Getting Contractors Up to Speed Quickly

Editor’s Note: The following piece by Miki Magyar is part of our collection of “classics”–articles that stand the test of time no matter how many technologies come and go. It is a great checklist for onboarding contractors and for contractors getting ready for the next gig.

Our current plan is to have a 3-ring binder and associated legacy material for the incoming contractor, with his/her name on the cover page:

Information provided by the company

When you work as a contractor for [CompanyName] Technical Communications department, you can expect to know what you are expected to do and how to tell if it is done right, and be provided the needed resources and support.

You are here information

  • Maps of [CompanyName] with location of people, printers, coffee pot, restrooms, etc.
  • Who to call for what kinds of help–annotated phone list
  • Formal and informal rules
  • Copy center information
  • Printer access
  • Online information available
  • Policy on references and samples of work
  • Project name crib sheet
  • Company and industry basics

    General processes and tools

  • File naming conventions
  • File organization for projects–templates, project files, graphics
  • Process for storing and archiving files
  • Generic time line–intervals for review cycles
  • Review and approval process–what is required at each stage
  • Graphics–where to find them, how to pull them in (for illustrators–examples, plus detailed specs on format and style)
  • Tools and template info–what you can and can’t change style guide, list of acronyms, and a glossary

    Project-specific processes and tools

  • Detailed written task instructions
  • Product descriptions and marketing materials
  • Documentation plan with current final due dates
  • Source documents–hard copy and/or directory information
  • SMEs–who and where they are
  • Reviewers–who and where they are
  • Legacy documents as models
  • Editing checklists

    Provided for the contractor…

  • Fully functional cube with working PC and/or Unix station, phone, installed software, Internet access, e-mail, and any other required tools
  • Working badge
  • A contact person with answers to questions
  • Guided tour and personal introductions to key people
  • Visit to production to see an actual product
  • Notification of all relevant meetings and updates on source docs

    Contractor wish list

    I’ve also turned this into a one-page handout for contractors to use when interviewing with job shops of potential employers. You are welcome to copy and modify as you want:

    You are here information

  • Maps with location of people, printers, coffee pot, restrooms, etc.
  • Contact information for help–annotated phone list
  • Formal and informal rules
  • Contact information for help with printer access, copy center, and supplies
  • Policy on references and samples of work
  • Project name crib sheet (if relevant)
  • Background material on the industry or jargon

    General necessities

  • Fully functional cube with working PC and/or Unix station, phone, installed software, Internet access, e-mail, and any other required tools
  • Contractor badge or ID (if you use them)
  • Contact person with answers to questions
  • Guided tour and personal introductions to key people
  • Tour of production to see an actual product, or access to real software
  • Resource materials and background information on the project
  • Notification of all relevant meetings and updates on source docs

    Project-specific information

  • Detailed written task instructions
  • Product description and marketing materials
  • Doc plan with current final due dates
  • Source documents–hard copy and/or directory info
  • SMEs–who and where they are
  • Reviewers–who and where they are
  • Legacy documents as models
  • Editing checklists

    Process information

  • File naming conventions
  • File organization for projects–templates, project files, graphics
  • Storing and archiving files
  • Generic time line–intervals for review cycles
  • Review and approval process–what is required at each stage
  • Graphics–where to find them, how to pull them in
  • Tools and template info–what you can and can’t change
  • Style guide, list of acronyms, and glossary

    Other

    I understand that e-mail, web access, fax, copier, and phone are corporate tools. I will only use them for personal tasks within reason, subject to good taste, legal restraints, and professional etiquette.