Valuing short-term workforces
More than ever before, businesses across the UK are starting to see the value of short-term workforces or temporary workers. Whilst many may have previously been reluctant to invest in interim staff, it is now clear that employees who fulfil short-term contracts should be valued more than ever.
Deloitte states that 6% of the workforce are working in temporary roles and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) separate these into four distinct categories; those on fixed term contracts, those who temp through an agency (such as Allen Associates), casual workers and seasonal workers.
There may be many reasons why you choose to recruit a temporary workforce; it may be to provide an additional resource for a time-specific project or to handle an unexpected spike in your workload. It may be to provide additional expertise through the use of freelance support, or it could be to cover sickness or other critical absences. Whatever the reason, you should be aware of how best to maximise the effectiveness of your short term workforce.
Almost twelve months ago, HR Review reported that UK businesses were more likely to look to short-term contracts to meet their needs amid economic uncertainty. Whilst this was a result of the confusion surrounding Brexit, it’s clear that as a result of COVID-19, temporary workers have huge potential in helping to keep the economy afloat in the coming months and the latter part of 2020. Therefore, businesses must understand how to manage the integration of these workers into their businesses to weather this unprecedented storm.
Using temporary staff to handle sickness absences.
When it comes to dealing with staff sickness levels (whether it’s due to self-isolation or something more critical), there’s no doubt that it can be extremely disruptive for businesses to work around. According to government research, “One in five employers (19%) has experienced employee long-term sickness absence (LTSA) of four or more weeks in the past year (86% of large and 15% of small employers)”. This figure will undoubtedly change a lot as the year progresses so businesses need to be clear of the potential value that temporary workers can bring.
If you are in the middle of a large project or a senior figure is suddenly signed off for medical reasons, your first decision is to consider how you will manage – will it be easier for the rest of the team to absorb any additional work or could a temporary worker fill in the gap adequately? If the former, you may need to consider the increased pressure on the team – have they the time/capability to handle that person’s workload and how will they be recognised/rewarded for their efforts. If the latter, then you will need to strategize how a temporary replacement will slot into the work. Will they be seen as a direct replacement or will roles and responsibilities differ?
In situations where one person (or indeed whole teams) are working remotely, it can be even harder to ensure a comprehensive handover so you will need to handle the integration of the new person into the team.
Integrating temporary staff with the team
When hiring temporary staff, you should always take the time to welcome them to the whole team and handle the transition carefully.
Communication is key to this – you need to consider all of the relevant stakeholders involved, beyond the temporary worker and your permanent staff. Will the new person be liaising with external contacts? In PR agency roles, could the person be dealing with clients and press? In HR teams, would a temporary worker be liaising with other departments and being involved in strategy planning or would it be a administrative role? Once you’ve established exactly who needs to be informed, you can plan your communications strategy around this.
“Clearly explain the role or roles, that temporary hires will be taking on, and how they will alleviate stress or workload for the existing team.”
You may also want to consider implementing a dedicated onboarding strategy for new workers on fixed-term contracts. Not only will this help them to feel like a valued part of the team, but it could be an intrinsic part of the communication process and prevent any issues from forming.
Giving contract workers the same benefits as employed staff
As part of your onboarding processes, you should endeavour to offer contract workers the same benefits as fully employed staff. For example, if the temporary worker is working within your office, make sure they feel eligible to participate in office-wide initiatives such as dress down days, office social events, etc.
They should also be adhering to the same healthy workplace policies as other staff members. If you have a policy of staying away or working remotely when feeling poorly, then this needs to be explained to the temporary staff member.
It’s about ensuring that everyone is treated equally and fairly, regardless of the contract.
How to find the right person for your needs
So how do you find the right person who can meet your needs? We believe that it’s about understanding exactly what skills you are looking for. If you are hiring someone for the temporary cover of an existing staff member, then it’s very unlikely you will find a direct like-for-like replacement. In which case, you may need to consider what skills are ‘essential’ and what are ‘preferable.’ You may need to take a flexible approach to your recruitment and consider the implications of qualifications vs capability.
If your temporary recruitment is a result of an unanticipated workload or a new project, then you will need to look collectively at what skills you have internally and where any skills gaps are emerging. You can then establish internal resourcing to see how much work is required which will further formulate your recruitment strategy. This will allow you to decide if you need somebody full time on a fixed-term contract, whether part-time hours is enough or whether you just need the support of a freelancer to help you cope.