How to Get the Best Out of Your Temps

In many industries, temp staffing needs remain largely consistent throughout the year.

In others, however, spikes in consumer demand, government-imposed deadlines and even the weather can dictate business needs – and, by extension, staffing levels.

Consider the accounting firm whose workload – and, subsequently, workforce – doubles between January and April. Activity within reservation call centers at resorts and hotels spikes in the summer months due to vacation schedules. And retailers certainly are no strangers to adjusting staffing levels to meet consumer demand in the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year.

These organizations have one thing in common: the need for temporary employees.

From a human resources perspective, managing a temporary workforce might seem a breeze. After all, you already have systems in place for onboarding full-time employees, and by nature of their short-term tenure, temporary staff requires no special engagement efforts, right?

Wrong.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned managing human resources for a national legal administration company and its in-house contact center (which may employ hundreds of temporary employees at any given time) it’s that recruiting the best candidates and then engaging them requires a unique, thoughtful approach.

What follows is a collection of best practices that has proven successful in our organization’s efforts to better engage temporary employees.

Recruit who you know: When staffing needs change, look first toward former temporary employees who have demonstrated loyalty and produced results. Working with our staffing agency partners in a strategic and collaborative way allows us to quickly identify the all-star employees from past years (they’re always invited back first). Once hiring is complete – and if your schedule allows – make time to say thanks and let them know why you recruited them, which will generate loyalty out of the gate.

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Formalize mentorship and cross-training: Although mentorship and cross-training aren’t often high priority items when it comes to temporary staff, the benefits of making them so are multifold: cross-training will help temporary workers take greater ownership over their work; your company will have a robust bench of trained staff able to react quickly to shifting operational needs; mentorship may reduce the need for management intervention (saving time and money); and, last but not least, the mentor’s confidence in his or her ability will help solidify organizational commitment.

Set goals and implement a system of rewards: Goal-setting should not be reserved for permanent staff but, rather, should permeate every level of the organization. At the outset of employment, set realistic and measurable short-term goals for each position, and encourage employees to set their own as well. Then, implement a corresponding reward system to drive participation and foster engagement.

Facilitate collaboration at every opportunity: It’s all too easy for temporary staff to become isolated from regular employees – different pay structures, less responsibility and distinct subcultures contribute to this reality. It is up to the HR leadership – in partnership with managers – to create opportunities for temps to feel included. Extend invitations to join in ongoing team building activities and encourage attendance and participation at company events. Face-to-face interactions are the first step toward meaningful collaboration and teamwork.

See the big picture: Don’t discount the potential long-term value of a temporary employee. Instead, recognize that your next full-time, high-impact employee may very well start in a temporary capacity. As effective HR managers, we must always be working to recruit and retain the most talented individuals, and those in the temp pool are no exception.

By virtue of their relatively short tenure, it can be tempting to dismiss the value of temporary employees. Don’t make that mistake. Instead, make it a practice to invest – both time and resources – into this essential and wholly capable part of your operations. It’s an investment that will pay dividends.

Jennifer Pristera is the senior vice president of human resources for Garden City Group (GCG), a leading provider of legal administration solutions, where she oversees all national human resource activities for the company, including its 60,000-square-foot, in-house mail, processing & contact center in Dublin, OH.

Pristera advises GCG’s executive and senior management on matters relating to employee relations, compensation and benefits, learning and development, organizational development, performance management, and talent acquisition. She has a solid history of introducing and managing global HR programs that optimize performance and productivity among all levels of staff and management.

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