The Pros and Cons of Hiring Temporary Employees

Temporary workers play an important role in many companies. Are they right for your small business? Check out these pros and cons of hiring a temp.

Temporary workers make up a big part of the workforce in the US. How big? The American Staffing Association says that there are more than 3 million temporary and contract workers work for staffing companies in America during an average week and  17 million during a typical year.  

The use of temporary help has enjoyed an upward growth ever since entrepreneur William Russell Kelly opened the first temporary staffing agency in 1946. Today Kelly Services is one of many staffing services and has long done away with its “Kelly Girl” clerical temp image. Like most present-day agencies, its positions are no longer limited to secretaries and file clerks and women. Temp workers currently possess a myriad of other titles including: accountants, financial officers, assembly-line workers, nurses, doctors, scientists, lawyers and information technology professionals. 

Should your business hire temporary help? 

To find out, check out these pros and cons of hiring a temp. You may just find that this hiring arrangement is something that is well-suited for your business right now or something that you’ll want to seriously consider in the future. 

RELATED: 7 Inexpensive Ways to Retain Employees in Your Small Business

Reasons for hiring temps 

There are a number of reason why it’s wise to hire a temp instead of a full or part-time worker. Here are some of the pros:

1. Enables your business to adjust more easily and quickly to workload fluctuations

Temporary help agencies can quickly provide your business with qualified staff. Some common reasons companies hire temps:

  • Employee absences: illness, vacation, maternity or disability leave, sudden departure
  • Unexpected or temporary demands: special projects, seasonal or peak periods, employee shortages

2. Maintains staffing flexibility

With the popularity and staying power of flexible work arrangements, employers need to stay current with the needs of today’s work force. Hiring temps is just one of the ways that businesses can offer flexibility and at the same time better meet their own needs.

Denise Ridenour of Kelly Services foresees that “the employment pool will increasingly include a mix of temporary and full-time employees. The result is a more efficient workplace, a more flexible job market, and greater opportunities for both employers and employees. Additionally, improving productivity enhances a company’s bottom line and employee job security.”

3. Lets your business evaluate a worker without commitment

Based on your evaluation or preferences, you can employ a temp for a designated short term or, if desired, offer a full-time position to a worker who suits your business. Some businesses employ temporary workers as an excellent and cost-efficient way to recruit and test the abilities of new workers before signing them on full-time. Other companies will repeatedly use the services of a temp worker who has proven to be a company asset. Hiring a temp can also be a good way to continue getting work done while you search for the perfect candidate for a particular job. If unsatisfied with a temp’s work performance, all you need do is contact the temp agency and they will take care of the rest.

4. Can save time and money

The cost of hiring temp workers is often cheaper than the cost of hiring permanent employees with benefits. In the short term, it is generally more cost-efficient to hire a temp. For jobs that are expected to last six months or longer, it may pay to hire a full-time employee.   

RELATED:  How To Find and Hire Employees (a Business Know-How® book)

When you employ an agency, it – not you – becomes the temp worker’s employer. The agency is responsible for and bears the financial burden of recruiting, screening, testing and hiring workers; payroll expenses and paperwork; payroll and withholding taxes; unemployment and workers’ compensation insurance; and any employee benefits they may wish to provide. Some agencies even provide training such as software application tutorials.

RELATED: What to Do When a Valuable Employee Quits

5. Can lead to a long-term positive relationship with staffing agency 

Temporary employees can provide specialized skills to all types of industries. Temporary help agency workers are now employed in virtually every industry. Traditionally, companies sought temporary workers for lower-skilled positions. Today temporary workers increasingly include highly skilled individuals with a wide range of educational backgrounds and work experience. These individuals can tackle critical one-time projects that are limited in time and scope. In the field of Law alone, recent years have seen a dramatic growth and acceptance of hiring lawyers on a temporary basis.

When you find a temp agency that provides timely and quality service and referrals, and is experienced and accommodating, you may want to work with them exclusively. A good relationship with your temp staffing provider will go a long way toward meeting your company needs. 

Disadvantages of hiring temps

Although hiring temps can be beneficial, it does have some disadvantages, too. Here are the cons that make some businesses shy away from hiring temps.

1. Training becomes a recurring activity

Every time a temp starts a new work assignment – no matter how skilled or unskilled – a certain amount of training is required in order for them to perform their assigned tasks to suit the specific needs of that company. That means someone on your staff will need to spend time training the temp, and it will take the temp a little bit of time to get up-to-speed on what they are supposed to do. Of course, if the same temp is brought back again, this might not be required.

2. Morale Issues

Morale and employee relations problems can arise when you have temps working alongside permanent employees for months, doing the same work and putting in the same hours, but not receiving the same benefits afforded their permanent employee coworkers. Your regular employees might look down on temps as “outsiders,” or simply not talk to them or mix with them at lunch or office functions. 

RELATED: 5 Simple Things That Will Make Your Employees Happier

3. Safety Issues

Certain types of jobs are inherently dangerous and require careful safety training.  Studies show that frequency and severity rates of on-the-job injuries are significantly higher with temporary workers.  No matter what a temp’s experience is, care must be taken to see that dangerous tasks are performed safely.  Never assume a temporary worker is fully prepared to work unsupervised until you have taken the time to see that they can safely perform their work tasks.  

4. Legal Concerns

Recent court decisions have highlighted the fact that businesses must be careful how they contract for temporary staff.  There must be no doubt about the workers’ status and about the lack of eligibility for the benefits of permanent employees.  And treat temp workers with the same respect and care you would for your permanent staff.

5. The question of reliability

Some employers may believe that temporary workers are generally less reliable than their permanent employee counterparts. And while there will always be individuals who don’t perform up to expectations, on the average temp workers will be as reliable as your regular employees if you’re working with a reputable staffing agency.

When choosing a temp agency for the first time, you will need to spend some time selecting one that meets your particular needs. Search online for the names of some agencies in your area.  Check out their websites to find out how long they’ve been in business, their “mission statement” and the types of workers and services they provide.  Some agencies focus on a particular line of work; i.e., accounting/finance or healthcare.

Questions you should consider asking agencies include:  What type of staffing help do you need?  How was your first interaction with the companies you contacted?  Is the company a member of the American Staffing Association?  Will the company do a presentation for you and your management team?  How well run is the organization?  How does the company recruit and retain its qualified and reliable workforce?  How are potential staffing company employees screened and tested?  Does the company fully understand your needs?  And, Does the company carry workers’ compensation for its employees? 

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