Onboarding temporary employees: techniques for happier staff and faster value

By Robert Half on 26th July 2018

Temporary employees hired through temp agencies act as a powerhouse to help obliterate large workloads or to fill the gaps in your hiring plan. Because they aren’t permanent members of the team, some employers may delay start dates or skip onboarding processes which might otherwise produce far better staff performance.

Vincent Brown, Robert Half Vice President of temporary staffing for the UK, shares his onboarding tips for faster value, happier staff and better output.

1. Don’t wait to get temporary employees in

Our recommendation is to get your temporary staff member in immediately. We offer a working interview as standard process, in which the candidate works for a day and then we would assess how that candidate has performed at the end of the day. “It gives you immediate value because we’ve already done the background checks, as well as meeting the candidate face to face,” says Vincent Brown.
The individuals that are available for temporary work can often start right away. “We’ve found in the past that if the start date is delayed by a week or two, candidates may take another opportunity which offers immediate work because they still have bills to pay. Our recommendation is to get them in as soon as possible, so they can add immediate value.” 

2. Make them feel welcome

Sometimes a candidate can feel isolated going into a new office when they don’t know anyone, so it’s important to make sure that you introduce them to other members of the team. “It’s the little things, like offering them a drink when they come in, introducing them to others who sit around them and making sure they know where the facilities are. Candidates who feel happy and part of the team have increased levels of productivity.” 

They’re also more likely to want to stay and see out the full duration of the placement—“there are lots of temporary placements out in the marketplace, so if they aren’t happy, they could be tempted to jump ship,” added Brown. 

3. Train them like they’re a permanent member of staff

Normally, clients are resistant to extensive training for temporary employees because they don’t want to end up training two people—the temp and a new permanent staff member.

“One of the things we’ll often say is that they’re going to have to train somebody, so rather than allowing a backlog, get a temporary employee in and train them up as you would a permanent member of staff. They can then become part of the training/hand-over process for a new person coming in,” says Brown. 

Ultimately, the reason we’re sending in a temporary employee is to add immediate value, so we account for any training time by trying to match the candidates’ skills and their ability to pick things up quickly. We don’t always want you to feel like you have to go through a full process. 

Did you know? Every registered candidate with Robert Half has access to our free online learning platform of over 8,000 courses, so we may be able to help with any necessary training too.

4. Have someone they can shadow

“Often when we take a job description from a client, they specify that candidates should be proficient in certain systems. When the candidate arrives for their first day, the client may assume they’re fine to start right away, without taking their own bespoke system enhancements into account,” comments Brown. 

With this in mind, it’s important for individuals to have someone they can shadow for part of the day in case they have any questions. We’d recommend assigning them to someone who is a morale enhancer, or someone that you know is quite receptive to questions. 

5. Check in regularly

We often find that temporary staff members aren’t reviewed very often throughout the day—they’re set a piece of work and aren’t looked in on until the end of the day, whereas several ‘mini checks’ might help them settle in far better.

Transactional work can often cause a loss of morale among temporary employees, so it’s also good to make the time to ask how they’re feeling and to check if they’re happy

6. Don’t forget to outline company basics

Businesses can be in such a hurry to onboard temporary staff members that they forget to go over the basics, like information about the company and business etiquette. Things like mobile phone policy, dress code, working hours—things you would go through with a permanent person. 

Temporary employees are going into a new environment and don’t know anyone, so the small touches really help increase productivity. Invite them out for a drink on a Friday after work—“our happy temps are the ones who get invited to the Christmas party. If you’ve got someone who’s happy then they’re going to come back again and again”. 

7. Get an understanding of your temporary employee’s full skill set

Temporary staff members are often hired to come in and do one specific thing, when “a lot of the temps we provide can do so much more than that”. This can be capitalised on by simply sitting down with your temporary employee and getting an understanding of their skill set or asking what they feel confident doing outside of the initial remit. “They can also do more work for you if the day gets quieter, so you get more value from that placement,” concluded Brown.


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