By Mark Swartz
Canadian Workplace Specialist
“Help!” you shout on the phone to a local staffing agency. “We’ve hit our busy season and need more bodies here. Fast.”
Regardless if your company builds truck parts or prints signs, is a restaurant or accounting firm, there’ll be times when extra hands are needed. Bringing in a temporary worker (a “temp”) may be the right solution for you. They can fill a gap quickly and there’s no long-term commitment involved.
Temporary Staff Versus Contract Workers
There may be some uncertainty over the terms “temp” and “contract worker.” To clarify, temp generally refers to a temporary worker you retain through a placement agency or personnel firm. A temp is brought into your workplace for short assignments. These engagements can range from a single day to several months.
Temps are paid by the staffing agency that represents them. Your firm contracts directly with the agency, not with the temp. It is up to the staffing firm to pay the temp’s salary, deduct for taxes, and do the associated paper work.
In contrast, a “contract worker” is someone you hire directly. They too are retained for a fixed periof of time. However the duration of assignments is typically longer than for temps. A contract worker might be brought in for such extended missions as maternity or family leave fill-ins. Such contracts may last upwards of six months, a year, or longer.
When To Consider Using Temps
Over the years the role of temps has broadened. Early on they were mainly lower paying positions, such as administrative assistants or general labourers. These groups are still among the most popular temp roles. However today you can find temps to do accounting tasks, marketing functions, and other higher level duties.
Unsure as to when a temp would be appropriate for you? How about when one of your employees suddenly gets sick for a week or two. Or a key customer moves their deadline up on a big project you don’t quite have the staff on hand for. Temps also come in handy if a staffer quits with little notice, is on vacation while you need work done, etc.
The Benefits Of Bringing In Temps When Really Needed
An obvious advantage of using temps is their flexibility. You can bring them in with little lead time, then stop using them right away as your need for extra workers subsides. Here are some other positives:
- Relieves your existing staff from being over-burdened and burned out
- Temps can be brought in to do specialized work your existing staff may not be qualified (or willing) to do
- Enables you to meet project deadlines and handle extraordinary business demands, thereby increasing your bottom line
- Since the staffing agency is the actual employer, you don’t necessarily have to increase headcount in order to employ more workers on occasion
- If you’re impressed with the temp’s performance, there may be an opportunity to hire them on a permanent basis (this is an arrangement you would have to negotiate with the agency that represents them)
Some Pitfalls Of Using Temporary Workers
While it’s nice to have the option of using temps, doing so can sometimes be more problematic than the effort is worth. This can be true under such circumstances as the following:
- You can’t spare someone to properly train the temp
- Budgets are tight and you may need the extra person for an extended period (note that you pay a premium to staffing agencies for temps, because the agency uses your fees to not only compensate the temp but to defray expenses and add to profit)
- For intricate or higher level jobs that must be done absolutely right – or where safety is a concern – temps may not be suitable, so you may need to hire on a contract basis instead
- If you do decide to offer one of your temps a permanent job, their agency may charge you an additional fee for this
How To Get The Most Out Of Your Temps
Another nice thing about temps is that the staffing agencies they work for may provide them with updated training. The result for you is better productivity.
You’ll still have to put aside time for basic onboarding though. To ease your temp into their role, ensure that you assign someone who’ll be responsible for the temp’s experience at your firm. Have your assigned employee show the temp around, familiarize them with their equipment, and explain procedures. This employee should also outline specific expectations and be available to answer questions.
An experienced temp is used to popping in and out of workplaces. Yet you can make their stay with you more enjoyable – and hopefully more productive – by showing that you appreciate them.
If possible, instruct your employees to greet temps in a friendly way, treating them with respect at all times. And respond to a temp’s inquiries or requests promptly. Although a temp may be with you for a short time only, you and your employees can make it worth every moment.