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How to manage subcontractors - 5 best practices in field service

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Thin­king about subcont­rac­ting? Let’s talk about how you can moti­va­te your exter­nal field tech­nicians so they want to work for you again and again.

In this article, you’ll find 5 best prac­tices for hiring and mana­ging subcont­rac­tors, along with the bene­fits of using field ser­vice softwa­re when mana­ging your field jobs and tech­nicians.


After many mee­tings and tough nego­tia­tions, you’­ve final­ly lan­ded the huge field pro­ject that you were wor­king so hard for. Con­gra­tu­la­tions!

Howe­ver, once the ini­tial eup­ho­ria has pas­sed, you rea­li­se that this job might take more resources than you pre­vious­ly thought. Your cur­rent team of field tech­nicians is simply too small to work on this pro­ject and take care of all the other jobs in the pipe­li­ne.

It’s time for subcont­rac­ting.

Hiring inde­pen­dent cont­rac­tors allows your busi­ness to

  • bene­fit from a broa­der ran­ge of skills (impor­tant for out-of-the-ordi­na­ry field jobs that requi­re special skills)
  • reach a comple­te­ly new geo­grap­hical loca­tion (a huge bene­fit for get­ting busi­ness in more remo­te areas)
  • save costs if you’­re ope­ra­ting in a fluc­tua­ting industry.

However, subcontracting for field service delivery also poses challenges:

  1. Fin­ding the right subcont­rac­tors, to begin with, can be a dif­ficult and time-con­su­ming task
  2. Ensu­ring subcont­rac­tors comply with the com­pa­ny’s regu­la­to­ry and stan­dards requi­re­ments
  3. Defi­ning the sco­pe of work, and the expec­ta­tion for comple­tion
  4. Main­tai­ning accoun­ta­bi­li­ty for indi­vi­dual tasks
  5. Mana­ging docu­ments and files
  6. Main­tai­ning workplace hap­pi­ness and mora­le.

That being said, many of the­se chal­len­ges are not neces­sa­ry and can be overco­me with the right proces­ses, use of tools/software and with pro­per onboar­ding of the out­sourced field team.

Let’s tackle the­se chal­len­ges with the­se 5 best prac­tices for subcont­rac­ting in the field ser­vice industry:

1. Make technology your ally - use field service software

Mana­ging a field ser­vice busi­ness wit­hout the use of softwa­re is hard at the best of times. But when it comes to subcont­rac­ting, it beco­mes a must.

The main bene­fit is that it acts as a single source of truth, mini­mi­sing con­fusion with the subcont­rac­tors. For ins­tance, with Emvi­sa­ge Field Workflow Softwa­re you can give 3rd par­ty field tech­nicians tem­po­ra­ry access, and assign jobs and indi­vi­dual tasks. This way accoun­ta­bi­li­ty is ensu­red, even for tasks that may not be lis­ted out in the cont­ract.

It also ensu­res that cont­rac­tors fill in forms of war­ran­ty and other regu­la­to­ry pur­po­ses, just the way you need them to. All the docu­ments are mana­ged in one place and it helps you with record-kee­ping and making sure that eve­ry­one is paid accu­ra­te­ly. Anot­her plus: No lost docu­ments, as tech­nicians can simply upload pho­tos and other paperwork with their smartp­ho­nes.

2. Hire the right people - use networks to find subcontractors

Your people, your team in the office, and your tech­nicians in the field are your most impor­tant assets. You know that alrea­dy, that’s why I’m sure you invest a lot of time and effort when hiring new team mem­bers.

But do you choo­se your cont­rac­tors with the same cau­tion and care, as your emplo­yees?

When you find the right part­ner for subcont­rac­ting you can avoid limi­ta­tions such as incor­rect skill­set and inc­rea­se per­for­mance at the job.

Talk to your peers in the industry and ask about recom­men­da­tions and use industry lis­ting web­si­tes to find the right subcont­rac­tor for your needs. Again, make tech­no­lo­gy work for you!

3. Create a team spirit - make the contractors part of your team

Cont­rac­tors pre­fer to work for emplo­yers that make them feel part of the team. It’s no surpri­se. Nobo­dy wants to be seen as a simple “resource”, we humans long to be part of somet­hing, even if it’s just for a short period of time.

Cont­rac­tors are also more like­ly to return to workplaces that they were hap­py to be wor­king for, reducing churn of expe­rienced wor­kers, means skills and trai­ning aren’t lost. This allows you to make more accu­ra­te plans when it comes to new jobs and out­sourcing tech­nicians.

How can you make them feel part of the team?

You could orga­ni­se infor­mal drinks with your in-house and out­sourced team and let them get to know each other out­si­de the job site. Let them know what’s going on in your com­pa­ny and show them they are a valuable addi­tion to the ove­rall busi­ness success.

In a nutshell, let them expe­rience what it feels like to be a team mem­ber of your com­pa­ny.

Tip: Let your cont­rac­tors wear your com­pa­ny’s uniform/shirts. This gives you two bene­fits at once: your field tech­nician feels that he’s part of the team, whi­le your cus­to­mer won’t notice that you’­re using subcont­rac­tors to comple­te the job.

4. Keep your communication clear - for instructions and praise alike

Com­mu­nica­tion is one of the most impor­tant parts of teamwork, regard­less if you work with in-house staff or cont­rac­tors. If you want the field job to be done fast and smooth­ly, keep the com­mu­nica­tion open.

Clear­ly defi­ning the sco­pe of work for the pro­ject at hand, and explai­ning the subcont­rac­tor’s part of the job helps ensu­re that the work is done cor­rect­ly the first time around.

Sche­du­le regu­lar calls and check-ups to make sure that eve­ry­one knows what is expec­ted of them and what the next steps are. This helps eve­ry­one, your back-office staff inclu­ded, unders­tand what their lia­bi­li­ties and res­pon­si­bi­li­ties are.

Regu­lar and con­sis­tent com­mu­nica­tion makes it easier to give feed­back too. Let your 3rd par­ty field tech­nicians know when they’­ve done a good job. Honest apprecia­tion makes them want to work with you again.

On that note, when you express dis­sa­tis­fac­tion in a con­struc­ti­ve man­ner you can ensu­re that the­re are no hard fee­lings, but the neces­sa­ry impro­ve­ments are still pos­sible.

5. Avoid excessive micromanagement - let them work in their own ways

One of the many rea­sons why your cont­rac­tor ente­red the free­lance mar­ket is that they can be their own boss and remain their auto­no­my and free­dom to a cer­tain extent.

Many have an ent­repre­neu­rial mind­set and don’t like being exces­si­ve­ly told what to, and how to do the job. It’s bet­ter to mana­ge them through speci­fic outco­mes, rat­her than giving explicit instruc­tions for eve­ry litt­le task. This will save you and your team time and makes your cont­rac­tor feel like he’s a trus­ted mem­ber of the orga­ni­sa­tion.

Summary: 5 best practices when working with subcontractors in field service

  • Use field ser­vice softwa­re, such as Emvi­sa­ge, to easi­ly mana­ge your field teams and digi­ti­se paperwork.
  • Talk to your peers in the industry and ask about recom­men­da­tions and use industry lis­ting web­si­tes to find the right subcont­rac­tor for your needs.
  • Reduce churn of expe­rienced wor­kers by making them feel part of the team and genui­ne­ly caring about their work satis­fac­tion.
  • Sche­du­le regu­lar calls and check-ups to make sure that eve­ry­one knows what is expec­ted of them and what the next steps are. This helps eve­ry­one, your back-office staff inclu­ded, unders­tand what their lia­bi­li­ties and res­pon­si­bi­li­ties are.
  • It’s bet­ter to mana­ge cont­rac­tors through speci­fic outco­mes, rat­her than giving explicit instruc­tions for eve­ry litt­le task.

We hope the­se tips and best prac­tices help you hiring and wor­king with subcont­rac­ted field tech­nicians. If you’­ve got any more ques­tions about orga­ni­sing field teams and opti­mi­sing workflows, simply drop us a mes­sa­ge at info@emvisage.com.

Field Workflow Software for businesses handling complex field work