Everyone who has had a bad experience with hiring a temp or being a temp at any point in your career, raise your hand. Chances are the majority of you have had at least one challenging experience with a temporary employee situation (it seems to be a rite of passage when it comes to careers these days). And unfortunately, I’m raising my hand right along with you. Why does it have to be like this?
“As I look back, most of my bad temp experiences are due to poor culture fit and a void when it comes to setting expectations on either side.”
Early on in my career, I worked for an organization that needed a temp for a few weeks due to an unexpected employee departure. We needed to keep some basic activities afloat while the company determined how best to fill the gap. We contacted an agency that had spent the previous three years trying to maintain a relationship with us. They jumped at the chance to find us a temporary employee to greet visitors, answer an occasional phone call, forward general inquiry emails, and complete data entry. I reviewed a couple of resumes, chose not to interview and instead selected the candidate with experience in a professional services organization and with the tasks we were seeking to accomplish. In 48 hours, we had someone to help… and it went downhill from there.
The temp wasn’t familiar with the Mac platform, which was used across our entire organization, and was more of a social butterfly, which didn’t fit into the culture of the organization. She was interested in a full-time opportunity with us from day one and she spent more time trying to convince us to hire her than actually doing the necessary work.
She was at the organization for two weeks and left, having found employment outside our organization. Her rationale was that we weren’t willing to commit to hiring her on a more “permanent” basis. We never indicated this was a temp-to-hire position but apparently that was her expectation. We were still in the process of trying to figure out what we needed at the organization when she suddenly left her role with us. We then spent the next month plus cleaning up the mistakes in her data entry tasks and trying to figure out where general email messages had gone.
It is amazing (and a blessing) that so much was learned from ten days of a temporary employee. I pass on my lessons in hopes that you don’t have to learn the hard way when it comes time for you to hire a temp.
1) Take your time. No matter how urgent the situation is, you do have a couple of days before an implosion will occur. Interview the temp before you agree to work with him/her. A 30-minute conversation will help you assess if they will fit with the rest of the team and be committed to doing the tasks that need to be done.
2) Explain the culture. If the agency doesn’t ask you about your organization’s culture, consider using another agency. If you aren’t in a position to change agencies, explain your culture and the nuances critical to the temporary employee being successful. Then focus on those factors when you meet the potential temp (see #1 above).
3) Have references completed. Ask the agency to do a reference check (if they haven’t already) or if more comfortable, check them yourself. Make sure the temporary employee has done the tasks you need support on and that previous employers would hire this person again.
4) Set expectations. Just as you do with new hires, sit down on day one with your temporary employee and set expectations. Spending 30 minutes to an hour of your time will save you hours of headaches later. Explain what needs to be accomplished during the assignment. Provide insights into how the organization operates so they can work within the system. And let them know exactly what the plan for the role is long term (even if there is no plan yet, share that this is the case).
At Resourceful HR, we use these four steps in our process of placing temporary HR professionals because we know it makes a huge difference in both the client’s and temp’s experience and success.
What other lessons have you learned and applied to make your temporary employee experiences a success?