How to take control of your temporary workforce

Jon Milton
9 March 2016

One thing that often happens with temporary staffing is what start as temporary roles end up continuing indefinitely, exceeding the original financial commitment because there is no effective review mechanism in place at the end of the agreed contract term.

It’s common for temporary staff to be ‘kept on’ or ‘found extra work’ as they are deemed essential by the team around them and they become anomalies within the organisation. Without any system or process to effectively review the contract it can overrun, causing considerable, unplanned expenditure.

The temporary staffing review process doesn’t have to be onerous but it does need to take place in line with the duration of the contract. For example, if your original reason to hire is short-term or for seasonal demand, then frequent reviews are needed to assess if this demand still exists and if the worker is meeting productivity targets. If not, you may need to exit the worker and replace them. Or, if your cover is for a permanent worker on sick leave, then the review process should take place when the permanent worker returns. Following this review, the next step is to make the decision to extend the assignment or exit the temporary worker.

The reality is not every assignment will go according to plan; sometimes projects need to be extended and the temporary worker will need to remain in place for longer. Also, a temporary worker may be considered to be an asset to the business based on their experience and the quality of the work they have undertaken. It may be perfectly reasonable to extend their time in the business. But this should be classified as a new assignment as the demand need would be different with a new set of deliverables.

In my experience, as long as the review of the original decision is taken and a justification for the new demand is demonstrated, then approval for the extension should be given. But if the justification can’t be made, then the worker should be exited from the assignment.

As with the core assignment approval process, it is important the process for extending or exiting assignments is communicated throughout the business. This is necessary to prevent the cases when it is clear that assignments have been extended for less legitimate reasons. For example, we often find a business has temporary assignments in place with tenures of several years. When questioning the line manager, it becomes clear the original need for the temporary worker no longer exists. Often, the line manager wanted to offer the temporary worker a contract but this wasn’t allowed, so the temporary contract was extended many times. In these instances the demand costs to the business are extremely high.

This process can be undertaken by a centralised team with responsibility for temporary worker assignments and extensions. In others it will be a devolved decision making process to each business unit manager. What matters is that all managers understand the process they need to follow to get new assignments authorised and review, extend or exit assignments.

To ensure you get the best performance and cost effectiveness out of your temporary staffing requirements it’s vital the end of assignment review and exit processes are as rigorous as those at the outset.

Jon Milton is business development director at Comensura

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