Imagine owning a restaurant and preparing for a Saturday night, expecting a large crowd, but no one comes in. Business is slow and it turns out there was a festival in another town that drew away the normal traffic. All the prepared food is wasted and, even worse, your staff is just sitting around. But what about that Monday afternoon when you're not expecting any business and two busloads of tourists show up, ready to fill 40 or 50 tables?
It's hard to always perfectly anticipate demand. When it does come, we want to jump on the opportunity, but when it's gone, we must to reduce our costs in order to sustain ourselves. One way to do this is through temporary staff. But will temps be available when you need them—and do they have the skills to do what you ask?
1. Set up systems that support temporary staff.
You can structure your business to succeed with temporary staff. The trick to this is simple: Just determine what basic work these individuals can quickly learn and master.
Let's continue with the restaurant example. If you decide you need to bring in a master chef, your food may suddenly taste differently, and the chef will have to learn all the recipes last minute, which may increase the likelihood of failure. But the employees that stock the fridge or clean the dishes could be replaced by anyone with minimal skills.
Consider creating systems that help individuals get trained quickly and easily. It can help them fill their roles as temporary staff. The less variability there is, the faster and more effective it can be.
2. Find the right people for temporary staffing.
Try to be on the lookout to hire temporary staff, particularly when you don't need them. A good rule of thumb is that for every position you need filled, advertise it to three people. So if you need 10 temporary employees one evening, you'll want 30 in your reserves.
When spreading the word that you're looking for temporary staffing, be clear about your objectives. For those who come on board, consider offering them basic training before putting them on a call system. They can then be contacted when a spot opens on a first-come, first-served basis.
The goal is to give potential staff a prediction for how long temp positions will run. If you know when your demand will increase, like a seasonal influx, consider notifying the temporary staff as far in advance as possible.
3. Identify the types of temporary staffing you need.
When you put out the request for temporary staff, understand that you may have a multiple-phase need. Sometimes, there is cause for immediate relief—you need someone on board suddenly to address an immediate spike of demand, like when the bus full of tourists showed up. Other times, you'll be able to predict the demand in advance, like tax attorneys whose services are more in demand during certain times of the year.
4. Become tech savvy and get on top of your systems.
There are plenty of apps that can automate your online schedules and call systems, among them are Fleetmatics, ServiceTitan, Humanity and AppointmentPlus.
Almost everyone keeps their smartphone on them nowadays and you can receive quick responses to requests for staff. You can help make it easier by hitting up their phones simultaneously. These apps will get you an automatic answer as to who can fill the temp position.
5. Pay your temporary staff 25 percent more than the competition.
Another underrated trick is simply paying better than everyone else. People who take on temp jobs often have several jobs but will prioritize whoever is paying better.
By bolstering and cutting your staff based on demand, you may save some money. Consider using this extra money to pay a premium. I usually follow the 25 percent rule. Whatever the industry standard is, I pay 25 percent more. It's unlikely that anyone else will top that, so your temp staff may give you their preferential treatment.
6. Support the team.
When temporary staff is with you, treat them like any other team member. These aren't substitute employees. They aren't secondary. They are playing a vital role in your business, so treat them as you would anyone else. Offer them the recognition they deserve, pay them well, and in return, realize you're offering them the flexibility to work on demand. If done correctly, this could end up being a win-win situation.
If your theoretical restaurant had employed temporary staff, not only could you have avoided losing money on Saturday night—you could have made more money on Monday with quicker service. Temporary staffing could be the solution for your real life business, too, giving you an edge in responding to the demand for your product.
Read more articles on hiring & HR.