Hiring a temporary employee seems simple, especially if you work through an agency that screens employees and handles both hire and termination paperwork. You may need someone to help during an extra-busy period or short-term absence of a full-time employee. Rather than ask current staff to work overtime, you decide to hire a temp. And, because the slot is not permanent, you don’t want to spend days or weeks vetting and selecting a perfect candidate. You decide to evaluate the employee while she is working for you.
But what can you expect from someone whose future with you is uncertain? How can you tell whether that person is right for your job?
Recently, I spoke with a manager who told me how he determined whether a temporary employee is going to be a keeper. He has hired people to handle temporary assignments (not temp-to-permanent jobs with the possibility of full-time employment) such as:
- order fulfillment during high-volume periods
- front-line interaction with customers on a contract basis
- administration during an employee’s medical leave
The signs of a quality employee are consistent even though the circumstances of the position differ.
Here are several traits to look for.
Impeccable attendance and punctuality. The temp who is a keeper has arranged his professional calendar and personal life to meet your specific requirements. He arrives on time each day that he is scheduled. If time off is needed during an extended assignment, he makes a request according to company policy, not casually mentioning needs on a whim.
A temp worker can embrace his obligations, even if you haven’t extended full-time, permanent employment. During your interview, be clear about attendance expectations. Explain that the time-sensitive nature of the assignment means that consistent attendance and promptness are critical.
A good hire learns quickly to apply what you have taught her to the job at hand. After an appropriate training and acclimation period, she can handle basic functions. Oversight above and beyond typical supervision is not necessary.
Determine a reasonable learning curve for a new hire, based on complexity of tasks and uniqueness of your company’s processes. Make sure the temp is thoroughly trained and be available to answer questions.
Work gets done. Soon after the training period is over, work is being completed according to company standards. That is, if orders are shipped on time or the project is on track, then the temp is performing well.
Create an environment that is unambiguous in terms of whether work is getting done. Define tasks, quality expectations and standards, and implement performance-measurement tools prior to bringing a temp on board.
Kudos from others. The worthwhile temp interacts well with other people, including customers, coworkers, and her direct supervisor. Her on-the-job demeanor is positive, as is her professional performance. People notice and share their observations because they are pleased that a temporary employee functions so effectively in a transitional environment.
While it’s true that you can observe a lot by just watching, you can also learn a lot by listening to those who have direct contact with the temp when you are not around. Pay attention to what colleagues and customers say.
Goes above and beyond. A motivated temp realizes that the more he knows, the more valuable he is. So, he is eager to learn more than is needed to complete basic tasks. Plus, he brings issues to your attention that others may not have noticed. His approach is not presumptuous, but demonstrates a desire for better understanding so that he can continue to work effectively.
Your job is not to develop the temporary employee into a valuable catch for another company. However, if the temp is getting the job done nicely yet strives for more, you may be able to use his questions, insights and suggestions to improve your company’s operations.
Thrives under pressure. His demeanor is steady, despite busy and stressful periods when you are ramping up in volume or the intensity increases. He doesn’t whine when things are hectic as he realizes that he was hired specifically to get your business through these times.
The temp who is a keeper is willing to put in the hours, and the physical and mental effort, to get the job done.
Check out more on temporary staffing issues and advice.
Julie Rains is a senior writer at Wise Bread, a leading personal finance community dedicated to helping people get the most out of their money. Get daily money tips by following Wise Bread on Facebook or Twitter.