Managing Subcontractors: Four Tips and Tricks

After you’ve worked with a few subcontractors, you know how much the experience can vary. On one end of the spectrum are the problems, where a subcontractor’s work doesn’t come close to the quality you expect. On the other end of the spectrum are the subcontractors who are a dream to work with. They’re professional, they meet and even surpass your expectations, and they inexplicably gel with your team.

There are things you can do to make it more likely you’ll have a positive experience. Here are four ways to manage your subcontractors, for the success of your project.

Get It in Writing

Don’t let a subcontractor on your job site without a written contract. Just don’t. You need to have a mechanism to enforce accountability and set out expectations, and that’s what a contract does. It protects you and the subcontractor.

Contracts should include:

  • Payment terms
  • A statement of work defining each party’s responsibilities, scope of work the deliverables and deadlines, and constraints on the subcontractor (for instance, can they subcontract parts of their work or not?).
  • Provisions in case of a breach of contract
  • Rights and duties of each party (for instance, is the subcontractor responsible for obtaining their own liability insurance?)

You should always consult a lawyer for advice on what your contracts need to include.

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Orient Your Subcontractors to How You Work

Once you’ve signed a contract, don’t assume your subcontractor is ready to step onto the job site. You need to orient them to how you work, including:

  • Communication norms. Who do they report to? Who are they responsible for informing about the status of their work? If they have questions, who should they turn to? Does your company use particular software or tools for communicating with each other?
  • How to handle customers/clients. To others, such as a client visiting the construction site, your subcontractors will appear to be your employees. If there are certain ways you expect your employees to act when engaging with clients, let your subcontractors know.

Unlike permanent employees, which learn and acclimatize over time to how your team works, your subcontractors have less time to adapt to your team’s norms. Inform of them of these norms upfront so they can seamlessly fit in with your team. Having a strong onboarding program can help you with new hires and subcontractors alike.

Follow the Golden Rule

Treat others as you would like to be treated. Apply the Golden Rule to your subcontractors and you’ll see how much it improves your relationships. Paying subcontractors on time, communicating with them frequently and honestly, and treating them like a genuine member of the team will make them feel motivated and engaged on your jobsite. And that will in turn make them more communicative and inspired to do their best.

When you find a good subcontractor, treat them like gold. For good subcontractors that are in demand, something as simple as paying them late can make them think twice about taking your next contract. Worse, it can hurt your reputation with other subcontractors if words gets around that your company pays late or is difficult to work with in some way.

Respect your subcontractors and you’re more likely to receive respect in turn.

Stay Compliant

Construction and utility companies are subject to stringent compliance regulations set out by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). Subcontractors can be subject to audit and OFCCP compliance, depending on the value of the contract. This means your subcontractors have to be compliant with the OFCCP regulations, too.

It can be difficult to stay on top of changing compliance regulations at the best of times, and recruiting and hiring subcontractors while keeping compliance in mind can be challenging.

Consider using a tool to help, such as the BirdDogHR Recruitment and Applicant Tracking System (ATS). This software automates the recruitment process, while also tracking OFCCP requirements. It makes finding subcontractors more efficient and gives you peace of mind that your company isn’t running afoul of OFCCP regulations and has the documentation to prove it.

Managing your subcontractors is as important as managing your employees. Put your relationships with subcontractors on the right foot by writing proper contracts, orienting them to how you work, treating them as you’d like to be treated, and making sure to stay compliant.

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