One of the most lovable characters from NBC’s The Office is Ryan Howard. Throughout the series, Ryan’s career takes a few twists and turns, but he always ends up with the same position he started in—a “temp”, or temporary staff. Ryan’s attitude in The Office epitomizes the stereotypes of many temporary workers. He’s unmotivated, his performance is lacking, and he considers himself a little too good for his position as a “temp”.
Temporary staff are crucial assets to many businesses. Whether it’s seasonal retail support or additional office workers, you rely on temporary talent to get work done that your full-time employees can’t handle. Yet, like Ryan, temporary staff don’t always meet their employer’s expectations.
Looking to hire temporary staff? Whether they’re coming in for a day, week, month, or year, temporary employees can be pivotal members of your team if they’re motivated correctly. Get the most out of them with a few tips Michael Scott probably could’ve used.
Hire by attitude
If your business goes through seasonal shifts, you’re most likely going to hire college and high school students. With these hires, you may be tempted to bring in friends, cousins, and neighbours of your current team. Resist the urge to hire based solely on a friend’s recommendation. It’s all too common for these people’s work ethic to be lacking. Instead, look for a temporary worker with an enthusiastic attitude.
If you’re working with a staffing agency and getting a consistent stream of unimpressive employees, speak with the agency and specify exactly what you’re looking for. If they’re still no good, look at switching agencies. The point of temporary staff is to get your work done. There’s no use in having people who are getting the bare minimum done.
Train in portions
Imagine you’re a temporary employee. Your first day on the job you get overloaded with a two hour training session. You’re then sent out to work, expected to put everything you just learnt into practice. It would be easy to feel overwhelmed.
Matt Heller, author of The Myth of Employee Burnout, says “Rarely do employees truly learn and absorb all of the material covered in a few days or hours of orientation. A better system is to provide training in small nuggets. This way the material sticks better, and they have a chance to actually put it into practice.”
Another way to ensure they’re not overwhelmed by their training is to pair them with a regular employee. That employee can provide tips here and there while correcting common mistakes. It will also help your temporary staff bond with someone on your team.
Show your appreciation
One of the most common complaints from temporary staff is that they feel second class. While this is partly due to the fact that they’re not full time and don’t have a benefits plan, it’s also because they usually don’t get the thanks they deserve.
Saying “thanks for your help today” isn’t quite enough. Temps are usually thrown into the busiest season of a company’s year and asked to work as hard as your regular employees. Thank them by treating them like humans. Organize a thank you lunch at the end of their time or even offer bonuses if they hit certain targets. Whatever it is, ensure that you’re showing your appreciation and not just saying it.
Remind them of the greater good
One motivator that commonly goes unnoticed is the company’s greater good. What is this business here for and how is your staff helping to achieve that goal?
Michael Burchell, vice president at the San Francisco-based Great Places to Work Institute, gives the example of motivating a retail department store staff, during the holidays. “It’s easy to get caught up in how pushy and crabby holiday shoppers are. But try to get people to focus on the larger meaning behind their jobs, because there is one,” says Burchell. “The gifts people are buying for their loved ones are really important to them.”
This can go a long way in focusing your team and reminding your temporary workers that while their work isn’t permanent, it is meaningful.
Keep in touch with your best ones.
Lastly, if your company regularly uses temporary staff, keep in touch with the best ones. If they’re in high school or university, you might be able to hire them for a few summers in a row. In return, you’ll provide them with some much needed work experience and a few flattering reference letters.
Temporary workers or not, you need a guideline for measuring your employee performance. Download our free ebook and discover best practices for effective performance appraisals, strategies for creating a performance plan, and a series of communication checkpoints.