Over the last few years, I have worked through several staffing firms for software companies, consulting firms, scientific and engineering companies, hospitals, and even a law firm — all with varying, eye-opening experiences.
I have gained many insights along the way, which I share with other temporary workers I come across. Some of these may seem obvious, others insignificant; but to ensure your temporary workers have a positive experience working for you and your clients, you should keep these in mind.
The labels. Workers will hear a variety of terms used to identify them: temp, a contractor, or a contingent worker, just to name a few. The terms vary from company to company, but they all mean the same thing in the end — that they are not a traditional employee in the company and don’t have the same privileges and benefits. But that doesn’t mean they are not important to the success of the client or project. So regardless of how you label them, make sure it’s with respect. It’s not what you say but how you say it.
Be humane. How these workers are treated will vary from company to company. Some will make the effort to include them, make them feel part of the team; others may make their contingents feel they are disposable and can be terminated at any time. Coach your temps to accept the latter with equanimity, but not to become too submissive.
However, what they should never accept is treatment that is unfair or detrimental to them. A hospitality company wouldn’t allow me to take a water break during an outdoor catering shift. After three hours in the hot sun, I became dehydrated and dizzy. Another temp offered to cover my section so I could get some water. Five minutes later, the supervisor dismissed me and my coworker. We should have left long before that on our own. Remember, just because they are temps doesn’t mean you can treat them unfairly.
Stand up. Would you, the staffing firm, have stood up for me in that prior situation? If you let your candidates feel you aren’t committed to them, why should they stay committed to you? I tell other temps I come across they need to find a staffing firm that is going to represent them. Staffing firms need to be fair in their dealings with the temps. And just as important, let the clients know that as well. Staffing firms that lay down the law about how temps are treated will be respected by both the client and the temp. It could lead to more business. Sure, some clients could get turned off, but please remember, we have other options. And we don’t have to work through a staffing firm or at a particular client that will disrespect us or put us in jeopardy. So be sure your candidates know they are valued, or they will go to your competitor — or even bad-mouth you to others.
Let them look. Many of us will be actively seeking other work simply because we desire a more firm footing and not because we are displeased with your services. This should be expected, not penalized. Often, though, staffing companies or their clients terminate their temporary workers immediately upon receiving notice — or simply when learning the worker is interviewing — leaving us without a paycheck. If we are being respectful enough of you and your client to give notice rather than quit outright, why jeopardize that goodwill by cutting us off? It does not make for good business.
Be generous. While being a temp worker means that we don’t have the same benefits as traditional employees, that doesn’t mean we don’t have choices. You, as a staffing firm, can be generous with both opportunities and the right treatment. If we are treated well, we’ll talk about it. If not, we’ll talk about that as well. We are your livelihood. And clearly, your client companies need us, too. So let’s all work together to ensure our mutual success.