NorthBridge Blog

Pat DuganEvery holiday season, of course, businesses bring on a flood of temporary or part-time hires to handle all the workload they’ll confront over November and December.

And just as predictably, those jobs will disappear faster than Christmas cookies after the joyous season (and all the gift returns) have passed us by. Most of them.

But anyone looking for a long-term job who turns their nose up at a holiday position might be making a mistake.

This article about UPS needing to hire 95,000 people for the holiday deluge points out why — the UPS spokesman shares an interesting factoid:

About 37% of seasonal hires over the last three years have been hired permanently, he said.

Remember, when you’re taking on a temporary position, you might be actually auditioning for a permanent job — even if the employer doesn’t say so.

Source: CNN

Source: CNN

That’s because hiring needs always change. And if you’re an employer who finds a need for full-time help in the New Year, what better place to look for candidates than the pool of temporary workers you’ve already got on the job?

Some employers even use this as an evergreen hiring model, knowing they’ll have to add staff in Q1 and beyond. So the first place they go fishing is their contract or temp pool.

So if you’re interested in snagging a permanent role with a specific employer, check to see if they’re bringing on extra help for the holidays. That might be your best chance to prove your case for a full-time gig!


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Pat DuganWe’ve talked about the benefits of treating your temps right in the past, and this is a complement to that notion. Because once a temp or contractor has left your business, there are real positives in maintaining a relationship with that person.

That idea is supported by statistics about how companies benefit from delivering a good candidate experience to potential hires. A 2013 report by an offshoot of TalentBoard called the Candidate Experience Awards (yes, there is such a thing!) profiled 63 companies that excelled at it, and among their findings:

  • Nearly 60% of survey respondents (candidates at the included companies) felt they need to have a relationship with a company before they apply for a job there. Nowadays, with information about a company and its culture available within a few clicks of your smartphone, no HR manager can afford to ignore this.
  • But amazingly, 75% of candidates who apply for a job get no response at all — zip, zero, nada, according to a CareerBuilder study. Maybe HR at these companies think that applicants should just get used to it. But how hard would it be for autoreply with a polite turndown?


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In January, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that payroll employment grew by 292,000 in December, while unemployment held steady at 5 percent (the Chicago and Illinois jobs scene is stumbling in a different direction, unfortunately). But what are the broader trends you’ve got to keep an eye on if you’re a recruitment manager?

First off, finding and hiring qualified employees is always a challenge, and in a market where there’s a lot of competing demand for their services, the challenge gets harder, especially when unemployment rates decline or stay put at a relatively low level.

Getting effective, expert workers through the door is critical to a firm’s success, especially in an era where agility and the flexibility to adapt to changing conditions are increasingly central to survival, let alone to becoming a segment leader.
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Pat DuganWe’ve entered the age of the American freelancer, everyone pretty much agrees.  Temporary and contingency staffing has become the norm, not the exception, for companies big and small, in nearly every segment you can name.

One reason why it’s become so acceptable is, obviously, economic.  Companies pressured by competition and increasingly-thin margins have had to save on human capital, and flexible staffing can help in that regard thanks to the reduced overheads involved.
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Pat DuganBack in November, it came to light that OSHA had “been aggressively investigating” some temporary staffing agencies, suspicious they hadn’t been complying with governments guidelines set forth in the Temporary Worker Initiative (TWI) of 2013.

TWI was intended to help prevent work-related injuries and illnesses among temps, affording them the same protections as other employees, and obligating agencies and employers to give them the same safety training as full-timers.

NoOSHAThe nut of that statement?  That staffing agencies and employers share the responsibility for keeping temporary workers safe on the job.  Employers can’t assume they’re somehow shielded from liability just because they’ve hired temps, or brought them on through a staffing agency.

In 2014, OSHA conducted 283 worksite inspections involving temps, which may seem slight, but it’s a 322% increase over 2013, when only 67 inspections happened, and only 29 in 2012.  So the current administration is apparently committed to enforcing the TWI’s provisions – with teeth!

So the federal authorities are obviously taking a heightened interest in temporary employees and temp agencies.  What’s it mean to HR and staffing officers inside companies that rely on temps, or are considering hiring temps?


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pat_smallSome of them are basic etiquette.  Some of them are plain common sense.  They’re also just good advice we give some candidates about how to be poised, productive and impressive to the employer when they’re on a temporary or contract job.  Which means they’re good advice for anyone in the workplace!

DON’T avoid asking questions.
Afraid of looking dumb?  If you don’t ask the questions that help you do your job properly, you’ll come off as even dumber – or, just as bad, you’ll appear indifferent or cocky.  We value curiosity among others about what we do, because it shows interest and investment.  Be the person who isn’t afraid to ask questions, to demonstrate your involvement and willingness to learn and, potentially, take the conversation in interesting – and productive – new directions!

NOT to DoDON’T waste your time on the job.
It’s not your time – it’s the company’s time.  They’re paying you for it.  That Facebook post will wait until you’re on your own hours.  If you’ve finished a project, go find another one, or ask someone if they need help.   Or use the time to get better at your own job somehow – plenty of firms can fill up downtime with training, especially virtual training, that’ll help you ratchet up your skillset.

DON’T stay in your cubicle.
“Cubicle” is metaphoric – whether you’ve in a cube, a corner office or on the road, you need to interact with others and become part of the culture of an organization.  That engenders a positive reputation, which engenders opportunity.  Not to mention the fact it’s simply healthy to have relationships in any place where you’re putting in a good share of your waking life.

DON’T multitask in meetings.
You’re making a presentation or trying to make a point…and Joe from Operations over there is hammering away on his Blackberry.  How’s that make you feel?  Like you’re getting your point across?  What if it’s about an item that’s relevant to him?  His loss.

So imagine yourself in his seat at the table.  When you stay focused on what’s happening in that meeting or conference, you not only pick up on the information being dealt with, you’re observing body language, understanding team dynamics, and being viewed as a participant who’s engaged and on top of their game.  Guess what?  It makes co-workers a lot more likely to come to your meetings – and give them the attention you think they deserve.

DON’T check your phone while talking to someone.
“I gotta take this.”  “Let me reply to this text.”  Or maybe you haven’t even said that much – you’ve just turned your attention to your phone, mid-conversation.  Would you do it to your boss?  Guess what – if you make a point of focusing on the person at hand, they’ll appreciate it.  It’s just common courtesy…and there’s a reason we observe those courtesies: they make a workplace easier and more beneficial for everyone.

DON’T talk behind others’ backs.
If it’s not your place to talk to a person, it’s not your place to talk about them.  It’s idle gossip – and in some organizations, it’s part of a culture of “triangulation” where criticism is never direct.  That’s toxic, both to you as a participant and to the organization.  If you can’t say something directly to somebody, then it’s probably something that doesn’t deserve to be said, frankly.   Keep conversations direct and productive, and you’ll be doing more good for yourself than you’ll ever gain through gossip.


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pat_smallWe’ve all come across potential candidates who are crestfallen about doing temp or contingent work, usually because it comes after years of having been full-timers.  We admit it’s a tough crossover for some, but there are good reasons to feel upbeat about the challenges and opportunities temporary work offers.

So if you know somebody who may need some inspiration or motivation about taking on temp work, pass along these eight sensible reasons for appreciating being a temporary staffer:

  1. 8 MotivationsIt keeps you moving and engaged in work and career.  That’s important for the soul, not just the wallet.
  2. It gets you through the door, and may set you up for a permanent opportunity.  Remember: they’re often assessing temporaries as potential long-term hires.
  3. If you’ve got the chops, you’ll get the bucks: especially for specialty roles that require certain skills, you’ll make very competitive compensation.
  4. Builds your reference sheet with up-to-date testimonials.
  5. Gives you grist for your resume, so there are no dead spaces in your work history.
  6. Helps you build your professional network among the new people you meet on each assignment.
  7. Sharpens or even expands your skills, as some employers will provide training to contingent and temp staffers.
  8. Provides a level of variety and fresh challenges you often don’t see in a regular full-time job.

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pat_smallOne argument for taking on a temporary job that can sway a good candidate?  The chance they can learn as they earn.

Quite often, there’ll be skills training attached to certain positions.  Or it’s simply an opportunity for them to enhance or sharpen the skills they’ve already got.  In today’s economy, candidates need to seize every available opportunity to polish their abilities and make themselves more attractive to the next prospective employer.

Temporary positions are a viable way to do that that can also buff up a resume by helping fill in the gaps in your employment history.  There’s very no stigma attached to contractor or temp work, not in an era when it’s increasingly the norm.


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pat_smallThe New York Times is just the latest media outlet to catch on to the seismic shift in the jobs economy, as they note there are indications that the use of temporaries may remain a permanent facet of business staffing:

This year, 26.2 percent of all jobs added by private sector employers were temporary positions. In the comparable period after the recession of the early 1990s, only 10.9 percent of the private sector jobs added were temporary, and after the downturn earlier this decade, just 7.1 percent were temporary.

The long-term picture may point toward a shift toward permanent staffing, as in any traditional economy.   Or it may not — as businesses begin to appreciate the benefits and gains they can realize through temporary staffing, and inculcate those more permanently into their staffing regimes.


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pat_smallLet’s be honest: many employers don’t invest enough time or energy in determining if temporary workers have the same level of commitment, loyalty and career focus they look for from permanent hires.  They’ll spend a great deal of time auditing just how engaged and committed the latter may be…while being offhand in their expectations from temps.

Why?  Well, they are “temps” after all – which somehow implies they’re less important, in the long run, to the success of your business.  But if you’re employing them in significant volume, in positions where they can substantially impact your situation – and many professional-level temps are doing exactly that – then you’d better be certain they’re performing at a level of investment and dedication – “professionalism,” simply put – that’s equal to any other employee.

So when an employer is conversing with their temp agency, it’s important to be clear about the level of commitment to be expected from the temp hire.  Don’t be afraid, if you’re consulting with the agency or interviewing candidates, to demand that commitment — and screen temps based on what their long-term plans are, and thereby get a reading on whether their true interests align with your needs.


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pat_smallThis study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that employers are becoming increasingly sophisticated and flexible in using temporary employment practices, relying on them to ride out recessionary times and capitalize on peaks, as well.

The report charts the growth of temp employment from 1956 to today; remarkably, a mere 20,000 people held temp jobs in ’56, mostly in clerical, production and transportation roles.  Now, of course, more and more accountants, nurses, legal specialists, IT and technology professionals and managers are temporaries.

It also confirms that temp hiring is, historically, often a precursor of permanent hiring, and can be a good bellwether of recovery.  Unfortunately, it also shows that temporary hiring has flattened out in the last three months, a trend that would seem to indicate the current recovery is still slow in developing.


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pat_smallBased on our own experience at North Bridge and some of the best practices at large in the recruitment and staffing industry, these are some pretty worthy tips for any organization looking to bring on temporary or contingent employees.

One good rule of thumb, to start?  Approach temp hiring with the same standards and expectations you’d have in mind if you were looking for permanent employees.  Your business deserves the best possible people on staff, regardless of how long they’ll be on the team!

  1. Know thy market: the depth of talent in a given category can vary greatly market-to-market; a national surplus of widget engineers doesn’t necessarily mean your area has the same profile.  Work with your staffing firm to make sure you know the real availability of the types of role players you need, or may soon need, so you’ve got a true picture of how long it will take to land the talent you want so you can project accordingly.
  2. 7 Great Tips For Hiring TempsBe precise with your recruiting firm in terms of skillsets you need, and the salary range you’ll offer.  That will obviously help narrow the field to candidates you can really afford – and will save you considerable time, of course.
  3. Move it or lose it, because even in times like these, the best candidates go first – and you’d better be prepared to get in front of them quickly and decisively, whether they’re temporary or permanent hires.
  4. Set benchmarks for what constitutes success for your temps, just as surely as you would for a full-time hire.  Measure their contribution: it’s surprising how many businesses think there’s some sort of efficiency in throwing people at a task or problem simply because they’re temporaries.  It’s still money ill-spent if you’re not auditing results.
  5. Ask around: get perspective from others in the organization about how a temp could be put to work on its behalf.  There may be needs beyond the obvious assignment where an interim hire could make an impact, especially if they’ve got specific expertise that could benefit different facets of your enterprise.
  6. Let the recruiter inside your organization, so they can have a good handle on its organization, culture, expectations and projects.  The time you spend indoctrinating a recruiter will pay off in better candidates.
  7. Vette your recruiters thoroughly, because just as in any business, there are good and not-so-good providers out there.  There’s absolutely no substitute for the due diligence and quality of service you clearly find in a good recruiter – and they should be proud to offer up referrals who’ll testify to that!

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