IT contractors are no longer guns for hire: report

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."