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Tapping the Potential of Temporary Workers

By Valerie Freeman

MANAGING RELATIONSHIPS. Once the need for temporary workers is determined, entrepreneurial companies need to navigate the relationships that underlie the process. The best first step here is to work with an agency or staffing service, and, moreover, to develop a relationship with that entity.

Let the agency know your specific needs, what jobs have to be filled, what training might be required for the positions, what qualifications you seek in a worker, and even what type of culture the temp will encounter at your company. The more informed the agency is, the better it will be at supplying talented people who meet your precise needs. Indeed, if you develop an ongoing relationship, you will have found an apt substitute for the in-house human resources department that you can't afford.

Next, be sure you work within the parameter that mandates that the agency, and not your company, is the temp's employer. This modus operandi is actually of enormous benefit, as you don't need to be concerned, as you do with full-time employees, with the mechanics of hiring, training, and promoting. Nor do you deal with the ramifications of ugly legal hassles that could arise if things don't work out with the temp.

The danger, however, is the natural inclination to consider temps employees. At Imprimis Group, to counter this tendency, we advise companies to refrain from 10 practices. Don't train, negotiate pay rates or paid time off, don't include temps in company-only functions, don't describe job opportunities. Don't, in short, treat them like employees. We'll do that, we tell them, that's our job. We'll even do the background and criminal checks. You're free to focus on keeping them on task at your company.

DOING RIGHT BY TEMPS. What you do, as well as don't do, is of equal importance, and that boils down to treating temporary workers, not as proverbial pariahs, but as human beings. Having secured a temp for a targeted job, be sure to welcome that individual to your company. It's a good idea to have an orientation session, especially to explain even to otherwise skilled temps how to do things "your way."

Make introductions, take the person on a tour of the office, and provide the name of a contact to field questions. Then get out of the way, and let the temp do the job.

In short, take that middle ground. Neither employee nor pariah, your temp truly becomes an associate from whom you and your company can reap enormous benefits at a reasonable cost. Learn the rules for retaining these workers, follow those rules, and you will have gained a critical asset.

Valerie Freeman founded Imprimis Group, a placement agency based in North Dallas, in 1982, and currently serves as chief executive officer. With annual revenue of more than $20 million and 100 employees, the firm has 800 to 1,700 workers, or "associates," placed at any given time with about 1,500 employers. About half of its clients are entrepreneurial enterprises. Its associates handle jobs that span the white-collar spectrum, including clerical and administrative, technological, creative, and professional.

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