between parties is key for a successful project.
Factor in safety parameters for new protocols. Seventy-five percent of organizations that hire contractors see improving safety culture and value alignment as an effective approach to reducing serious injuries and fatalities in the workplace. It’s important to remember that while COVID has brought new workplace protocols, employee and contractor safety can’t be sacrificed.
For example, a common challenge we’ve seen recently is a mask mandate at construction sites. While the new requirement seems simple, many businesses overlook the effects a mask has on contractors. Factors like fatigue and heat exhaustion need to be taken into account. With these safety considerations, adjustments like frequent rest breaks and easy water access need to be part of the project process.
Whether you’re integrating pre-shift health checks or establishing socially distanced work arrangements, new safety requirements will likely push timelines. To account for these changes, be flexible, set new expectations and always prioritize safety — your contractor partners and employees will appreciate the consideration.
Consider an online management platform. As you refine relationships with your contractors, consider implementing an online contractor management platform to help your company better manage the day-to-day requirements of your contractor relationship.
An online platform facilitates communication of new requirements with your contractor partners, provides a centralized location for corporate and field personnel to view a contractor’s qualifications, allows for real-time reporting and helps to easily identify new contractors. Using an online platform also helps with access to information via a mobile phone application, making it easier for field personnel to easily see if a contractor company, and the employee, are qualified to work on your project.
Share information and best practices. While COVID-19 limits the ability to hold face-to-face meetings, virtual meetings have proven to be equally as beneficial for information sharing amongst industry peers. As companies across multiple industries prioritize the safety of their workers on site, forums for best-practice sharing have become increasingly popular to discuss new protocols, processes, requirements and successes as we navigate the changing environment. Given the thousands of customers online platform providers work with, there is an increased opportunity for information sharing and benchmarking amongst industries.
The challenges associated with contractor relationships create opportunities for learning, growth and improvement. By communicating openly with your contractor partners and prioritizing safety, you can set up your operations for sustained success.
Kim Holly is associate vice president of ISN.
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