Hello! I manage a software engineering group at a government lab. The work we do is very specialized and there are never enough folks with the skills to do the work (despite an active training program). About 7 years ago we took on a very large project and used an engineering services firm to recruit several contract engineers with the requisite skill and experience to increase our cadre of experienced engineers. Our intention was to wean ourselves off the contractors, growing more talent from within. As things turned out, our product was enormously successful, is growing fast and we simply can't let our remaining contractors go (primarily because the 2 that remain are simply fantastic). For a variety of reasons, we will not hire them (and pay the fee to their firm for doing so); however, we just signed another 5 year contract for their services. We have always treated them as equal members of the team and most of our Lab doesn't even realize they are contractors. As contractors, though, their raises and bonuses are built into the contract already - I can't promote them, give them a raise, etc. I can simply release them for non-performance.
So, this long background gives way to the following questions:
1. As I start O3s with my DRs (10 of them), should I include my 2 contractors? Why/why not?
2. Does anybody have experience with this matter and offer some good advice on pitfalls or best practices?
Thanks for the help!