I’m always amazed when employers accept sub-par performance from staffing agency employees and consulting firms. The reasoning is a belief that temporary workers lack the skills and abilities of “permanent” employees. The 80/20 rule kicks in. If the temporary worker or consultant can do 80% of the job, that’s good enough to keep things moving forward. An employee can pick up the slack. It’s not worth investing time training a resource that will leave. It’s a band aid approach.
My question is why don’t employers expect more from an agency worker or consultant? Shouldn’t a person who has been working as an interim resource or consultant grasp new concepts quicker than the average worker? Through their experiences, they’ve worked on multiple ERP systems, worked in different industries and navigated a number of challenging work environments. In my opinion, being a quick (and eager) learner should be a prerequisite. They should even be able (expected?) to tactfully suggest improvements to current processes.
Not all employers tolerate a drop off in skills or accept mediocre performance. What makes them different from their peers? What are some of the tactics they employ to ensure they get what they pay for? Here are my observations:
1) Don’t take an agency recommendation at face value. Get involved in the screening process. Insist
on interviewing potential interim resources before the agency sends them. Ask specific technical
questions. Bring in the employees that will be working with them closely to get a feel for
2) Insist on the same pre-employment screens you would for a direct hire. Background checks and drug
screens should be mandatory for temporaries and contractors if you apply that same standard when
screening direct hires.
3) Once the decision to move forward with the candidate has been made, make sure a suitable work
station and all the appropriate logins/sign-ins are ready to go on day one. Obviously they can’t work if
they don’t have access, but you also risk creating a feeling of isolation. To get the most out of interim
resources, the best companies effectively blur the line between employees and interim resources. Give
them the same time allotment and level of respect. In best case scenarios, an outsider wouldn’t be able
to tell the difference without being told. Build team unity.
4) Communicate your expectations before they begin. A three month probationary period for a staff
accountant on a temp to hire plan. A one month assignment to write a specific management report.
A one year plan to reduce supply chain through put time by 30%. If there are no clear expectations,
how will you (or the interim resource) define success? Provide feedback. Communicate. Don’t allow
projects and milestones to drift.
A little due diligence can go a long way in making the project/engagement a success. Do what you can to ensure you are getting the right resource. Most of all, consider changing your mindset from “good enough” to “exceeds expectations”.