Managing Your Temporary Employees

Managing Your Temporary Employees

by Jeanne Knutzen | February 1, 2016

0 Blog, Flexible Staffing Strategies, INFO AND RESOURCES FOR EMPLOYERS, Management.Supervision

Studio Shot of a Large Mixed Age, Multiethnic Group of Smiling Men and Women

It’s the Little Things That Can  “Make a Difference”

As companies turn more and more to temporary and contract workers in order to fill short term gaps in workforce needs, focus is now on how to manage these employees in ways that will optimize their performance.

As an employer of a fairly large team of temporary and contract employees, we pay close attention to what they report are elements in their  “assignment  satisfaction.”   We try to have several conversations with them throughout their assignment, plus  ask them to participate in a survey of their  “assignment experience” when the assignment ends. What we’ve uncovered is that there are specific things that both PACE and our staffing clients can do with and for our employees while on assignment that make a big difference to employee’s “assignment satisfaction” and ultimately their performance.  We think what we have learned is worth sharing with our employer clients.

Keep in mind that when it comes to managing temporary workers, PACE and our clients are co-employers, requiring both of us to do our part in keeping our employees motivated to perform at their best.   There are components of their overall work experience that we have to manage.  Timely and accurate pay, for example, often tops our employee’s list of things that matter, and only PACE touches that.  Other components of their assignment experience are more directly controlled by our client.

Here’s a short list of things we know will have a positive impact on the productivity and retention of the employees we assign to your work-site.  Most of these ideas are not new, and represent the same or similar factors  important to their core employee counterparts.  The good news is that most of the items on this list are “little things”, easily implemented.

First Day Stuff.

What we have found is, there are some activities that happen on our employees first day of work that set the stage for higher levels of engagement (and productivity) down the road.

Personal contact with their on-site manager.    

They want to know how you view their future work, and why its important to you, the team and the company.  A sense of purpose for what your temp will be doing – very specifically, how they will contribute to your larger goals – appears to be one of the important links to ongoing engagement.   

They also like to hear from you (not just us) on how long their assignment is scheduled to last.  As their employer, we  let them know what we believe about assignment length,  but hearing the same message from you, learning more about your business need,  has apparently even more impact.

Obviously, its important for your information and ours  to be in sync – “staffing 101”.

Meet the Team.  

Personal introductions to teammates are important so the temporary employee knows who they will be working with and their respective roles on the team.  If you’re managing a large department, or if the employee will be required to interact with team members in other departments, a list of who they will be talking to, what they do, and how to reach them, can be a valuable road map for new employee’s.  We’ve found these things impact their ability to solve problems and get work done quickly as issues arise.

Rules of the Road.

Discuss any team specific policies or practices that the temporary employee should know about.  Although our part is to make them aware of any company wide policies that may impact them.  Going over all the “how we do things around here” stuff, is best communicated by their on site supervisor.

AVAILABLE Support.   

Most clients provide their temporary  employees with information about who to go to for what.   Making sure those on site supports are available when needed is what our employees tell us matters most.    The majority of temporary employees have a high need to be busy and productive.  They hate wasting time waiting for instruction, but they don’t want to make a mistake that will require a work-over either.    Not having an “available go to” is frequently on the list of assignment detractors.

“Temp Relevant” Training. On the Job Instruction.   

Many temporary jobs require some form of on- the- job training or instruction before they can begin work.  When the “training” is not quite right, the impact on the performance or retention of your temporary employees can be immediate.   Most important is that onsite instruction be organized into manageable chunks – not too much, not too little.   Training programs designed for core workers are often over kill for temporary workers, requiring them to learn material that may or may not be relevant to them as a temp.   Training programs that lack the flexibility to accommodate differences in learning style, will often leave some employees over whelmed, others bored – and can result in early assignment turnover.

Don’t know if your training program is or is not working for your temporary employees?  Could you be inadvertently putting them into roles they don’t feel prepared to do?  Ask them.  We’re pretty sure they’ll let you know what is and is not working for them.

“What to Do” and “How to do It” Supervisor  Training 

The relationships between a client company, their temporary staffing provider, and the temporary or contract employees being co managed, are getting more, not less,  complex.  When the supervisors managing our temporary employees, are unclear about how this “whole temp thing” works, chances are they will do or say something that will confuse our employees about those relationships, or worse case, put your company at risk.

  • Who does the temporary call when they are sick?
  • How do I handle a temp who is under performing or who I suspect of misconduct?
  • When can I have a temp removed?
  • What can I tell a temp about their pay rate when they ask for an increase?
  • How can a temporary employee apply for a job with my company?
  • When can I hire a temp direct?
  • Can I invite my temps to the company picnic?
  • Can a temp supervise another temp?
  • Who do I tell if I want to end an assignment early?

Your supervisors need quick easy answers to these questions.

Need help with “temp staffing” training for your supervisory staff?   PACE’s partnership development team will provide you with some supervisory training options to  fit your unique  needs.    Contact us at or by calling 425-637-3312.

Watch for the “Moments of Truth” in the Assignment Cycle.

There are several.

  • The critical first day stuff was described above.
  • The first week sets the tone for how the employee will expect to be treated throughout their assignment and in many cases, determines if they view the assignment as just a job or an opportunity to contribute.  An onboarding plan that pays attention to everything that needs to happen in that first week can have a big pay-off down the road.
  • If you permanently hire a temporary employee who is part of a larger team, pay close attention to those not hired.  Keep them in the loop of your hiring plans.  Let them know if there is something about their work they can improve upon in order to be considered for hire.  Let them know how they are contributing as a temporary employee, even if you are not yet ready to hire them.
  • In strategic staffing scenarios, where temporary employees are 70% or more of a workforce doing mission critical work, you can use the employee’s own performance metrics to see where they likely are in their motivational cycle.  In Light Industrial staffing, for example, you can actually statistically identify the point in the assignment where an employee’s performance starts to deteriorate.  Some employers use these points to re-staff the role, or change the work content of temporary employees they want to retain.
  • Long term temp assignments create special challenges, as it is easy to assume they’ll just keep doing what they’ve always done.   While pay and benefit programs typically get revisited by an employee’s staffing agency employer at the one year mark.  Consider providing your own special recognition of their contribution to your team at the key benchmarks.  Never take long term temps for granted or assume they don’t want to be hired directly.  Some do, some don’t – know the difference.

Never Under Estimate the Power of a Thank You!

Last but not least on the list of “little things you can do” is ongoing recognition for your temporary worker’s good work and contribution.   Temporary employees are just like all employees in that they work best when their work is recognized and appreciated – when they know their work matters, and that someone noticed.    Most staffing providers have recognition programs that acknowledge the work of their high performing employees on multiple assignments, but when it comes to work  done on individual assignments, small and frequent recognition’s can go a long way to keep temporary employees  motivated to do their best!


Jeanne Knutzen


This article was written by Jeanne Knutzen, founder and CEO of the PACE Staffing Network, a leading Northwest staffing company helping  local employers find and hire high talent employees for over 40 years.

For additional information on Temporary Staffing’s Best Practices contact us at



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