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A well-staffed project won’t fail. Full-time employees vs subcontractors?

A well-staffed project won't fail. Full-time employees or subcontractors?

➤ The execution of construction projects has always been a true test of a person's organizational skills. Often, however, especially when it comes to large-scale projects, even one hundred percent attention to detail is not enough to cope with all the tasks.

➤ Problems arise, which cannot be dealt with, without additional help. But where to look for it and under what conditions? Working in the Netherlands, on one of Europe's most complex construction challenges, my engineering background and MBA enabled me to advise the client in more than just my area of expertise.

➤ I have the experience to look at the problems of the industry from a distance, with the eye of both an engineer and a project coordinator. Based on this perspective, I have created the following article for you.

➤ I will explain the difference between the two main types of resources available to you: a full-time employee vs a subcontractor employing their own specialists. I'll show the pros and cons of both and what to expect from each.

To help you understand it better, I'll illustrate it with the most characteristic examples that are inherent in every investment.

Wojciech Domaszczynski

Consultant, designer
MEP BIM expert
Owner of Domaszczynski & TEAM

It’s interesting how many opportunities today’s signing of contracts really presents us with.

What about the first step – permanent full-time employee or subcontractor?

Approach to the problem.

This is where the difference between a full-time employee and a subcontractor is most apparent. When a full-time employee has undertaken to solve a problem and has failed in his task, he is still paid for it. The result of this type of work is a distortion of the importance of project responsibilities. Proposing a complex solution is not his priority. A subcontractor has to deal with this in a completely different way. If he does not complete the job through to the end and does not solve the problem – he does not get paid for it. A full-time employee does not care about the successful completion of a project as much as a subcontractor whose interest is directly linked to the efficiency of his work.

Working extra hours.

Time is the most important resource for both you and your employees. When deadlines for project milestones are looming dangerously close, the need to spend extra hours on the project almost always arises. Such hours for a full-time employee are very beneficial because they are paid an overtime premium. But for you, it means not only time pressure, but also budgetary pressure. Meanwhile, a subcontractor who has the experience, anticipates the amount of time needed for his work in advance. He organises his time through an HR management system in such a way that the project can be completed without incurring extra hours – because he knows he has to pay for the extra hours out of his own pocket and they will cut into his bottom line.


A full-time employee is not liable for potential errors in a project because there is no insurance for his services and therefore no retroactive liability can be assigned. A salaried employee often works his entire working career in one company, so he is rarely stimulated by change or new challenges. The comfort of not having to lean out from behind one’s desk results in “short-sightedness” and reduced reflexes, because all projects are always finished in a hurry and after dark. Meanwhile, the subcontractor bears full responsibility for his mistakes, for which he can be financially charged. Because he’s not restricted by his office, he gains experience working in a wide variety of locations, with investors who have different requirements. He approaches orders, not only at the very beginning but also in the course of their execution, when, for example, he is chosen to make corrections after the predecessor. In addition, he then struggles with the pressure of time, because his predecessor has already used up some of it.

Substitution at work.

Under the pressure of time and the responsibility that comes with it, a full-time employee usually cannot be replaced. If for some reason, he cannot complete his part of the project, there is usually no one in the office who can do it for him – he is the expert! And his colleagues from other companies probably have their own orders and won’t take on any more. Meanwhile, a subcontractor works according to a more flexible model. If the need arises, he can share his task with other specialists and choose a substitute if he cannot finish the job himself. In this way, there are no bottlenecks on-site due to project delays. The date agreed with the subcontractor is the final date – after all, any moment of delay is already an additional expense for him.

Insurance, benefits and holidays

A similar situation applies to insurance, benefits and designated rest and holiday time. A full-time employee is entitled to all of the above, and control over this lays with the employer. An additional manager is usually required to oversee this. The structure grows to give the client control, but often too many people with related interests create chaos on the construction site, which can no longer be cleaned up. The subcontractor, meanwhile, organises all these things himself. If one of his specialists takes a holiday or is unable to be at work, the head of the subcontracting office finds a replacement in good time. This way, work runs smoothly and you are spared the effects of downtime and additional organisational structure and work.

In previous articles, we have already written that hiring a subcontractor is the solution when the problem needs to be solved comprehensively. You entrust the subcontractor to take care of the problem with all its aspects and you can count on him to come back to you with many proposals for solutions. Meanwhile, by placing problems in the hands of a full-time employee, the responsibility and risk associated with them can still fall on your head when you solve the problems of another part of the project. This is why on modern construction sites, subcontracting is such a popular solution chosen by investors. There are many tools to help you make the right choice when selecting a subcontractor, which you can read about in our other articles. Feel free to contact us if you would like to know more about how working with a subcontractor can contribute to the success of your project.

Wojciech Domaszczyński, MBA. Expert in construction, solving problems at the design stage so that they don’t occur during construction.

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