How to Hire and Manage Contingent Staff for an Important Project!
Some Best Practices for Project Managers!
John had been thinking about an upcoming data conversion project for several weeks. He sensed he would need to “carve out” this piece of work from regular work as his team was already hard at work on other projects. He was unsure about how many, for how long, or what skills he would need to ensure his project team was appropriately budgeted.
Another concern was around his ability to manage interim employees, recognizing that if he couldn’t keep this special project team on task, or had a lot of turnover, his project would have a hard time getting done on time. He was definitely “under the gun” to do what he feared the most – finding the right temporary workers, assigning them the right work, keeping them motivated and productive even though he couldn’t make any long term commitments.
John’s not alone in facing this challenge and suspect many of our readers have been in his shoes or will be at some point in their careers. Because we eventually partnered with John on this project, we wanted to share some of the “best practices” he put in play that we think contributed to the success of his project.
- If we don’t say so ourselves, John did a great job of SELECTING THE RIGHT STAFFING PARTNER…spending time looking at different agencies and how they could contribute to project success. John found PACE “on line” by doing a google search for temporary staffing agencies in the local marketplace. Our website revealed that we regularly recruited the kind of employees John need, plus we were highly rated by the candidates we represented.
John ultimately vetted 3 different staffing agencies.
- He eliminated one agency quickly because even though they were strong recruiters and had an inventory of solid talent, they hadn’t done a lot of projects using temporary staff which John knew was a very different type of staffing expertise.
- He eliminated a second agency because they didn’t have a backup strategy to find staff in the event their own recruiting team couldn’t produce the number of quality employees he needed. (John told us later that he liked our “network” model where we would partner with other agencies if at any time we couldn’t find the employees John needed.)
- John paid close attention to the ideas each agency offered to ensure his project would be successful. He eventually chose PACE because we not only had basic ideas about how to recruit and screen the right candidates, but we also had ideas on 1) minimizing turnover; 2) offloading some of the pre assignment orientation requirements so that John’s team didn’t have to; and 3) proactively monitoring the performance of our employees ensuring they were motivated to stay on task until the project was completed.
- When it came time to hire staff, John FOCUSED ON QUALITY NOT QUANTITY. After going thru his vetting process, John decided to work only with one agency, rather than spend time managing multiple vendors. His rationale? He wanted a tightly managed process that required a strong partnership with one agency, a relationship that may not have been possible had he involved too many agencies. Additionally he knew PACE had a back up plan for his recruiting challenges (i.e. our Network) that he trusted.
- John PLANNED THE STAFFING SIDE OF HIS PROJECT EARLY AND CAREFULLY. One thing we think John did smartly was to initiate his search for a staffing partner early in the process, long before he needed staff. This allowed our team to participate in the planning process – helping him nail down the specific skills that his project team would need, deciding how many employees he would need for how long. We helped John organize the workflow and the sequencing of the employee onboarding process so that he could get the most out of his staffing $$$.
- We helped John CREATE THE RIGHT EMPLOYEE PROFILES. One of the important steps of a successful staffing project is to get crystal clear on the actual work the project team would do including a realistic understanding of the obstacles they were likely to face. We worked with John on this process so that we could identify the right HARD AND SOFT SKILLS important to individual performance. Armed with our “profiles” we were able to design recruiting and screening processes that would reduce opportunities for hiring mistakes. We helped John contain project costs by making sure the right employees were selected and not over or under paid.
- John took the time to allow the RIGHT RELATIONSHIPS TO DEVELOP. He invited our team to visit his worksite and participate in his group’s virtual planning meetings. John made sure we met all members of his leadership team who would play a role in the project so that the project’s success could be organized in the context of multiple perspectives.
- John used STANDARDIZED PROTOCOLS FOR SCREENING AND SELECTING STAFF. Another “best practice” that contributed to the success and efficiency of John’s project were the standardized protocols we helped him create to systematize how employees were screened and selected. For example, all candidates, regardless of how they were sourced, were screened against the same criteria and presented to John’s team using the same format. All candidates were skill checked to ensure they could perform at advanced levels and were presented in using a standardized screening format. Even candidates that his team found on their own, were put thru the same vetting processes, ensuring a level of standardization that would lead to project success.
- During the hiring period, John prepared his team to MOVE QUICKLY. He set up specific days and/or times for scheduling interviews in advance so that fully qualified candidates could be scheduled for an interview quickly. John’s hiring process turned out to be both fast and efficient, so that great candidates didn’t slip thru the cracks. Candidates were identified, recruited, evaluated, selected, and started work within 5-8 days of their first recruiting contact. We’re pretty sure that taking longer would have lead to unnecessary do overs.
- Once on assignment John made sure his TEMPORARY EMPLOYEES STAYED ACTIVELY ENGAGED IN THE SUCCESS OF THE PROJECT. He involved us in his onboarding process – making sure that hired employees had access to basic training materials even before they started work.
John himself took the time to address the project team on their first day of work, providing everyone with an overview of the mission for the project and its impact – information that gave them a sense of purpose and belonging even though they were only working for John 2-3 months.
John and our staffing team also created a plan to touch base with each employee every other week during the duration of the assignment. This allowed issues or in some cases misinformation to be identified and course corrected early. It also allowed the project employees to feel recognized and appreciated for their contribution.
We hope these ideas from John’s project (and others not mentioned here) will help you think thru the staffing components of your next project and how to use temporary employees as a part of your staffing strategy. While we’d like to think that our team might offer the “just right” project support services for you, if you’d just like to talk about an upcoming project, we’ll be happy to help you with some of the challenges you are anticipating.
Give our Partner Services and Solutions team a call at 425-637-3312 or e mail us at
firstname.lastname@example.org. We promise to give you some helpful advice or an innovative idea that will help you make your project team successful.