As competition for federal contracts increases, it is becoming increasingly common for federal contractors to pursue contracts with various agencies and in different locations, which may result in performance of work at several different installations, including in different states. As a result, federal contractors often find themselves with a fragmented workforce - meaning they have employees that work in a variety of different physical locations. For example, a single company may have an office in Honolulu and one in Florida, both of which employ the company's back office staff. This same company may also have staff that work remotely or on various government installations in both locations as well as in other states.
Both of the situations discussed above can lead to staff feeling disconnected, which can then lead to discontent, unhappiness, poor performance, and ultimately an increased potential for complaints (legal or internal) as well as higher turnover. Many companies think, my employees are happy and I don't have these problems - however, if they were to conduct an anonymous survey, I think they would be surprised to find that these problems likely do exist, to some extent, within their workforce.
This blog post provides some tips that contractors might consider implementing in order to promote a more cohesive team culture. The clear benefits of this would be promoting company loyalty and an internal sense of pride among your staff, higher performance, and a decrease in conflict and discord. As with most things in business, these tips require resources (time, staff, financial), and there is no guarantee that they will be 100% effective. But when employees see that their company is making an effort, that generally goes a long way.
New Employee Orientation
As mentioned, contract employees in particular often feel disconnected with their employer and often don't really know much about the company except to say that the company is their employer. Contract employees (especially ones that are newer to government contracting) may also get confused about who their employer actually is and they may also start to feel like the policies and procedures (and benefits) that apply to their government counterparts apply to them as well .
If you don't already have some sort of new employee orientation as part of the onboarding process, you should consider putting one together. If you are hiring in different locations, you might consider having your orientation be done by video conference or via a online training platform. During this orientation, you have the opportunity to educate the employee(s) on the company's history, mission, vision, values - basically all the things you want them to know about the company.
For contract employees, this would also be a great time to clarify expectations and Company policies. That is, make it clear that the employee is an employee of the Company and is not a government employee. Therefore, all employment actions such as PTO/vacation requests must be approved by the Company. In addition, the same benefits that may apply to government employees (i.e., holidays, flexible work schedule, etc.) do not necessarily employee to Company employees.
Publish a Regular Newsletter or Blog
A common complaint from employees of government contractors is a lack of communication. For example, contract employees, especially if they are working at a government installation, often feel like they are not kept updated on what's going on with their employer generally. A fairly low-cost way to address this is by publishing an electronic newsletter or a blog which might include the following:
*New employee announcements
*Employee awards (employee of the month, quarter, etc.)
*Feature an employee
For the "feature an employee" section, an idea might be to assign an employee to interview an employee in another location or with whom that employee would not otherwise regularly interact. The interviewing employee would then write up a short piece which would be published in the newsletter or blog. In general, this would provide a means for employees to better get to know employees.
It is well known that employees are generally much happier when they feel they are being kept in the loop and have a general awareness of what is going on with the company their work for. Companies that keep everything close to the vest and promote a culture of secrecy tend to have higher discontentment and higher turnover. A newsletter/blog will increase organizational communication generally and specifically has the added effect of really connecting contract employees with your organization.
Today, there are so many tools that companies can use to foster collaboration as well as a team environment within their organizations. Use of technology might include:
*Conducting a quarterly all-hands via video conference
*Creating a private Facebook Group only for company employees
*Utilizing GoToMeeting or GoToWebinar (or similar platform) to conduct group training/meetings or to hold a "virtual happy hour or coffee break"
Schedule or Coordinate Regular Gatherings
Another way to bring your employees together is by hosting regular gatherings for those within a specific physical/geographic range. For example, if you have employees in different work sites all of which are on the island of Oahu, you might consider having at least a quarterly lunch or a quarterly happy hour event for all your Oahu staff. Similarly, if you have numerous work sites in a separate geographic area, consider doing the same thing there.
Now, you will never be able to touch every employee or get every one to attend a gathering. There will always be people that are too busy or that have family/outside obligations or that simply aren't willing to give one single second outside of their 8 hour workday or 40 hours per week to anything that isn't absolutely required of them - and that's fine, but at least you would be providing regular opportunities for employees to come together as members of your organization.
Financially, this may not be possible for many companies. Also, given physical distance, this may also not be feasible. However, for organizations that do have the resources to do a company-wide retreat, it is certainly something to consider. A retreat provides all employees that attend the opportunity to meet face-to-face with the company's leadership, whom they may not see regularly, as well as employees from other areas.
As this would require significant resources, you would want to ensure that you make the most of your company retreat. You should consider including ice breaker and team building exercises, speeches from senior leadership, professional development and/or leadership workshops/discussions, and fun non-work activities.
Provide Similar Perks and Keep Procedures Consistent
To the extent that employees in different physical locations may talk, it is inevitable that they will compare things about their employment experience with your company. To that end, one of the easiest ways discontent can arise is if an employee feels another is receiving more or better than they are. For example, if you have a Christmas/Holiday party, it would be worth giving some thought to the venue where you hold your party. If one office is holding their party at the company office, it would not be advisable for an office in another state to hold their party at a much more extravagant venue.
Although not always possible, when doing an office build-out, you may want to give some thought as to whether you are providing similar facilities or perks to those employed at your other offices. You should also ensure that contract employees working nearby are able to take advantage of those facilities. For example, if one office has a gym or workout facility, you should work to ensure any future office locations provide a similar benefit. Another example is if one office has a Keurig and provides a variety of complimentary K-cup options, try to ensure that your other offices provide the same.
On a similar note, it may go without saying, but you should also ensure that your internal policies and procedures are the same and are applied consistently across your different offices and work sites. Inconsistency in this regard has a high likelihood of leading to discrimination and other complaints, so you should always work to ensure your managers are consistent in their enforcement of policies and implementation of procedures.
Ensure Leadership Visits Different Sites Regularly
Again, many of the tips provided in this post require resources, whether financial, personnel or time - and therefore it may not be financially possible for senior leadership to visit various work sites and office locations on a regular basis. However, it is important for the leader of your company and/or other members of senior leadership, as best as possible, to visit the company's various work sites at least on an annual basis. It is important because it allows leadership to stay in touch with all aspects of their workforce and it lets employees know that their leadership cares and they too are an integral part of the company.