Contractor management isn’t the most glamorous topic, but it's an important part of running many businesses.

You might have to bring in contractors to finish a project or get the services of a technical specialist without having to pay them a full-time salary, but doing so comes with risks. If the contractors you hire don't have a solid safety record, proper insurance, or strong risk management skills, they could end up costing your company a lot of money.

There are four stages to reducing your risk when working with contractors:

  1. Planning the job
  2. Prequalifying the contractors
  3. Conducting an orientation
  4. Assessing performance and providing feedback

We’ll walk you through each of these stages and discuss how software can help you with all of them.

Stage 1: Planning the Job

One of the most important steps in the pre-job planning process is defining the scope of the work. This will provide you with a clear understanding of the type of work required and help you outline the qualifications and capabilities a contractor needs to do the job properly.

You’ll want to include:

  • Required contractor abilities and competencies
  • Performance expectations, guidelines, and metrics
  • Timeframe
  • Cost estimate
  • Level of risk

In order to determine the level of risk, of course, you’ll need to complete a full risk assessment, which identifies, analyzes, and prioritizes the hazards and risks that may be involved before contractors step foot on your worksite.

Starting out with a risk assessment allows you to design the project with safety in mind (for example, ensuring there are enough anchor points for fall protection), rather than needing to make adjustments afterwards as safety problems creep in. It also means that you can identify the level of risk to the contractor. For projects that are inherently more hazardous, you’ll require contractors with strong awareness, risk avoidance, and a proven safety record.

Stage 2: Prequalification

This stage is arguably the most important and allows for the opportunity to assess potential contractors against a variety of criteria to ensure they meet the company’s required standards.

In addition to verifying the contractor's technical abilities, it’s important to look at both lagging safety indicators (e.g. incident rates, EMRs) and leading safety indicators (e.g. internal training programs, whether safety criteria is part of the selection process for workers) during the prequalification stage.

Screening contractors based on safety performance indicators allows you to fulfill your due diligence requirements and offers peace of mind that the contractor you choose has the knowledge and understanding required to manage risk, complete the job safely, and maintain a safe working environment while on the job site.

If you choose to work with a contractor who doesn’t quite meet one of your screening requirements, then you’ll know in advance and can prepare a risk management plan to address the specific deficiencies.

During prequalification you’ll want to consider:

  • Insurance coverage
  • Emergency preparedness
  • Health, safety, and environmental statistics
  • Hazard assessment process
  • Previous audits
  • Quality control

This stage is critical, but it can be one of the most laborious, especially if you're not using dedicated contractor management software.

Stage 3: Orientation

All contractors must participate in a site-specific orientation before beginning work. The orientation should cover:

  • Scope of the job
  • Identified hazards
  • Important information about the company or work site
  • Required permits
  • Contractor expectations
  • Emergency response plans

The orientation doesn’t have to be long (in fact, you should try to keep it brief), but it must be thorough and address the specific site where contractors will be working.

It’s a good idea to welcome two-way communication, which helps ensure all questions or concerns are addressed and that the safety requirements are fully understood. This sort of back and forth communication can also go a long way to establishing trust, cooperation, and a strong safety culture between the company and the contractor.

After the orientation, the contractor should have a strong sense of what the job is, the hazards they'll be facing and what is being done to address them, what the job expectations are, and how emergencies will be handled. This is not just a box to check off – it's a key step in ensuring a smooth working relationship and high-quality outcomes.

Stage 4: Review, Assessment, and Feedback

Too often, we put off giving feedback until the end of a project. The feedback process, however, should begin as soon as the work starts. This is especially true when you’re dealing with a new contractor who might not be familiar with your policies and procedures. Providing them with timely feedback about safety performance in the earliest stages can keep problems from getting worse or going unnoticed.

You should provide feedback to both supervisors and employees. Address lagging and leading indicators with supervisors so that they can make any necessary adjustments, and try to provide consistent positive reinforcement to workers who are doing a good job of following your safety requirements. This creates a culture of safety and transparency, rather than one based on negative repercussions.

Once the job is complete, be sure to reflect on it and whether you need to make changes to it in the future. Based on your assessment, you may need to, for instance, modify your prequalification criteria or change the way you communicate and conduct safety orientations.

Using a Management System to Simplify Every Step of the Process

If you’re thinking these four stages sound like a lot of work, well, you’re right. Manual systems for managing contractors can be tedious and time consuming, often requiring various spreadsheets and lots of paperwork.

While investing in contractor management software can seem pricey, it's a line item you probably won't regret adding to your budget. Here are a few reasons why.

You’ll Have Less Paperwork

A contractor management system allows you to store everything in one place. You can say goodbye to filing cabinets and multiple spreadsheets – management software offers the ability to keep files, messages, and contracts online and easily accessible from anywhere with Internet access. This makes managing the four stages of the contract much simpler, freeing up both space and labor.

It Will Save You Time

Having all your documents and messages in one place streamlines the contractor management process. Communicating with vendors is easy and efficient, and it makes the prequalification process run much more smoothly. And being able to select your criteria and quickly see which contractors meet it narrows down the pool of candidates without you having to review each of them individually.

Easily Ensure Compliance

When you’re dealing with a large pool of contractors (or even a not-so-large one), it can be difficult to stay on top of insurance validity, training and certification expiry dates, and other factors that are critical to safety.

With everything online, you’ll be able to easily see whether the contractors you’re considering hiring have what they need – and whether it will expire mid-job, leaving your company vulnerable.

Conclusion

Every business is unique and some of the stages of contractor management might look a little different for you.

But there's one thing that stays constant no matter what industry you're in: contractor management software can cut costs and make your life easier.