June 10th, 2022 | Steve Smith, President of International

Keeping temps engaged in a competitive landscape

Gig worker courier delivering food

The skills crisis being faced by many employers around the world is understandably creating a cause for concern. News reports are rife with the resourcing challenges facing sectors from healthcare, technology, and digital, through to logistics, hospitality, and catering. Last year, we saw the impact that this dearth of talent can have on business continuity, with the UK’s fuel crisis just one such example of how resourcing struggles can impact companies and the general public alike.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all long-term solution to this issue, what we have increasingly seen is an uptick in the reliance on temporary workers to fill resourcing needs. Firms that have historically leaned heavily on permanent resources, shifted their focus to temps and gig workers as skills shortages expanded. Of course, that’s not to say that this is a negative step. As HR teams have long known, flexible resources have their benefits, from the ability to scale headcount up or down as required to filling immediate or temporary gaps quickly. But engaging this workforce is no easy task.

Juggling multiple requirements

When it comes to attracting individuals from the temporary workforce, employers will face a myriad of challenges. Filling a permanent position will be a lengthy process, but once filled, the individuals will, in general, remain in that role for a significant period of time. With temps, though, the turnover of these resources is understandably high, as they come and go with project start and completion timeframes.

As such, HR teams will face repetitive tasks, including attraction strategies, contract development, employment screening, and on-boarding. This can understandably become cumbersome for already over-stretched HR teams. However, we can’t overlook the fact that the flexible workforce isn’t just becoming more of a utilised resource for businesses; the number of professionals choosing to become part of the gig movement is also increasing.

Before the pandemic, we were already seeing individuals moving into flexible, contract, gig, or temporary employment options as they sought to have greater control over their own working requirements and hours. As Covid struck, forcing some onto long-term furlough and putting others out of a job, there was a significant spike in individuals re-thinking how they work and ultimately taking matters into their own hands by going down the temp or gig route. This trend is showing no signs of slowing and HR teams are finding that they simply have no choice but to engage with the temporary workforce and alter HR processes to ensure they can do so strategically and compliantly.

Keeping engagement high

While the flexible workforce certainly presents a number of compliance challenges – with multiple right to work (RTW) checks and employment screening potentially required for roles – there’s a particular issue that firms are facing: keeping these highly skilled professionals engaged. With competition for the best resources high, businesses face not only attracting these professionals in the first place, but also keeping them engaged, motivated, and loyal during the recruitment process.

For temporary workers, the very nature of their job is to be flexible and adaptable. If they’ve agreed to work with your business, but haven’t heard from you in a while, are stuck in the administrative pipeline that new hires often face, or are battling with the employment screening process that’s in place, they could quite easily be poached by another business.

Processes are, of course, difficult to evolve at speed without compromising on quality and safety;, however, quite often temporary worker engagement can be achieved through simply instigating a robust communications strategy. Ensuring they have one touchpoint throughout the screening process, giving them a clear line of communication for any queries they may have, regularly updating them on the next steps, and explaining up front what the process is and why it has been designed that way are all ways to keep professionals loyal to your brand.

We also can’t overlook the fact that these individuals aren’t just potential recruits for the current job needs of the business; they could potentially be the perfect resource for future projects or even the ideal candidate for a permanent position, should they be open to this in the future. But if they have a bad experience in your hiring process, they are unlikely to want to return, should the opportunity arise.

HR teams that are engaging with temporary workers in a competitive talent landscape will face a number of barriers, but the benefits certainly outweigh the challenges. It’s important to remember that time is money for these individuals and if they feel that their time isn’t being utilised to its full potential in the hiring or screening process, they will go elsewhere. Having a set-up that utilises the right mix of technology as well as the human element that will ensure that temporary workers are kept engaged, informed, and can easily submit the required documentation to a potential new employer, will pay dividends to HR teams as the skills crisis remains.


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