Expert advice and direction: Communicating contractor roles and impact
Schools and educational institutions contract with outside providers to help add expertise or bring additional resources to a project. These services are far-ranging and include professional development, information technology (IT), food service, accountability benchmarking, marketing and everything in between.
With constant budget challenges, new legislative demands and changing technology, departments, schools, districts and institutions can become under-resourced over time. Contracted services may help bridge the gap in resources—especially time—allowing existing staff members to deal with higher-level demands.
Whether an outside contractor will be working on safety assessments, professional development, grant writing or another specialized area, it’s important that your internal teams are comfortable with outside help. Consider building buy-in strategies as part of your communications plan.
- Ask your team. If you’re considering contracting a professional service provider to assist your organization in running more smoothly, be sure to put in your research time. Consider distributing surveys to all departments, staff and faculty, asking them if they feel certain areas could benefit from a few extra hands. Make sure to reward all who take time to complete the surveys with a personalized note. Adding a Good Life Book full of “thank you” quotations and anecdotes will let them know how much you appreciate their input.
- Lay out the plan. Whether you’re a principal, department chair or task force leader, if you’ve decided to bring one or more contracted employees on board, it’s important that all team members understand what is planned. The benefits are two-fold: A contractor will be more successful with the support of the team. Team members will be better able to assist if they understand the end goal. If the outside contractor will be working on short-term projects, spell out the timeline and goals. If the outside contractor will be providing a new service, explain how staff will provide input or assistance. Let team members know that they have something to look forward to by handing out logo’d Desk Pal Clocks and a memo that lays out the soon-to-be-implemented processes with the goal of “Saving Them Time!”
- Add some fun. Seek to increase participation, whether internal or external, using fun giveaways such as Bicycle Lights for a safety campaign or a Highlighter imprinted with “Highlighting Our Strengths” for a grant writing or implementation project.
- Focus on success. Always remember to communicate the positive impact the project is having at every available juncture. Tell the story from different perspectives: staff members, teachers/professors, administrators and students.
Capitalizing on outside expertise
There are times when using a contracted firm ensures additional expertise, such as 4imprint customer International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE). IACBE helps four-year institutions of higher education accredit their business schools and consults with them on mission- and outcome-based evaluations. “We provide quality assurance,” says Amy Brown, Director of Operations. “Our goal is to improve students’ education.”
Consultants like IACBE can be found within a variety of disciplines. That outside expertise can add a great deal to your institution, but it can raise questions internally and externally. Be proactive in your communication efforts, and help your stakeholders and constituents learn about the benefits that an outside consultant can bring to your organization.