I was recently visiting with friends who had a newborn baby. They were carefully passing her around and didn't want anything to harm her. When it came time to discuss our upcoming travel plans, the topic of who would watch her came up.

I listened and observed as they spoke through who they trusted to handle and watch their precious baby. Although I am not a father today, I do feel like I have a child, my business, and it's one that I have raised and grown quickly.  

You wouldn't let just anyone babysit your newborn in the same way you wouldn't let any professional come in and work for you. Who you hire to help you nurture and grow your business matters.

Over the years I have hired a number of employees, the vast majority of which are contractors. What I have come to realize is that hiring contracts makes everyone happy. They are hired for the skill set they have expertise and passion in, they can be leveraged directly when needed, and we can't go without mentioning the myriad of employee benefits, taxes and insurance policies avoided that would otherwise come with full-time staff.  

In the growing gig economy, contractors have endless options of where to go and who they choose to work with. As a business owner, the onus is on you to make them feel more than a one-time hire and build a lasting relationship based on loyalty.   

I used these three tools to build an internal culture and a team of contractors that cares about what we do, how we do it and most importantly, why we do it.  

1. Show where they fit into the company's vision.

Build a vision, and document it. I read the book Vivid Vision by Cameron Herald which opened my eyes to the deep value a vision provides. From this, I created a 10-page vision document that tells the story of the business and outlines what our mission, values, and vision for the future are.

Before hiring anyone, I ask each contractor to read it and explain how they fit into the vision of the company. This puts everyone, whether a customer service rep or a financial advisor, in the position to view their role through the same lens.

People innately want to feel needed, and when you can show them how what they bring to the table makes a difference they will be more inclined to stick around and care. When the vision of your business aligns with each employee's values you generate a community working towards a single goal.  

2. Treat them like valued employees.

Contractors aren't robots you turn on and off. They are people. The more you treat your contractors as though they are full-time employees the more they will feel like such. Give them days off, and make them part of team meetings. 

Every Monday and Friday morning, we hold a meeting where all team members are invited. During this time we celebrate each other's accomplishments and give shout-outs to team members for doing something great. Building a united team culture that is working towards the same goal can turn anyone, whether a full-time employee or a contractor, into someone that is invested in the success of the business.

The more unified you can make your contractors feel, the more committed they will be to the community. As humans we all crave community, so be the company that gives this to them. Being a contractor can get lonely at times, and having a client (your company) be there to make them feel valued and welcome will make a big difference down the road where they decide to come back for more work.  

3. Care about what they want.

Ask yourself how your business can help them. When you bring on a new contractor, have a genuine conversation to understand what they want to work on improving, learn what their personal dreams are, and the timeline in which they want to reach them.  

Bake in incentives or compensation plans that motivate them to get there faster. Build your business success into how they will reach their own goals. When you show an invested interest in their success you will both win.   

Contractors aren't going anywhere anytime soon and if you want your business, your baby, to succeed long term start taking action now to create a culture that not only welcomes but nurtures contract employees.

Published on: Oct 31, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.