Regular, clear and honest communication is vital for success for all parties

In any relationship, the biggest determinant of success is the quality of communication. In the case of temporary work, there is a particular exigency for quality communication, which is made more difficult because it’s a three-way street. Lack of clarity or insufficient communication can damage both the short-term and long-term health of the relationship between temp, agency and client as no party will feel completely satisfied. And nothing degrades performance more than dissatisfaction.

All parties hold accountability. I learned the hard way how badly things can go with poor communication. Here are a few examples.

Clear expectations. Temps must be clear with their staffing agency about their own wants and needs to ensure the best fit. This is especially pertinent for long-term assignments, where it is not unusual for work duties and work scope to change from the original agreement. During one open-ended assignment, my duties and responsibilities ballooned after a few months far beyond the initial description. I rarely said “no,” hoping I might be converted to permanent status, and ended up becoming frustrated. While I was happy with increased challenges and responsibility, it grated me to be improperly compensated and that my title did not reflect my work responsibilities. I could have avoided that had I clearly outlined my wants and limits and stuck to them.

Open channels. I recall speaking with my on-site supervisor only a handful of times. More discontenting, though, was the dearth of a clear communication channel, and even when I was able to voice an opinion, I didn’t feel it was valued. This suffocating environment just bred dissatisfaction and I do think it affected my overall performance. No one enjoys working in an environment where they feel stifled and devalued, temp or not. Making sure temps feel heard invigorates them and keeps them motivated.

As for converting to permanent status, clients need to be clearer in communicating whether a path exists or if permanency is feasible at all. In my case, the possibility was mentioned, but nothing ever concrete. I am partly to blame as I was not as firm in conveying my concerns, but the client should also be honest instead of dangling the prize it had no intention of awarding. Ultimately, all parties should establish at the outset if becoming an employee is possible, specifically for open-ended assignments. This communication is critical because a disgruntled temp will ultimately perform poorly, which reflects poorly on the temp as well as the staffing provider.

Stay in touch. Similarly, quality communication between temps and their staffing contacts is also imperative. In one case, I stopped hearing from my agency after I’d been on an assignment for roughly three months. In fact, I did not even hear from the agency when my assignment ended half a year later! We are not automatons dedicated to providing labor for whatever available option, and treating us as such can only harm the agency as it risks mismatching temps to clients and contracting dissatisfied, underperforming temps. So make it a point to regularly evaluate and appraise your temps, not just for skills but to ensure the position is still the right fit. Developing a constant stream of communication fortifies a strong bond between the temp and the agency.

The temporary work relationship is ultimately a balancing act between the agency, temp and client. It is in the interest of each to maintain a peaceful, productive and proactive relationship and each has equal responsibility. To be sure, bad workers exist, but often a “bad worker” can be mitigated by cultivating better communication. If an agency better communicates with a temp, they reduce the risk of mismatching temps with clients or recruiting insufficiently skilled temps. If the temp is afforded an environment where he or she can be heard, that reduces the possibility for dissatisfaction, and promotes a more emphatic client. Temps who feel heard and valued will in turn give more to the client and be a better face for the agency. Indeed, temporary work is much akin to an actual relationship where each party member must give something in order to receive.