Temps, independent contractors, contingent workers, and free-lancers have become a critical segment of the post-recession workforce. Many companies depend on short-term and part-time workers for their success. They are not movie extras any longer; now they have starring roles. Steven Greenhouse, writing for the New York Times Upshot column describes the situation this way:
The work of temping has changed vastly — today 42 percent of temporary workers labor in light industry or warehouses. And there are more of them. The number of workers employed through temp agencies has climbed to a new high — 2.87 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and they represent a record share of the nation’s work force, 2 percent…
More than five years into a recovery marked by halting growth, many businesses are still adding temp jobs rather than permanent ones. “This is a reflection of business uncertainty, that businesses need to be more responsive, and part of that is keeping their work force flexible,” said Steven Berchem, the chief operating officer of the American Staffing Association.
The problem is that these workers are often not allowed to contribute fully to the work of the organization. They are marginalized and ignored by full-time employees. They aren’t given the training they need to be safe and successful on the job. They aren’t encouraged to become engaged in their work and the organization.
If you want temporary employees to have the best interests of the company in mind, effectively complete essential tasks, some of which require substantial knowledge and skill, and strive to do their best, then they need to be treated with respect and be given the opportunity to do their best work for the good of the organization. As I wrote in a May 2013 post:
Regardless of how long temporary workers have been with your organization, they should be treated as important contributors to your success. Applying the 5As Framework, here are five things you should keep in mind when supervising these employees:
1) Make sure that they understand how their jobs are aligned with the success of the organization. They should know how what they are being asked to do contributes to achieving business goals.
2) Let them know that you anticipate that they will have a positive experience and that their work is significant. Communicate high expectations for their performance.
3) Form an alliance with them for the purpose of their learning and success. Give them informal and formal feedback on how they are doing and how they can improve.
4) Create opportunities and give encouragement to apply what they know and what they are learning to their jobs. Being temporary means that it is all that much more urgent to provide these opportunities.
5) Measure their success and hold them accountable for doing a good job. This means being clear with them about the indicators of success and how you will help them achieve those outcomes.
Companies can’t afford to have workers, even if only temporary, who are not engaged in their work, who are not properly trained, and who don’t understand the purpose of their jobs and the company. Rather, they need contingent workers who are excited about working in the company and will give their best effort, not simply be a cog in the wheel.