How to Make the Most of Temporary Staff

by Anya Jennings on November 2, 2009

In today’s unstable economy, profitability often hinges on payroll expense, so keeping costs low is often the make-or-break factor. If you have a big job coming up and need bodies to handle the work overload, finding a way to get the job done without breaking the bank is critical, and hiring short-term contractors is often the best solution. To maximize the productivity of a temporary staff and get the most bang for your buck, preparation is the key.


Figure out what you really need.

Providing a clear picture of job expectations helps the recruiter find people with qualifications and experience that closely match your needs. Since unemployment is ridiculously high, the pool of available workers is much bigger than usual – a bonus for you. No need to settle when there is so much talent to choose from.

Get the people you need from the right source.

IT is a specialized field, so it makes sense that you need a staffing service that specializes in IT people. Experienced IT recruiters will understand your technical needs and find people with the right skill set.

Be ready.

The last thing you need is a bunch of temps twiddling their thumbs on the company dime because you aren’t ready. Before the temp staff arrives, get a workspace ready with whatever resources are necessary for them to begin work right away. Desks, computers, passwords, inter-office communications (network and/or phone), office supplies, and a clear outline of job responsibilities and expectations should be in place before they walk in the door. And chairs. They’ll need chairs.

Provide supervision, training and support.

Lack of support is a pretty common problem faced by contractors. I once arrived on a temp job and no one knew I was coming. An executive had contacted the staffing service and neglected to inform the department. There was no workstation, no computer, and no one knew what I was supposed to be doing. So I hung out in the break room and read magazines all day, collecting a very nice paycheck for doing absolutely nothing…for two days. Things will go much more smoothly if you designate a contact person in case they need information, and take them on a tour of the facilities, including break rooms, rest rooms, and emergency exits before they begin work.

Stay out of negotiations.

It’s the staffing service’s job to handle negotiations with the contractors. They establish a rate of pay and resolve with compensation issues, so you don’t have to deal with it. If a temp is dissatisfied with his pay structure, it is not your problem.

State you intentions.

If you’re trying people out with the intent to hire a full timer, tell the staffing agency. Some contractors prefer the variety and flexibility of temporary work, others would jump on the offer of a full time job. If you tell the staffing agent that you might be interested in hiring permanently, he can send over only people who would consider being hired.

Foster teamwork.

Permanent staffers often see temps as an inconvenience, and this may lead to and “us vs them” scenario, which is totally counter-productive. To avoid conflict, let your employees know in advance that you’re bringing in help, explain that the purpose is to avoid work overload for them, and ask for their input about how best to utilize the incoming contractors. They’ll be less likely to stage a revolt if they feel like they are part of the process.

Offer feedback.

Tell your staffing agency what you think. Share your opinions on the quality of the help they send and whether expectations were met or exceeded. That will help them get to know what you expect so that they can match your expectations even better the next time.

End gracefully.

Schedule time for an exit interview when the job is over. Find out what aspects of the job the temporary workers found challenging, whether there were logistics issues like trouble finding resources, and whether your staff was helpful. Just bear in mind that you’ll come across an occasional chronic whiner or excuse-maker, and take complaints with a grain of salt. Be alert to possible problems, but not too quick to act. If the contractor’s performance was really exemplary, take the time to write a short letter of recommendation and have it ready when they leave.

Maximizing this output from your temporary staff just takes organization, communication, and preparedness. Utilizing competent and well-managed contractors can be a smart move for any business, and will prove to be well worth the time and effort.

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