More people consciously choose to move from job to job – acquiring new skills, working the hours that suit them and shying away from long-term commitments. How times have changed. Until recently, ‘the temp’ was called in for sickness or holiday cover and given little in the way of incentive, motivation or even common courtesy. These days however, financial services organizations are crying out for temporary talent, and the boot is somewhat on the other foot. What can you do to ensure those excellent accountants and analysts who come your way, actually stay the course – and maybe even consider joining on a more permanent basis?
A healthy attitude towards temporary workers short-circuits any potential problems. In the financial services sector, with such an emphasis on meeting deadlines and complying with rigorous legislative requirements, you can’t afford to let bad practice get in your way. A major bugbear for life and pensions managers and HR staff, who take on temps, is the commitment factor – convincing temporary and contract staff to undertake a fixed term of work. But there are a number of things you can do as a line manager to keep your temps satisfied, at the same time getting the best out them yourself – and maybe even identifying who you want to hang around the company for a bit longer?
When your temp turns up, invest time in introducing him to colleagues by name, and to the work that will be carried out:
- Assign one of your permanent people to ‘adopt’ the temp, and be responsible for showing him the ropes (this is a good job to give eager beaver juniors who want responsibility)
- Outline basic office protocol – things like conduct, regulations and dress
- Investigate software ability – many temps like to learn new packages and may be more willing to have a go than permanent staff
- Most importantly, ensure the temp knows exactly what is expected, how performance will be measured and who to ask for help
Temps have brains too! Respect their intelligence:
- Explain how their work fits into the overall picture – this helps them work out why they’re doing what they’re doing – you’ll end up with a productive temp rather than an automaton
- Invite ideas and comments – everything can be improved, and who’s to say the temp’s predecessor was the be-all-and-end-all?
- Don’t discriminate between the temps and your permanent team on issues where the temps may have valid input – they will feel undervalued, and you may miss out on a vital contribution – temps who are respected are more productive
Elementary coaching for temporary staff is vital:
- Don’t assume your temp knows everything inside-out – most seasoned temps are good at hitting the ground running, but a basic explanation of how systems work reduces the risk of wasted time
- Identify weak areas as early as possible and ensure someone spends time helping the temp
- Find out the temp’s strengths – can you play to them?
- Better still, identify any training and knowledge required before your temp arrives – this will reassure your temp you don’t expect them to know it all
Remember: someone once had to show you how to do your job – the temp who needs training is not necessarily a dummy; just someone who wants to do their job well
Don’t forget temps when social occasions are planned:
- Encourage them to accompany the regulars for informal drinks after work
- Make sure they’re included on official company-organized events (such as outings or the Christmas party)
- In the office itself, encourage your staff to make an effort to chat to your temps at lunchtime or first thing in the morning – don’t allow your temps to be dumped in a corner and ignored while all and sundry have a good chat
Don’t leave temps in the dark – corporate information is just as relevant for them as it is for your permanent staff:
- If there are company announcements, such as acquisitions, promotions or reorganizations, ask your temps into these sessions – after all, the information may well impact on their day-to-day activities
- Include your temps in team meetings – they may be able to bring their own experience to bear on certain situations, or suggest solutions to problems
- Don’t make a point of excluding well-performing temps from communication meetings – there’s nothing like being left to man the phones, while everyone else huddles together in a separate room, to make a temp feel isolated and unloved
Temporary staff respond positively to targets and rewards:
- Create incentives for completion of volume, routine work such as data inputting or application processing – perhaps have a ‘temp of the week’ competition, with minimum targets to qualify
- If a project is especially taxing, for instance, if has to be carried out by just the one temp in a short period of time, set a genuinely tempting incentive for a deadline-beating performance
Don’t make the mistake of thinking temps are cheap labour – they’re not:
- Pay fairly – your recruitment consultant will be able to advise you on the going rate based on current supply and demand
- Many companies now offer completion bonuses as an added incentive to finish a set project or assignment
- If you have temps on a long-term basis, consider paying them for bank holidays too
- Extend ‘soft’ perks to temps – if, for instance, free car parking, a staff canteen or gym facilities are available to permanent staff, offer this to temps as well
Don’t overlook your star performing temps when permanent positions arise:
- Consider moving the temp to the vacant position, but in a temporary capacity, to see if it works out for both of you (cover the first position with another temp)
- Your temp will already have a good idea of your company’s culture – and maybe even ideas to contribute to how that job could be done differently
Regular appraisal is essential:
- Set time aside to review your temp’s work
- Give constructive feedback on all aspects of performance
- If improvements are necessary, explain these and plan additional training or coaching
- Use this time to ask if the temp has any issues to raise
- Plan this meeting in advance – don’t suddenly spring it on your temp (you wouldn’t do that to permanent staff)
If people perform well, then telling them has its benefits:
- Tell them well done if performance merits an extra special mention
- Give good feedback from colleagues in other departments to your temp
- Inform the recruitment agency too – it’s useful for them to document for future reference
- Occasionally reward with something informal (like treating them to breakfast or going out to buy them mid-morning coffee and cake!)
Good temps are often wary of their first encounter with a new company – poor attitudes to working alongside temporary workers are often rife. By the same token, permanent staff who’ve had bad experiences with temps can often take some convincing not to tar everyone with the same brush. So it’s important they’re made aware of how valuable the temps are – after all, if they were unnecessary, you wouldn’t be spending money on hiring them in the first place.
None of the above tips is ground-breaking. And clearly, you have to make objective judgements on how you treat different temps – not everyone will be of equal value to you. Sometimes all you want is someone who’ll race in, do the job for a day and never be seen again. But implementation of a more thoughtful temp employment program is likely to make the best temporary workers enjoy their spell with your company, making them good ambassadors when they leave – that’s if you haven’t already snatched them up onto the permanent payroll!