Getting the Most Out of Your Temporary Employees = People Management Basics!

Getting the Most Out of Your Temporary Employees = People Management Basics!

by Jeanne Knutzen | May 1, 2020

0 Author-Jeanne, Hiring Strategies and Tactics, Thought Leader / Featured Blogs* get connected


As Northwest companies turn to more interim/temporary staff to manage their business uncertainties, managers are learning how to manage these employees for optimum performance!

As an employer of a fairly large team of temporary and contract employees, we pay close attention to what they tell us are important elements in how they experience their time limited work assignments.   We have multiple  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 employer clients can do while our employees are on assignment that make a big difference to their attitude towards their job, and ultimately their performance. 

What we’ve learned  about what management practices best motivates our temporary workers is worth sharing!  There are components of their overall work experience that your staffing agency has to manage.  Timely and accurate pay, for example, often tops the list of things that matter, and only your staffing agency touches that.  Other components of the assignment experience are more directly controlled by our client.  Most of the factors that impact a temporary employee’s productivity and motivation are the same factors important to the productivity and motivation of their core employee counterparts.  The good news is that the skillful management of temporary employees doesn’t require any new management skills – just an adjustment in mindset to know that these skills are important to temporary employees too!

Here’s a short list of things we’ve learned have a positive impact on the productivity and retention of most temporary employees:

1. First Day Stuff.

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

Personal contact with their on-site manager.

Temporary employees, just like core employees, want to know that their manager values the work they are being asked to do – why that work makes a difference to their manager, their team, the company.   A sense of purpose for what you will ask your temporary worker to do – more specifically, how they will contribute to your larger goals – appears to be one of the important links to ongoing engagement.   

Temporary employees like to hear from you (not just us) on how long their assignment is scheduled to last and what factors in your business might adjust that “length of assignment.”   As their employer, our recruiting team lets our temps know how long their assignment will last, 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 – “management 101”.

Meet the Team.  

Personal introductions to teammates will help a temporary employee get comfortable with who they will be working with and how their work fits in with 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 an invaluable road map for new temporary employee – something that will impact their ability to solve problems and get work done quickly as issues arise.

Rules of the Road.

If there are important policies that you want the temp to follow, be sure to discuss those policies or practices as soon as possible.  Although as a company’s staffing partner we are often asked to make our temporary employees aware of any company wide policies, going over all those “how we do things around here” stuff, is best communicated by their on site supervisor on their “first day.”

2. (Available) Support Matters!     

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 a factor in their temporary assignment that makes a big difference to their productivity.  If they are in a job that needs approvals to procede, or where they need access to a certain piece equipment to procede,  the people who can provide these approvals, or  make sure they have the equipment they need, need to be available as needed. Temporary employees do not like wasting time waiting for instruction, nor do they want to make a mistake that will require a work-over.    Not having an “available go to” is frequently on the list of assignment detractors.

3. “Temp Relevant” Training/Support    

Many temporary jobs require some form of on- the- job training or instruction that needs to be completed before the employee can begin work.  When the “training” is not quite right, the impact on the performance or retention of your temporary employees can be immediate.

We’ve uncovered that the most effective on site instruction is organized into manageable chunks – not too much, not too little.  Training programs designed for core workers are often an over kill for temporary workers and will often distract from the employee’s confidence and ability to get to work quickly.  More comprehensive training programs need to be built around the flexibility needed to accommodate differences in learning style.  We’ve seen some otherwise highly temporary employees become overwhelmed in a training program not tailored to their specific needs.  Attendance issues and ultimately a turnover is a frequent outcome of a training program that doesn’t take into consideration the mindset of a temporary employee.

Concerned about whether or not the training program you’ve put together for a temporary employee is working?  Ask the temporary employee how they like to learn – when and how.

4. Supervisors Who Know the “Rules of the Road”   

The relationships needed to do temporary staffing well – the relationships between the client company and their agency, the  temporary  employee and their agency, and between a supervisor and the temporary employee – are getting more, not less,  complex as employment regulations grow.   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 your temporary employees about those relationships, or worse case, put your company at risk for legal liabilities that should be easily avoided.

This is our short list of what temp supervisors need to know as part of a well run temporary staffing program:

  • How absences and tardies will be handled……the importance of having a way for the temp to let both PACE and their on sigte supervisor know if they are going to be absent or late to work
  • How performance is handled – in particular how they need to deal with a temp who is under performing or who they suspect of misconduct
  • How best to give feedback – to who, about what
  • When and why they can request a temp be removed
  • What to do if a temp asks for an increase in pay
  • How their temporary employee can apply for a permanent job with their company
  • When they can hire a temp for what cost
  • Limits of duties they can assign to the temp
  • Who to talk with about a change in an assignment – regarding how long the temp will be working, changes in work requirements. etc .

For employers with multiple hiring managers, the PACE team would be glad to do an online presentation to teach supervisors how to handle these and other common temporary staffing issues.

5. “Moments of Truth” ….

…..are those critical points in a temporary assignment where if not handled well, can often result in a loss of motivation and productivity, even an unwanted turnover.

  • Onboarding.  The first day stuff was described above, but the first week of an employee’s temporary assignments 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.
  • Periodic Feedback.  Temporary employees new to their assignment welcome feedback that comes at the end of their first week, second week and either monthly or as needed thereafter.   Make sure you and your staffing agency are partnered in terms of what feedback is provided.
  • Conversions.  If you decide to permanently hire a temporary employee who was brought on board at the same time as other “temps”, 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.
  • Performance Cycles and Metrics.  In settings where temporary employees are large part of a workforce doing mission critical work, you can use standardized metrics to show a temporary employee how they are performing and inspire them to do more.  Metrics can also reveal where the temporary employee is in their motivational cycle.  Most temporary employees start their assignment highly motivated to do their best.  That motivation can wane if the work is repetitive or if too many their accomplishments are going unnoticed.  In an industrial or call center setting, 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.
  • Revisits of Assignment Terms.   Temporary assignments that either begin or turn into long term (6 months or more) temporary assignments create special challenges.  Employers should never assume a temporary employee will  always do what they’ve always done.  Somewhere after 3- 6 months, long term temporary employees, in particular, start noticing how much they are being paid and benefited by their staffing agency compared to what you pay and benefit your core employees.  While technical pay and benefits are the responsibility of your staffing agency, not you, you are often in a position to notice a need to re negotiate the temporary employees “terms of employment” and should feel comfortable raising that issue with your staffing agency as needed.  Keep in mind that an increase in the employee’s pay and benefits often comes back to you as an increase in bill rate,  the price you pay in order to retain a long term temp is often offset by avoiding the high costs of re-hiring.

6. Thank Yous Matter!

Last but not least on your list of  “ 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 need to know their work matters, and that someone is noticing.

At PACE we have a variety of internal recognition programs that acknowledge the work of our high performing employees achieved over multiple assignments.  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!


PACE Staffing Network is one of the Puget Sound’s premier staffing /recruiting agencies and has been helping Northwest employers find and hire employees based on the “right fit” for over 40 years.

A  4 time winner of the coveted “Best in Staffing” designation , PACE is ranked in the top 2% of staffing agencies nationwide based on annual surveys of customer satisfaction.

PACE services include temporary and contract staffing, temp to hire auditions, direct hire professional recruiting services, Employer of Record (payroll) services, and a large menu of candidate assessment services our clients can purchase a la carte.

To learn more about how partnering with PACE will make a difference to how you find and hire employees,  contact our Partner Services and Solutions team at 425-637-3312, e mail us at or visit our website at www.



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