How to Manage Contingent Employees

How to Manage Contingent Employees

In today’s job market, more companies are turning to contingent staffing firms for the flexibility temp employees offer to mange projects, fill gaps, or cover for full-time employees on leave.

With budgets tight in this economy, it makes sense to spend a little time upfront preparing for a ‘project’ or contingent employee, to maximize the productivity you receive for your dollar.

Supervising regular employees already poses many challenges, such as motivation, morale, and productivity, to name just a few. Add to that the additional demands of including contingent employees on your team, and the dynamic within your department, as well as your management workload, can shift significantly.

The following tips can help you to increase the commitment level from this contingent workforce.

1)Customize the Job Give thought to the specific jobs you assign to contingent employees. Determine how much time will be required to train the contingent associate to complete the job successfully. For short-term contingent employees, select jobs that require little training. Although contingent employees may have specialized related work experience, there will always be a need to spend time teaching them how to do things “your way.” Not every job should be customized for contingent employees, particularly those related to final quality analysis.

2) Recruit Specifically To be successful in your recruitment, be detailed and specific in your initial request. Describe the environment where the contingent employee will be working, the nature of the work, and the pace at which the employee will be expected to produce. If tools, equipment, or specific software programs will be used, describe in detail what you will be requiring of the contingent employee. Contingent agencies agree that the more specific you are in the initial request, the greater their success level in providing the best qualified employee.

3) Interviewing Contingent Candidates Many supervisors have learned that making the time to interview potential contingent employees, particularly those who will be employed for longer projects, is time well spent. The more the contingent employee knows about your expectations, and the more you know about their previous work experience, the greater the likelihood that there will be a good match. One manager (whose entire team consists of contingent employees hired to complete a short-term project) knows from experience that she will interview twice as many candidates as she ultimately selects. She feels that this step saves her time later, however, in that those employees she selects are far more likely to be successful, reducing the need for further recruiting later in the process.

4) Orientation for Contingent Employees Give careful advance thought as to what needs to be explained in order for the contingent employee to be successful. Determine what you will cover in training, and who will be responsible for completing the training. Ensure that the person conducting the training is both thorough and patient. If safety is an issue, make sure that the contingent employee is briefed and understands potential safety hazards.

5) Welcoming Them Think back to the day you first started your job and you’ll agree that first impressions are extremely important. They can’t be erased. Plan accordingly. The start of any day, or shift, can be hectic. When appropriate, have the contingent associate start later, allowing you more time to begin the orientation and introduce the regular employees to the contingent employee. Whether it is a production or professional environment, make time for introductions. If appropriate, assign a regular employee to be a mentor for them. Knowing whom to go to with questions increases a contingent associate’s confidence and comfort level. Don’t forget the obvious. Ensure that the contingent associate knows where to park and where the lunchroom and bathroom facilities are located. These are small items, but they make a big difference in helping this person, a new addition to your workforce, feel welcome. They help the contingent associate to feel valued as a person, not just as a commodity needed to fill a short-term need.

If the contingent employee isn’t working out right, look to the recruiter you are working with to coach, counsel, or train the person. Or, cut your losses quickly! The only thing worse than a bad employee is a bad contingent associate; just make sure to be specific in where the first associate did not meet expectations.
As long as the cost of employee benefits continues to escalate and organizations experience continual market fluctuations, the need for a contingent workforce will exist. Successful managers value the contributions of their contingent employees and know how to create an environment leading to optimal performance from all employees, both the regular staff and the contingent employees.

Jay Mattern
COO, Peoplelink Staffing Solutions