How to Keep Contract Managers Engaged
By Rick Ralston, CEO of Contract Logix
In these times of remote work, online education, group gathering bans, and lack of travel, how in the world can we expect contract managers to stay engaged?
Now let’s be honest, contract management can sometimes get, well, boring. Activities like reviewing and validating the same old day-to-day metadata, adding new agreements, and checking off tasks from alerts and notifications isn’t exactly exciting.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Contract managers are no different than everyone else in the world. We all have intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. Let’s dive into those motivators and look at some ways to spice things up a bit.
Learn what drives the contract manager(s) in your organization. Chances are, they are motivated to get things right, pay attention to detail, and adhere to process. Most contract managers I know like to keep everything organized all while balancing numerous demanding priorities. Sound familiar?
For intrinsic motivators, here are some ideas to align what contract managers need and want to stay engaged.
Have them own the process. The theory of constraints teaches us there are and will always be ways to improve a process. No matter how streamlined and efficient a process becomes, it can always be better. Plus, things change over time and our processes need to adapt.
Here is an example. Maybe a current vendor agreement workflow runs sequenced reviews for signoff from IT, Accounting, Procurement, and Legal. Consider a workflow redesign to allow those activities to run in parallel. Not only would it speed up the vendor approval process, it can create an environment that encourages collaboration. A contract manager would love to tackle building an efficient workflow. Something deep down inside them says, “YES, let me own that process please!”
Create a Challenge
Contract managers are always looking for ways to break up their routine. Their day-to-day responsibilities often get tedious. Sure, they are motivated to take care of business and keep the tedious steps on track. But a good challenge can make the difference between a ho-hum week and one that is truly engaging.
Try this one. Clause and templates can run amuck at times. It’s not uncommon to have too many clauses that say the same thing but originated in different departments. Or, what about multiple preambles, inconsistent signature blocks that weren’t properly designed for electronic signatures, inconsistent numbering, or no numbering at all? Create a challenge for the contract manager to create a consistent formatting process for all new agreements. It is the kind of thing that we all know needs to be done, but no one ever makes it a priority. It takes time, so be sure to pull back on some other tasks to make room.
Extrinsic or external motivators come from outside the individual, not internally. These are the actions leadership can take for both financial and non-financial incentives.
Contract management is hard work. As internal processes change, the career path of a contract manager has to navigate more ups and downs than a Missouri back road. Mergers and acquisitions create chaotic cultural shifts. Compliance with ever-changing regulations can suck the life out of a normally exuberant individual. Sincere recognition is a critical component of an engaging workplace.
Try this idea. Create a General Counsel award for outstanding performance. Contract managers are unsung heroes in the legal world. When a key phrase risk analysis of clauses identifies a top tier of contracts to be renegotiated, recognize the contract manager that led the analysis.
When in the trenches, the path of least resistance is the status quo. That path is fundamentally unacceptable in the current world of contracts. However, if leadership doesn’t restate and gain agreement with new and different expectations, the status quo will be the result. This ends up creating an environment of misaligned expectations and that is a big problem.
Here is a suggestion. Individual contract managers each have unique roles, responsibilities, expectations, and metrics. While a few roles across the team might be the same, each individual is unique. Document everyone’s roles and responsibilities and revisit them on at least a monthly basis. In addition, review them in one-on-ones with your contract managers at a minimum of every other week. In the roles document itself, identify the uniqueness of the individual. Look for specific expectations that can bring clarity to the role. Perhaps the expectation for one contract manager is to design a multistep parallel review and approval process but the expectation for a different contract manager is to ensure the process is being followed. Setting clear expectations is a minimum expectation for an engaging workplace.
We all want to go home at night, or at least leave the home office, and know that something big was accomplished and value was added. It creates a better contract management capability, a well-rounded individual, and a more engaging workplace.