Hire a contractor or a staff employee?

Recall for a moment that I’ve already posted about that whether to categorize a worker as staff or contract is between you, your state department of employment, and your attorney. My posting here about staff vs. contract is not a recommendation or legal evaluation.

That said, I saw this post on the benefits and pitfalls to hiring contract versus staff employees, and wanted to share.

There are quite a few factors to consider when deciding whether your company will be best served by a contractor or a new staff member. What Mark Rosenman and Thomas White call the “employee light” model, in which you maintain only core roles on staff, outsourcing writers, designers, HR, or accounting, has both benefits and drawbacks.

Unexpected or unusual projects. We’ve all know marketing communications projects can swell at the beginning of the year, in the summer, and during September’s rush to prepare for the holiday advertising season. So most of us have been part of the process of hiring experts in specialty fields on a per-project basis. It certainly saves money and later layoff issues to pay contractors to work on seasonal or overflow work.

Culture. But keep in mind that corporate culture suffers if most of your staff are contract workers. I once recruited for a firm who contracted all their PR experts. They had a hard time getting people to sign on for subsequent projects because the core team members to whom the PR team needed to direct legacy questions about voice, process, and next steps literally didn’t exist. Having nobody on staff who could speak to the core of the company meant there was no way to find them employees who fit. There was nothing to fit but a steady stream of temporary staff. Plus, hiring PR contractors means you get access only to their network of media contacts. Having PR on staff usually means the long list of networked media outlets stays with you when a staffer moves on.

Legacy and familiarity. A similar lack of mooring happens with outsourced specialty departments, as well. Without someone who knows how all the gears and cogs of your business fit together, it’s extremely challenging to contract with an HR company to find you what you need in terms of job candidates, benefits packages, and communication tools. And without a large enough staff of IT, it’s very hard to make the right choices about equipment, services, and technological processes.

International considerations
. International contracting offers unique problems. Rosenman and White mention a few, but keep in mind that hiring international contract workers involves more than just tax, legal, political, cultural, and training considerations. Sticking to the United States is often your best bet both for your company and customers.

Remember to check with your legal team (or legal consultant) on all hiring issues to make sure you’re using hiring practices that will support your company rather than tear it down.