Should You Train Contractors? The Challenge of Delivering Training in Today’s Gig Economy

training contractors

Should you build courses for employees who aren’t really employees?

Today’s workplace looks much different than it did just even a few years ago. The growth of the gig economy has given the term “employee” a run for its money.

An NPR/Marist poll from January 2018 found that 1 in 5 jobs in America is held by a worker under contract.

“Within a decade, contractors and freelancers could make up half of the American workforce,” claims NPR.

Nowadays, it is common in organizations of all sizes to have both full-time and part-time employees, in addition to both full-time and part-time independent contractors. Employees may be hired for a single or recurring project, or may even be re-hired as needed. They may even be paid via an agency or third-party partner.


This has, of course, put much strain on L&D teams. Indeed, should learning leaders even care about the needs of employees who are just part-time contractors? Do their needs matter?

After all, contractors are usually hired with the expectation that they do not need training at all: they are presumably experts in their field and should be able to simply start getting work done on Day One.

The short answer is yes, they do. And even though organizations nowadays are quite used to these hybrid environments, with employees holding varying employment classifications, providing training for everyone is possible and, in fact, necessary. Let’s have a look.

Why Training Contractors Makes Sense

  • Compliance. You may have no choice but to include contractors in your training because your industry and internal controls demand it. This may be for compliance training related to safety, security, and privacy in such regulated industries as healthcare or financial services. Even if the contract employee underwent similar compliance training at another company in your industry, you may still be required by law to provide training for that employee.
  • Project-specific. Everyone on the team may need training for a project or process specific to your company—training which would have been impossible for that contractor to complete on his or her own. This is still a good thing for the organization, as it will prevent confusion or mistakes later on.
  • No extra design cost. If you build the majority of your training in-house, design costs aren’t really an issue, especially if you’re deploying organization-wide training and simply including indirect employees or other representatives as part of the learning audience.
  • Not a big burden on time. One concern managers have about contractors participating in training is that the contractor would be paid for “non-working” hours and it would be a waste of resources. However, this shouldn’t be considered an issue as it has been determined that employees spend less than one hour per week on training anyway. According to Training Magazine’s 2018 Training Industry Report, the time employees spend on training has actually been decreasing. Employees received, on average, 46.7 hours of training in 2018, compared to 47.6 hours in 2017. This is expected to decline even further.
  • Compensation strategy. One often overlooked possibility is to offer training to the contract employee as part of a compensation package. This works well for both parties if the training is for a hot, in-demand skill that the contractor can eventually use outside of your company (think data science or Web development).

But won’t these contractors simply leave, taking their training with them? They could very well leave—but so could full-time employees.

“It costs to train people,” notes UK-based learning portal TrainingZone. “When you think of providing training to a contractor, it’s not surprising that you might visualize that investment walking out the door to take those skills to their next gig.”

Source: Imaginasium

However, the ROI is there. Training a contractor engenders loyalty. That contract employee will be less inclined to jump ship when a more lucrative project comes his or her way. We all know about the wasted costs of having to re-train an employee; this certainly applies to contractors as well.

How to Ensure Contractor Training Goes Smoothly

One word: technology, on two fronts:

Choose a learning management system and other authoring tools that have flexible licensing, allowing for employees and contractors to access the system. You may have to negotiate the licenses or seats in order to make this happen.

Such tools should enable contractors to both build courses and take them. For instance, a company’s subject matter experts might be contractors, so they require temporary access to the system, as do the contractors accessing the learning.

Synch up with IT to ensure device compatibility. We’ve mentioned this on our blog before, but it’s especially important here, as contractors most likely will be entering the company with their own smartphones, tablets, and laptops in tow.

Your IT department may have a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy, but ensure that your LMS and other learning tools are accessible on your contractor’s devices. You may also have to alert IT to allow access via the department’s mobile device management or enterprise mobility management solution.

We here at Cognota have given much thought to this issue, as today’s workplace keeps changing shape. Have you been tasked with providing training in blended environments? How has it worked out for you and your team?

Interested in learning more about facilitating training across a hybrid workforce? Check out this free ebook on the power of crowdsourcing training!

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Should You Train Contractors? The Challenge of Delivering Training in Today’s Gig Economy