5 Useful tips for managing subcontractors

5 tips for managing subcontractors blog

In the trade services industry, projects are carried out by contractors and subcontractors. Contractors refer to individuals or companies bidding for and winning job contracts from project owners or prospective clients. These usually include construction companies carrying out and overseeing entire building projects on a contractual basis. Meanwhile, subcontractors are a type of contractor who brings a unique set of skills to a project. Due to their specialisations, general contractors will usually hire subcontractors to perform specific jobs, such as roofing, electrical installation, plumbing, and more.  

Australian contractors often end up delegating specific tasks to dozens of subcontractors, especially for larger building projects. However, managing subcontractors can be a challenge for businesses. If you’re a contractor who needs help with handling your subcontractors, take a look at the simple tips we’ve compiled below: 

Clarify contract terms

Your subcontractor’s contract must define their roles and responsibilities as well as your expectations for the job. The contract will usually start with a general description of the service the subcontractor is hired to perform, such as concrete finishing, electrical wiring, plumbing installation, and so on. The contract should provide specific details on project deliverables, materials and budget requirements, and final due dates. 

Your contract should highlight mandatory responsibilities like maintaining equipment, giving weekly updates to general contractors, and ensuring on-site technicians are safe. You’ll also want to include sections specifying project quality standards, remuneration and payment methods, project disputes, and incident reporting protocols. Putting all these terms and conditions into writing will help you keep subcontractors accountable and ensure they’re upholding their responsibilities. 

Prioritise health and safety

Given the high-risk nature of construction work, you must ensure that subcontractors are meeting work health and safety regulations. This includes conducting thorough site assessments and addressing potential risks like slipping hazards and chemical contaminants before starting the job. Subcontractors and their technicians should also know the proper techniques to conduct work safely and wear appropriate personal protective equipment. They must also be qualified to operate heavy machinery. 

The most effective way to keep your subcontractors compliant with these standards is through job management systems with built-in compliance capabilities. WorkBuddy, in particular, allows administrators to build custom electronic forms, from compliance checklists to job hazard forms and to-do lists. For instance, they can tailor compliance forms after Safe Work Method Statements so subcontractors have a step-by-step guide to keeping everyone safe. Administrators can also choose between creating specific instructions for highly customised jobs or default checklists that apply to all jobs. 

You can then monitor compliance on your end and prevent subcontractors from starting the next phase of a project if the checklist is incomplete. You can even delay payment if subcontractors have not been diligent with upholding your workplace safety standards. 

Create a comprehensive project plan

Every plan should outline objectives and schedules to guide subcontractors throughout the project. Your work schedules must include details like project activities, locations, due dates, and resource requirements. For example, a commercial concrete subcontractor may be dedicated to sourcing materials, levelling the ground, and setting up concrete foundations for the first month of construction. It’s a good idea to involve subcontractors in the planning stage so they can coordinate with your business regarding material deliveries, availability, skill qualifications, and workflow planning. 

To efficiently schedule your project activities, you can use job management platforms. These platforms typically provide intuitive job scheduling features that allow you to break down project activities, set deadlines, and lay them out on a timeline. Subcontractors can then interact with the timeline, look at the specific requirements of each project activity, and report their progress all in one place.  

Communicate regularly with subcontractors

Maintaining close communication with subcontractors enables both of you to work more cohesively on a project. Weekly or monthly site meetings are a great way to facilitate effective communication between project stakeholders. As the contractor, you can inform subs of project changes and regularly remind them of their objectives and tasks. Meanwhile, subcontractors can go into site meetings to report job progress and express project-related concerns so you can address potential issues right away. 

If you’re not on site, however, there are plenty of tools you can use to keep in contact with your subs. Business communication platforms like Microsoft Teams come with instant messaging, audio/video call conferencing, and file sharing. These platforms can be installed on mobile devices, allowing you and your subcontractors to stay on the same page.   

Additionally, job management platforms often offer subcontractor portals where subs have direct contact with your business. These portals come with a central dashboard that includes everything subcontractors need for a job, including job specifications, compliance checklists, and weekly schedules. They also include instant messaging and push notification features so administrators can seamlessly communicate with onsite subs and deliver important job updates. Subcontractor portals also let subs log their daily activities, work expenses, job progress, and potential issues for you to see. This is useful for monitoring performance and adjusting budgets or schedules to support subcontractors with a difficult project. 

Pay your subcontractors on time

Processing payments in a timely manner is key to maintaining a strong relationship with subcontractors. Before subcontractors begin working, you have to discuss payment terms. If you’re undertaking a long project, making partial payments to subcontractors every 30–60 days may make sense for both parties. On the other hand, you may have to make lump sum payments for subcontractor work that takes a relatively short time to complete. 

Whatever terms you agree to, keeping record of invoice due dates for each subcontractor will help you stay on top of your payments. You can streamline this process by integrating your accounting platform with your job management system. Whenever subcontractors meet project milestones and complete work orders on the job management system, they can instantly submit invoices for the service provided. Your accounting platform then takes the invoice and routes it to the appropriate accounting staff for approval and payment processing. Top accounting platforms like Xero, QuickBooks, or MYOB Online can even track invoice deadlines and send automated reminders so you make payments on time. 

When it comes to managing subcontractors, WorkBuddy is the number one solution. Our job management system has everything you need, from powerful job scheduling and subcontractor portals to accounting integrations and compliance capabilities. Call us now to enjoy these game-changing features.

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