Approximately 3 million temporary and contract workers are hired each year in the U.S., and managers have long relied on temps to keep their businesses humming. How can they make the most of this layer of cover and support?
Temps keep the machine oiled and running
Managers are likely to turn to temporary resources for added flexibility. Permanent employees inevitably go on leave and sometimes quit. Most businesses’ staffing needs are likely to fluctuate, especially as seasons ebb and flow. Companies may not be sure how many productive hours they will require for a particular project or a new initiative. A short-term engagement can help them assess their needs realistically.
Using temps in place of regular workers can save firms money. For instance, an employment agency may pick up health care or other benefits. Or if companies later decide to convert their temps to permanent status, they may be able to negotiate a lower compensation package. (But note that while using temps, you may be paying from 15% to 50% extra in hourly terms once you add in agency fees.)
Temporary relationships also reduce transition frictions. When the business no longer requires additional help, there is no need to formally fire temp workers or deal with unemployment insurance benefits. Using interim employees can also save money, but remember they are there to learn, not just to perform grunt work.
Consider some advantages of using an agency rather than hiring individuals directly. Agencies’ core functions include:
- Matching skills with job requirements.
- Administering tasks of recruitment and hiring.
- Managing payroll.
- Evaluating candidates.
- Keeping a shortlist of good candidates on file.
However, an agency will not be steeped in a company’s own business culture and may be less sensitive to finding the right fit.
Through a temp’s’ eyes
A temp is a person, not a Band-Aid. Managers can generate more value from relationships with them if they make efforts to understand their temps’ motivations and drivers. Take a moment to consider why they are choosing impermanent work. Tap their experience and seek their input. They can offer fresh outsider perspectives.
Some enjoy the flexibility of managing their own schedules, or they actively like the variety of learning new industries and seeing different office environments. Perhaps they are looking to learn new skills or just fill in a space on a patchy resume. They may seek another reference. Especially if they are temping in an industry they already care about, they may view temping as an avenue to forging new networking contacts.
A large number are temping out of sheer necessity to bring home the bacon when they have not been able to land a permanent position. They, in fact, might prefer the stability, compensation benefits and career mobility conferred by a steady job. Those wannabes are likely to jump ship as soon as they receive a better offer.
Practice the golden rule
Managers can encourage loyalty and productivity from temps while drawing the most out of their talents and experience:
- Extra pay.
- Clear instructions.
Treat your temps with civility, and include them in any nonconfidential meetings or correspondence related to their projects. The goal is to make them feel a valued part of a team. Introduce them formally to colleagues and never, ever call them “the temp”! Don’t forget to invite them to group events or activities like lunches or birthdays. They are not second-class citizens.
Create an abbreviated temp training program, or perhaps spend a half day per month in training for each month they are on staff. Rather than a traditional performance review, give constructive feedback and pointers. Pair them initially with a team member to show them the ropes and office layout. But manage their expectations honestly, and do not dangle a long-term future with your company if that is unrealistic.
Keep in touch with your best temps after they leave. You might one day be happy to have them back for another round.