How to Onboard a Contractor to Your Team

Adding the right people to your team is key to the success of your business – but it’s only half the equation.  

Unlocking long-term success means making sure those talented team members feel valued and are motivated to make an impact for however long they work with you, even if just for a temporary assignment. The effort to create a positive experience starts the moment they accept the offer to join your team, in the onboarding process.  

As a hiring manager, you may not think investing in the onboarding experience is as important for contract roles. If you know an employee is only with you for a 12-month assignment, an effective onboarding process becomes even more important for your new hire to get to know your team, understand their role, and begin making impactful contributions. 

Don’t make the mistake of looking past the onboarding process. A study by Paychex showed that 80 percent of employees who had a poor onboarding experience planned to quit in favor of a new opportunity soon. 

For contract employees, they are often expected to hit the ground running. How can you help them understand the scope of their work, how they fit in the broader team dynamic, and what success looks like for them?  

Onboarding looks different for every company, but the goal is the same: to ensure that every new team member feels welcomed, valued, and equipped for success.  

Building an Onboarding Process

The first step to building a successful onboarding process starts with ensuring the basics are covered. If you’re hiring a contractor through a recruitment agency (like Lighthouse), they will handle all pre-employment paperwork and background vetting. Your agency will partner with you to create processes and communication methods that ease the administrative burden of hiring.  

Once these initial steps are completed, we recommend the hiring manager reach out to the new hire whether it’s via text, phone call or email to welcome them to the company and share excitement about working together. Changing positions can be nerve-wracking, and folks will be in a more confident and optimistic headspace to start their work if you’ve made them feel special before their first day! 

We also recommend the hiring manager prep their current team before the new hire starts. Share their name, where they are based out of or where they will sit in the office, a little about their background, and what they are being brought in to do. This helps build camaraderie from day one since everyone is expecting each other and understands their roles. 

Another important onboarding aspect is to make sure your new hires have all the necessary equipment to perform their job effectively. Whether it’s a laptop, specific software, work-from-home equipment, or any other tools they need to get started, make sure everything is in place before their first day arrives.  

Lastly, make sure the new team member has a prepared schedule for their first day. Think about everything you would want to know before your first day at a new job:

  • Where do I go, and at what time?
  • Who will be reaching out to me?
  • What meetings will I attend?
  • What should I bring with me?

All new hires, including contractors, have these questions before starting a job. You can set them up for success and help them show up with confidence instead of uncertainty by providing them with as much of this information as possible before day one. 

What’s Your “Welcome Experience” for the First Week?

The first week when a new hire joins the team is crucial for them to understand not only your work, but your company culture. Can you help new hires see the “why” behind the work they are doing?  

To accomplish this, think of the first week as an enriching “welcome experience.” This begins with a focus on introducing new hires to the entire team and familiarizing them with your company’s values, culture, policies, and procedures. What are the unwritten culture norms?

If you’re not working with your new hire face-to-face, make sure they have opportunities to get to know their team members, ask questions about their work, and bring up challenges they’re facing. This may be more challenging if your team is fully remote, but that makes it even more important.

Answer the question, “how does work get done around here?” and communicate some of these non-obvious things to your new hire. For example, do you use email for certain types of communications, and Slack or Teams for smaller, asynchronous updates? Make sure your new hires know how to integrate into your team’s processes. Creating intentional time for onboarding during the first week, and setting expectations around communication early in the new hire’s assignment, will go a long way in avoiding challenges and miscommunication down the road.  

Try not to treat contractors as outsiders brought in to accomplish a specific task – encourage them to be part of the team for the time they are with you. They will be happier and more engaged, and you may find they bring more skills to your team than you initially expected. And we’ve seen it happen time and time again, where full time permanent roles on the team do come available, and how awesome is it to be able to offer this opportunity to a contractor who is already well versed in the team, company and technical work. 

Whether these steps of orientation take place in one formal day or a series of meetings throughout the first few days, these interactions provide an opportunity for new hires to understand the company culture better. By designing this welcome experience intentionally, contractors can see how their work will contribute to overarching business goals. 

Of course, the first week also has to emphasize technical training. Ensure that new team members have all the necessary access set up, are familiarized with the tech stack and related tools and documentation. Walkthroughs and code reviews are a great help as needed.  

Setting Up for Success at 30, 60, 90 Days and Beyond

The journey to onboarding success doesn’t end with the first week; it’s only just begun. Setting up new team members for long-term success is the goal here.  

This is where regular check-ins come into play. It requires partnership between the new hire’s supervising manager, internal talent acquisition and HR teams, and – if they were involved in the hiring process – external recruiters and HR staff. 

30, 60, and 90 days are easy checkpoints to use beyond that initial welcome week. What feedback have you received about the contractor and their contributions to the team? If you haven’t heard any feedback or haven’t paused to review their work, these are great points to do so. These meetings are also a good time to ask for feedback from your new hire. They are bringing a fresh set of eyes to the onboarding and training process. 

That new hire should be continually gaining a better understanding of the team’s processes, working effectively in partnership with other team members, and keeping projects on track. When all is well, these checkpoints become small celebrations recognizing that the process worked as it should have! 

If any constructive feedback needs to be shared with this contractor, how is that conversation initiated? These are moments where your HR and recruiting partners – internal and external – need to be looped in. The insight they gathered about this contractor’s past experience can be important context helping this individual to do the best work they can moving forward.  

At the end of the day, effective onboarding is going to help contractors contribute the best work they can. This can be achieved by finding the right balance of technology and personalized connection and build a great experience along the way! 

Set Your Team Up for a Positive Experience

Once you’ve done the heavy work of attracting talent to your business, onboarding plays a crucial role in your long-term talent retention. With Lighthouse, our managed talent services programs provide an innovative suite of solutions, drawing from our diverse expertise in talent acquisition, HR, technology, marketing, and more.    


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