The Length of Assignment for Temporary Employees is Expanding!

The Length of Assignment for Temporary Employees is Expanding!

by Jeanne Knutzen | December 26, 2019

0 Author-Jeanne, Best Practices /Flexible Staffing, FEATURED BLOGS, HIRING. EMPLOYEE SELECTION, Temporary and Contract Staffing get connected, Whats Happening


In fact for an Northwest employer to attract a high performing  temporary or contract employee to their workforce, a 3-6 month assignment is almost a must.  Twelve month or longer temporary or contract assignments are becoming a workforce norm.

With the 1-2 day/week temporary assignment business all but vanished from the Northwest staffing scene, Northwest employers are becoming much more strategic about how long they keep temporary employees on assignment.    The  short term “fill in for an absent employee” use of temporary staff has been replaced by the employer’s preference for using temporary employees as part of a much larger staffing strategy focused on agility, flexibility, and a growing need for “on demand” talent.

For my company, PACE Staffing Network, our average length of assignment in 2015 was 565 hours.  Today its closer to 700 – and that’s the average, with many assignments lasting much longer.

Flying in the face of the once popular assumption that how long a temporary or contract employee was on assignment might impact their status as an employee, today’s workforce savvy employers know there  are no “hard stops” for how long a temporary or contract employee can remain on assignment without legal threat.  As long as both parties agree, temporary assignments can last several years.  Companies are now making length of assignment decisions or designing length of assignment policies based on real business needs – not on legal or availability decisions.

Employees are much more motivated than ever before to join employers for interim roles, enjoying the challenge of going from employer to employer to learn something new without earning the bad wrap of “job hopper”.

Temporary staffing companies are responding in kind – becoming more like direct hire recruiting partners than “temporary staffing” vendors.

There are FIVE factors driving this trend toward longer term temporary assigments…

  •  The debunk of the infamous Microsoft “length of assignment” scare – where nationwide, employers became fearful that by keeping a temporary employee in their workforce longer than a year, they ran the risk of making them eligible for the same benefit options as their core employees.   Today’s solution?  Carefully exclude those categories of employees you do not want to participate in insurance and benefit plans and keep your temporary employees as long as they’re willing.   Yes, with good legal advice, it can be as simple as that!
  • The virtual elimination of internal “temporary” pools – where employers are now seeing the benefit of outsourcing their role as employer as a way to control costs.   The ability to share or download the entire employer responsibility to a third party staffing partner has been attractive, so that only rarely will an employer elect to be the “employer of record” for employees other than those considered core.    For my company, PACE Staffing Network, about 25% of our business each year comes from clients who want us to be the employer of record for “interim employees” they have sourced but do not want to employ directly.


  • The temporary and contract staffing industry has gradually added attractive benefit packages to their employment offerings making longer term temporary and contract roles more attractive to a wider range of employees.  The growth of temporary staffing has largely been driven by the growth in the number of employees willing to work on long term but interim roles.


  • The popularity of the “temp to hire” recruiting strategy, making longer term temporary assignments a more normative way for employers to hire and for employees to land jobs in employers of their choice.  While most formalized “auditions” have defined assignment lengths (anywhere from 1-3 months) popular today is a more loosely defined strategy whereby employers bring on temporary workers for targeted jobs they know will be needed, and hiring only when the business need has been solidified and hiring managers have seen the employee in action.  The auditioning process can sometimes take 6-9 months depending on what is going on with the employee and the business.


  • The escalation of payroll tax rates, mandated benefits, and escalating recruiting costs have driven up the costs of core employees, making temporary employees often the lower cost option.    

Do some employers abuse the good will of their temporary employees by keeping them in temporary roles too long?

From what we hear from some of the employees we interview for temporary roles,  it happens.  We hear employees complain that they were promised a chance to be hired direct after 3 months but then let go after a year – with no real explanation as to why the “agreement” changed.   And many times the reasons why some “temps” are hired and others not is not always clear, creating opportunities for mistrust and resentments.

What we find is that the  culprit in many of the situations that turn out to be less than positive  isn’t always a negligent employer but poor communications between the employer, their temporary staffing partner, and the employee – ie. promises made that weren’t kept, vague agreements about what performance would be required for the employee to be hired, how long assignments are intended to last, and under what circumstances  an assignment would be ended, etc.

In an upcoming blog we’re going to feature some of the “best practices” that have been developed to address some of the issues  that can develop when temporary employees are in the workforce for longer periods of time – either with or without an opportunity to be hired direct.   What can employers do to make sure their longer term ‘temps” stay motivated and engaged throughout the length of their assignment whether its 3, 6 or 12 months.

Stay tuned!



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 us at 425-637-3312 or e mail our Partner Solutions  team  at

How useful was this blog post?

Click on a star to rate it!

We’d Love Your Comments on this Blog…

In today’s market, its never too early to get started on your next staffing challenge…..

Connect Now

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Previous Post Next Post