IT Contractor Longevity: What Is It and How Do You Achieve It?

by James P. Gardner on May 22, 2013



Without question the economic climate of today’s IT market has made it more challenging than ever to source, and more specifically, retain the high-skilled contractor. The market has swayed in the contractor’s favor, providing ample opportunity across a wide array of industry sub-sectors. Once the phase of recruiting and hiring a candidate has passed, how do you hold onto that individual?

The longevity of the IT contractor depends both on the client’s imminent and future needs. Focusing on the word ‘future’ is one key to making sure your IT contractor has a chance at longevity with a customer. Here are a few other ways to improve your contractor’s odds of permanence:

  1. Nature of the Assignment. As obvious as it sounds, it’s still one of the most relevant factors in positioning your contractor for a lasting future with a client. Look beyond the technical acronyms that the client is seeking to get a better sense of the nature of the assignment – what’s the overall strategic impact of the role your contractor is going to play? What is the business case that predicated the need for this particular project? If you have a good relationship with your client, these are questions a true, strategic partner will ask (and get answers to). Getting a sense of where the project is going and its strategic goal will enable you to suggest future impactful roles for your consultant.
  2. Technology. Make sure the technology your client is seeking is relevant. For example, if you’re placing a COBOL programmer for some quick debugging or testing, the chances he or she will enjoy a lengthy assignment there are probably slim. Know the high-demand technologies that are keenly sought after, and make sure that your contractor is technically sound before presenting him or her to the client.
  3. Client Relationship. It can’t be emphasized enough that there must be a strong relationship with the hiring manager, as well as his or her team members. Many firms place their contractors for a specified period of time and never visit him or her again until the end of the assignment. To have a chance at longevity with your contractor, it’s imperative to get to know who he or she’s working with. If the client policy permits, take the client team to lunch often. Make the relationship personal as well as professional. A client is more likely to consider your contractor for future assignments if a personal relationship exists.
  4. Make Your Contractor Feel Like an Employee. Contract employees may feel like outsiders at their companies as they don’t carry the same feeling of corporate ownership as employees do. Additionally, it may be harder to establish an honest rapport or true camaraderie with their new coworkers. If this is the case, make sure to keep close contact with your contractor to ascertain any issues or problems adjusting – make sure he or she wants to stay at the client. Work with the hiring manager to schedule lunch-and-learn presentations, if possible, that include the entire group so that the team has a chance to mesh. Any opportunity to provide entire team-based activities, such as lunches, golf, or even happy hours, will give the consultant a chance to naturally bond with his team.
  5. Industry Trends. Be acutely aware of what is going on in the marketplace, and which industries are growing and which are not. Stay in tune to the political culture of the nation – such as the unprecedented healthcare reforms brought about by the Obama administration and the subsequent effects on healthcare IT architectures. Dig into what’s growing in today’s economy – mobile technology, manufacturing, green technology and healthcare – and align your consultant with those clients that have a solid foothold in the market. While the economy as a whole remains in a state of flux, aligning your contractor with a flourishing market sub-sector makes longevity possible.

Developing that perfect balance with a client and candidate that results in a lasting future for your contractor is no easy task – in fact, it’s exceedingly rare. It takes an acute understanding of both your client’s and candidate’s objectives, as well as incisive analytical skills to negotiate an enduring future for your candidate. Putting an IT contractor into an assignment is easy, but going above and beyond to skillfully craft a future for them with the client is exceptional.

By: Jim Gardner