Hiring Temporary Employees: Read This First

When your small business needs extra hands on deck during busy times, are you relying more and more on temporary employees to fill the bill? You’re not alone. NBCnews recently reported that the trend toward temporary employment is becoming a permanent feature of the U.S. economic landscape.

Temporary Employees

The number of temporary employees has increased by more than 40 percent since 2009, to about 2.53 million Americans, according to figures cited in the article, which focuses on bigger companies hiring temps, then letting them go when needed so they can operate “lean and mean.”

That system may work for major corporations (if not for the temporary employees), but how do temporary workers work out for small businesses? If you’re considering hiring temps, here are some factors to consider:

  • Cost. Carefully consider the cost of hiring temporary workers, keeping in mind that some of their wages go to the temp agency. Know the going rate for the jobs you are hiring for in your area, and consider whether bringing on a part-timer (with no benefits) might be cheaper than hiring a temp.
  • Convenience. Of course, sometimes (like when a sudden crunch hits your business) it may be worth spending extra money to have a temp agency find a qualified worker for you, handle payroll and paperwork and otherwise take hassles off your hands.
  • Training. Know how much training the position requires. Is it the type of job where a qualified temp can be shown their desk, given a computer and immediately get to work? Or will it require learning your specific systems and processes? Consider whether the time needed to get temps up to speed outweighs the convenience they offer.
  • Quality. Working with a temporary agency you trust is important. I’ve had situations where temps showed up one day and disappeared the next. When you’ve got deadlines to meet and your temps drop the ball, you may wish you had a regular employee to pick up the slack.
  • Your employees. Are your regular employees spending too much of their time training, initiating and helping struggling temps? Be careful bitterness doesn’t build if employees feel they’re putting in extra time but getting nothing in return. Relying too heavily on temps can also leave your team feeling like there’s no room for advancement at the company.
  • Your customers. If your business is relationship-focused or your customers require lots of hand-holding, putting temps in customer-facing positions can send the wrong message. An inexperienced temp who handles one key client the wrong way can cost you far more than you saved by hiring him or her.

I may sound like I’m badmouthing the temporary employee concept. Far from it—I have relied on temps many times. And I understand small business owners’ reluctance to hire full-time workers they might have to let go.

Temps can be a great way for a small business to staff up or down on an as-needed basis. But if you expect temps to be a panacea for your staffing and budget woes, you might need to look more closely at all your options.

Do you use temps in your business? How is it working out for you?

Temp Employees Photo via Shutterstock


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

6 Reactions
  1. Like most things, the success of temporary employees depends largely on the situation and the company. I’m sure there are places where temps are indispensable (for awhile) and places where they’re more hassle than they’re worth.

  2. This is a good post highlighting the pitfalls that one might face when deciding whether to hire a temp for their business.

    I only hire temps for non-essential or non-urgent administrative tasks that doesn’t require a lot of training such as data entry.

  3. If a company is in need of extra assistance with jobs that don’t require the individual to be onsite, another very viable option is to hire a Virtual Assistant. Many virtual assistants, like myself, have strong business knowledge and skills that can be used in many different areas of a business. The best part is, you use and pay them only for what you need and the actual time they are performing work. If a company establishes a strong relationship with a qualified VA, that VA comes to know that business and can be a great ‘go-to’ whenever there is a need, thus eliminating the revolving door of temps that constantly need to be trained.

  4. My husband and his fellow co-worker were just laid off from his permanant mechanical desiging jobs. They were told that there is not enough designing work to keep them busy, but they felt like they were busy everday. My husband saw the owner interviewing temps to replace them. He thinks the company will save money over the long run. We wonder how much training it will take for them to be up to speed.