IT contractors are no longer guns for hire: report

IT contractors are no longer guns for hire: report

Summary: The idea that IT contractors are simply mercenaries that have no interest in their client's business is a myth, according to findings from a survey of independent professionals.


Contracted staff are just as committed to the interests of a workplace as permanent employees according to the findings of the recently released IPro Index report.

The annual study was conducted by Monash University, Victoria, on behalf of Entity Solutions, and surveyed 346 IPros (Information Professionals), of which 136 identified themselves as professionals working in the IT and/or telecommunications industries.

The study found that the vast majority of contractors' attitudes showed that they were committed to their clients and perceive themselves as productive contributors.

"While they are a diverse group, what is emerging is a clear picture of IPros as enthusiastic, immersed people who are happy at their work. They are clearly an organisational asset that should be recognised for the value they offer and the skills that they bring," said Monash University Senior Lecturer Dr Tui McKeown.

McKeown warned that organisations risked being left behind if they ignored the potential that contracted staff could bring.

"Organisations who relegate them to being ignored, hidden or forgotten are quite simply missing out," she said, adding that their own work ethic often meant that they were equally, if not more aligned to an organisation's aims.

In terms of capability, 99 percent of respondents said that they can usually handle whatever comes their way, 98 percent said that when confronted with a problem, they can usually find multiple solutions, and 97 percent said that they feel prepared for most of the demands they encounter.

"They're absolutely committed to their client organisation. I think that's been a myth they're mercenaries. These are people that, in general, take pride in what they do," said Entity Solutions CEO Matthew Franceschini, adding that contractors' entrepreneurial attitudes make them less likely to slouch.

"The data suggest that, if they're there and they're not producing — they're not adding value — they'll leave. They'll be the ones terminating the contract [saying], 'what's the point in me being here? I would rather go and find something else'."

To get the most out of contractors, McKeown suggested that employers treat contractors with the same manner and respect that they do for permanent staff, although attracting the top-end contractor requires a different line of thought than just remuneration.

"The smart organisations are indulging the careers of their IPros as well. They're rewarding them differently; they're giving them, maybe, completion bonuses. When the project team of permanents goes off to do a course, the IPro goes as well. They're the smart ones," Franceschini said.

"The return on investment, in most cases, is going to be better than what you're getting out of your [permanent] workforce."

Topics: Outsourcing, IT Employment

Michael Lee

About Michael Lee

A Sydney, Australia-based journalist, Michael Lee covers a gamut of news in the technology space including information security, state Government initiatives, and local startups.

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  • What a badly flawed survey

    One - this size of the survey group is ridiculously small - 136 IT contractors, possibly from a very narrow market.
    Two - the survey erroneously assumes the attitude of permanent staff is a constant. Anyone currently working in this industry like I am today knows that in general, even permanent staff have no real loyalty to the company, and most are just trading hours for dollars, and would bolt when offered a better job. Why shouldnt they, when most MNCs turn around and fire people at will, or for political reasons or so that the CEO can show "another great quarter" thanks to cost cutting by reducing head count so that his golden parachute next year is huge?
    I know because i work in one such large faceless organization.
    In my experience with contractors it's a toss up. There's no real difference between permanents and contractors.
  • Not a true picture

    From personal experience, big companies like Ernst & Young, Microsoft etc do treat their contingent staff as cheap dirt, setting up working environment more suitable for sweat shops in the middle of China.
    They require attendance for no reason other than to create bogus progress reports.
    Contractors have to sit literally elbow-to-elbow, which is totally non-productive and often distracting.

    So please do more research on the subject before claiming any "enthusiasm" while on a contract.
    Was this write-up sponsored by a body shot agency?
  • There's more to it than what is stated

    I wouldn't agree at all with Michael's statement "The return on investment, in most cases, is going to be better than what you're getting out of your [permanent] workforce." How so? It might be equal but better I would challenge. The age old argument of variable costs by using contractors versus fixed costs by using permanents is always put forth but since i've been in IT (well over 35 years), I've never seen it proven with numbers. It's the invention of HR types and execs trying to play with short term salaries and on-costs to make the numbers work and justify the hiring of contractors. I've been salaried most of my career and have seen just as many non-dedicated, lazy, unknowledgeable contractors as exist with the likes of permament staff. Quality is never guaranteed with contract, just as it isn't with permanent. This is a management issue or hiring deficiency in not recognizing quality up front. True it's easier to get rid of poor contractors, but is it really cheaper. I would argue that if you've got a manager who quickly recognizes a poor permanent staffer within the first year, it's no more expensive to dump them than it would be to dump a poor contractor. Again the problem lies with poor management in such a case. In IT it all comes down to quality. Good staff and good contractors both save and make you money. Poor ones lose you money, regardless of whether they are permanent or contract. What's more I would argue that companies that keep contractors for prolonged periods, say beyond 18 months, without turning them to permanent staffers are likely spending more than they would have had they hired an equivalently skilled permanent staffer in the first place. Show me the real numbers that dispute that and I'll get off my soap box. There's still a time and a place for both permanent and contract, but please don't tell me that "The return on investment, in most cases, is going to be better than what you're getting out of your [permanent] workforce." It just ain't so!
  • I'm suspicious of this one

    I wonder who funded the study. While its true that the corporate practices of the last 30 years or so have decimated employee loyalty, the fact remains that contractors and their employees have to put the interests of their own organizations before those of their customers. It's also just too easy for contractors to focus on the interests and wishes of the executive signing the contract and authorizing payment, while ignoring the bigger picture.

    One management consultant I once worked with put it bluntly that it was his job to make sure that the person who hired him was promoted.
    John L. Ries
  • Totally agree with this write-up....

    Fantastic findings........ absolutely true and practical... Thanks Michael...
    • This Study is based on baseless information

      I was working with IBM last year as a very loyal contractor, but suddenly during a team meeting got a call from my parent company that I am not required anymore i IBM and tomorrow onwards I don't need to work for IBM.

      I know the pain of loosing my job overnight, contractors are really still guns for fire than those of regular employees.

      Moreover on that Single day I was not alone but we were around 1500 contractors who lost jobs on the same day.

      This is my own experience, so I hope It makes sense.

  • Depends on how you look at it

    kraterz (and many other post writers) raises a good point. If the staff member does not hold value in the company's eyes, then that person would not have loyalty to the company. That is certainly true. But you cannot ignore what the report findings are all about.

    Like anyone else, the things that anybody wants (aside from the money) is contribution and recognition. Contribution: doing something, not just something that is required, that eases or streamlines the process that they are working on. Recognition: Getting praised, whether a monetary bonus or even a nice addition to a reference letter, for doing the job.

    What the above story does not mention is whether the people interviewed are actually getting these things (lucky devils, if they actually are...), or whether this is simply what these people want (which is more likely).
    • Individual decision matters

      I totally agree with Rigatoni, it's not matter of returns based on investment done on contractors being compared with Permanent Employee reason behind that for contractors company is paying twice to thrice times the money they are spending on an employee so theirs expectation also raised in terms of getting good returns it is not like that permanent employee here will be sitting ideal.

      So it's totally based on the situation which offers contract person to take on the task for any company. Based on my knowledge both contractors and Permanent staff does there task based on allotment not on choice.
  • Not accurate and correct

    It doesn't matter employee is permanent or contract. It is based on individuals.. well established employee stick to the roles and resposibilities no matter whether employee is contractor or permanent.

    The fact is that most of the clients hires contractors for their temporary work execution, so it is client choice that they wish to go for contractors when they are not willing to go for permanent hire. When client is hiring employee on contract basis, then contractor stick to client satisfaction whatever work is assigned.

    We can see lot of contractors who really work well and wanted to get permenant roles within the same organization, similarly there are many cases where permanent employees may not do same way.

    It's completely based on the individuals and their nature and attitude.
  • Totally biased survey

    Hey guys,

    I have gone through your post and the survey mentioned by you seems totally inaccurate and impractical because i personally work as vendor for Google India services location in the capital city of Andhra Pradesh, India. The condition of the employees outsourced for google through various consultancies and BPO's is pathetic and moreover the Full time employees keep enjoying most of the time and hardly work for 1 - 2 Hrs a day and are given Royal treatment with all the facilities and i'm not aware whether the other branches of Google are aware of the situation or not, but the thing is the food given to the vendors working for their client i.e., Google and that too in its premises are horribly treated with differences starting from food, seating's, infrastructure and workflow. Most of the vendors working for google happen to be engineers and they account for doing almost 70% of Google's work globally whereas its Full time employees mostly the indian branch has got much leisure and entertainment indeed. The vendors are harassed and tortured mentally for working more and will have no incentives or salary hikes as such in general and also the full timers through their very own work at them and ask them to complete it before deadline in a form of spreadsheet so that they can submit it by replacing their name and will be kudoed as no one knows what has happened practically. They are not at all treated equally and most of them are actually exploited as they are forced to work more with less pay. Its like a condition similar to sweatshop workers. Why dont you guys come and survey us rather than opting for a small survey which goes no where and is misleading indeed.
  • Valid Points Made

    I was quite interested while reading this article. I understand that people feel the survey pool was too small, or the industry pool was limited, but...
    If you read through the lines, you will find these trends in most any industry. I wouldn't say that contractor employees are any more loyal or disloyal than permanent employees. It depends on the individual.
    I have been a contract employee for 5 years now in the IT field. Previously I work for 4 years as a permanent in IT and before that 15 years in various Engineering position, all permanent employment. Every position I had, I felt a sense of commitment, loyalty, camaraderie, and always contributed to and felt part of the "team". This is me, my personality. There are many like me. There are many who are not. This is where you find the real difference in your workforce.
    People are rally two kinds of people - people who Do and people who DON'T. The people in this survey are people who DO.
    Brian Broad