Aaron Green’s firm Professional Staffing Group has provided nonprofits with short-term and long-term temporary staff support for more than a dozen years. He advises that as you read the following tips, keep in mind the varied ways that your organization works with temporary employees. And use the suggestions that best help you maximize the temporary hire experience for your nonprofit’s situation.
Provide a Job Description and Specific Expectations
Nonprofit organizations hire temporary employees for a number of reasons, including to:
- Help during peak work periods
- Bridge the gap between permanent staff
- Access specialized talent that might not exist in their organization
- Assess a person’s ability while they consider them for a permanent position
To ensure you get the best temp for the job, you need to be specific about the work to be performed and about your organization’s culture. For example, rather than telling a staffing agency you need administrative temp, be specific. For example, does your temp need to:
- Know certain software packages?
- Take transcription?
- Answer phones?
- Conduct research on the Internet?
List the skills required as well as the skills that would be “nice to have.” Also describe the dress code in advance to avoid embarrassing problems. Finally, think about the culture in your nonprofit and what type of person will best fit in.
Getting Your Temp Set Up
In addition to providing clarity about the specific job duties, be clear about how to do it. Just as you wouldn’t put a new receptionist to work without explaining the intricacies of the phone system, don’t expect a temporary employee to instantly understand your organization’s software, email or workflow processes.
- Give him or her tools to get the job done as well as an understanding of your expectations.
- During the initial training session, you should assign one person in your organization the responsibility for managing the temporary employee. In my career, I have gotten feedback from thousands of temps, and it is much too common to hear that a temp had no idea who he or she was supposed to report to at the client site.
- Provide a clear estimate of the amount of time you expect a task to require.
- After the initial training session, check in with the person frequently, and let him or her know where to turn with questions.
No Mother Named Her Child “The Temp”
This seems self evident, but I have witnessed employees who are introduced as “the temp” or who are left to blindly search for the file cabinet. The temp you paid to work for you is a person with his or her own strengths and insights. When you treat temporary employees like valued members of your team, they become more productive.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Set aside extra time at the beginning of a temporary’s assignment to help him or her get acclimated. The best way to flatten out learning curves and shorten ramp-up times for temporary employees is to give honest and appropriate feedback and to be sure new employees know where and how to get their questions answered in a timely manner.
There are some questions though that you will not need to answer for your temporary employee. Deciding in advance which issues to address directly with the temporary employee and when it’s appropriate to contact the hiring agency will help everyone avoid surprises and maintain a productive work environment.
Make Sure Your Temp Agency Earns Its Fee
Know when to involve the staffing agency. While the agency can’t supervise the temp’s day-to-day activities, they can - and should - deal with employment issues.
- The agency can help you eliminate problems. Is the temp showing up late? Is the temp doing a good job but struggling when interacting with one certain employee at your organization? Tell the agency. Many times the agency can fix the problem through communication with the temp.
- The agency can help you prevent problems. As much as possible, routinely communicate with the agency, even in the absence of a problem. Trust me, whatever time you spend communicating with the staffing agency will be repaid ten times over in the form of temps who best match your specifications, shorter search times and other efficiencies.
Can I have more money?
Sometimes temporary employees will ask you for a raise; this is an area where you definitely want to get the agency involved. Simply defer such requests to the agency as you do not want to be involved for two reasons:
- Setting pay rates could leave you vulnerable to claims of co-employment.
- Dealing with pay rate issues is no fun. Plus, you don’t have to because part of the service you get from a temporary staffing agency is to deal with issues like these.
The pool of temporary employees working at your nonprofit organization can be a great source to recruit from. This is one of the primary reasons that many clients utilize temps. It allows you to try out the person and see firsthand whether he or she has the right skills and fits your organization’s culture.
Sometimes temporary assignments start out with both the client and the candidate anticipating that the assignment is temp-to-hire. Other times a temp works in one capacity and impresses the organization so much that the temp is considered for an unrelated position. In either case, the same good advice applies: Treat the temporary employee as a prospective new hire, and perform some of the same activities you would if you were recruiting the person.
For instance, make sure he or she sees and hears about the key positive attributes of your nonprofit. Let the employee know you are impressed with his or her work and that you think he or she would fit your organization’s culture. I’ve seen occasions where a temp left a client assignment for a permanent job only to discover that the client would have been happy to hire the employee but just never mentioned it.
If you are interested in a temporary employee, be sure to involve the staffing agency, as they can and should be able to help you successfully hire the person according to your timetable. The agency will know the person’s salary requirements and, as an intermediary, will be able to ask questions you might be uncomfortable asking.
Hiring a temp has both financial and supervisory costs for your nonprofit organization; so you want to be sure to maximize the benefits. With some preplanning, solid supervision, and good communication with your temp and temp agency, you can be sure to utilize temporary employees most effectively. At the same time, you can help ensure that the temp has a valuable and enjoyable experience, (ed note) and you might just help to build the next generation of nonprofit leaders.
Aaron Green is founder and president of Boston-based Professional Staffing Group. He is also a member of the board of directors of the American Staffing Association. He can be reached at Aaron.Green@psgstaffing.com.