Strategic hiring Featured

7:00pm EDT November 24, 2006

One of the top reasons companies hire temporary professionals is to help protect the jobs of its full-time work force, suggests a new survey by Accountemps, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing service for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. More than one-third of 150 high-level executives (35 percent) recently surveyed said the most important benefit of using interim workers is to help avoid the cycle of over-staffing followed by layoffs.

“Companies are staffing more strategically, and hiring a temporary professional is certainly a wise strategy to avoid the consequences of over-hiring,” says Randy Wolf, branch manager of Accountemps in Chicago. “It is becoming more common among businesses to fill a short-term need with a short-term hire, so they can make use of specialized skill sets on an as-needed basis.”

Smart Business spoke with Wolf about the various reasons companies should use temporary personnel, from avoiding gaps in productivity during peak periods to evaluating prospective full-time employees.

The survey revealed that companies are using temporary personnel to avoid layoffs. Is this a new way of using temporary help?

It is not a new way, but more companies are using temporary help for this purpose. Business executives are finding that crunch times — when there isn’t enough staff to complete a project — are not the best time to hire full-time employees. The workload often recedes after the project is over, and the company ends up with extra people on the payroll who need to be dismissed. This is not good for morale and does not make economic sense, since unemployment benefits often need to be paid for these employees.

Another factor is what these ‘crunch times’ do to the employees of a company. If there isn’t enough staff, burnout is high and risk of employees leaving increases. Companies are finding that using temporary professionals during this time is an ideal arrangement. The company benefits from skilled professionals, and employees are happy because they can either work on a special project or the temporary staff does the special project and employees are not burdened by the extra work.

What other ways can temporary staff help a business?

It not only takes the burden off existing employees and diminishes overtime among permanent staff, but it is an excellent way to find potential new employees.

Twenty-three percent of the executives surveyed said they use temporary help to, in effect, audition a potential new employee. This is a win-win for both the employer and the potential employee. At times, employers are hesitant to hire because — while a potential employee may look good on paper and do well in an interview — it is difficult to evaluate how that person will perform in a corporate culture, or how he or she will work under pressure. It allows the company to curb costs associated with poor hiring decisions, including start-up costs, insurance and unemployment benefits (as a result of the employee leaving).

Hiring a person as a temporary professional is an ideal way to evaluate the person’s job performance and overall fit with the company.

What other ways can a business use temporary hires?

Special project work is ideal for tem- porary professionals. They fill in where the company needs it most, leaving full-time employees free to either learn a new skill set with a project or work unimpeded at their job while the temporary worker takes on the additional project.

Another benefit is hiring temporary workers at peak times of year, particularly when there is a surge in seasonal work. Temporary professionals can fill in for core employees out on medical or maternity leave, vacation, long-term disability or other leaves of absence.

What can managers do to help temporary workers better succeed at their jobs?

On the first day, it’s helpful if the manager reviews the temporary worker’s responsibilities and sets expectations. Other ways to ensure success are to discuss the firm’s culture and procedures, encourage questions, and provide the temporary employee with the necessary resources to succeed.

It’s important for managers to provide ongoing feedback and tell the employee if he or she performed well.

RANDY WOLF is the branch manager of Accountemps in Chicago. Accountemps (www.accountemps.com) is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing service for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals, with more than which 350 offices worldwide. Reach Wolf at (312) 616-8200 or randy.wolf@accountemps.com.