Having spent 15 years running a labour-hire company, I have learnt a thing or two about temporary employees and how to use them successfully in your business.

The best time to think about using temporary workers and selecting the best agency to provide them, is actually when you don’t need them.  Every business owner has times when they struggle with staffing levels.  This may be for many different reasons, and to name a few:-

• Covering holidays
• Covering sick days or absenteeism
• Accidents
• A rapid increase in workload
• Planned training days
• Court duty
• Unforeseen emergencies
• Seasonal cycles in workload
• Looming critical deadlines
• Urgent deliveries

The agencies that provide the best temporary workers are those that take the time to get to know their clients, as well as their workers.  These agencies will send out a specialist Recruiter or Account Manager to meet with you and your team, to walk around your workplace and see the environment you provide for your employees and get a feel for your business.  This type of visit will almost never occur if you ring an agency for the first time at 7.00 am Monday morning, requesting a worker to start by 8.00 am.  So, if you are ever short of staff, don’t wait for the emergency, ring a few agencies now and start the selection process.

Here are a few things to look out for when making a decision;

• Try ringing afterhours. Do you get a message or a real person, and if a message, how quickly did someone get back to you?
• Do they offer to come and meet you in person?
• Do they ask about your approach to Health and Safety and do they have their own Health and Safety system?
• Do they have a specialist in your field of business?
• Are they quick to quote the price or are they more interested in getting full details on the job, so they can provide the best person?
• Did they have a list of workers to choose from?
• Do they make regular site visitors to check on the well-being of their workers?

There is a lot more you will most probably want to know, but the above pointers will help you sort our who is most likely to look after your needs best.

Equally as important is the temporary worker and the requirements on what you need.

• Be clear on the total task the temporary worker will need to complete.
• Is it a short-term job?
• Could the right worker be offered a full- time job with you?
• What risks and safety gear are needed?
• What sort of team will they be working with and who will train and supervise the worker?
• Are there any special conditions or requirements when working in your business?

Finally, a note on the workers themselves.  They will come from many backgrounds, with lots of unknown skills and various reasons for choosing temporary work.

• Treat them like your own staff.
• Buddy them up with someone who knows the job and wants them to stay and help out.
• Involve them as much as possible in your business and let them see why you need their help.
• Look for those that are keen to learn and have a great attitude. Your next employee could come from the temporary workers you use.

So, to finish, if you think you may need help, go out now and start the process.  Then plan for the emergencies by working with your chosen agency.  Look after the temporary workers that are supplied, and provide the best working conditions you can, so they will want to come back and work for you again and again.

Craig Henwood – Christchurch and South Canterbury

The Alternative Board - Owners Have You Ever Considered Using Agency Staff or Temporary Staff?