The latest labor data indicates that in the current economic recovery, temporary workers have become a permanent fixture in many companies. The New York Times reports that …

…there are signs that this time around, the economy could be moving toward a higher reliance on temporary workers over the long term…This year, 26.2 percent of all jobs added by private sector employers were temporary positions. In the comparable period after the recession of the early 1990s, only 10.9 percent of the private sector jobs added were temporary, and after the downturn earlier this decade, just 7.1 percent were temporary.

Temporary workers can no longer be thought of as tangential to organizational performance. They often are the first person to whom customers have contact, they become key members of ad hoc project teams, they sometimes offer expertise that can be found nowhere else in the company, and some have a longer history with the organization than many so-called permanent employees.  

As I have written before, temporary workers have become critical members of our organizations and, therefore, we need to pay attention to their on-boarding and development. Very quickly, a company needs them to acclimatize, contribute, and be team players. There’s no time for a gradual learning curve. Typically, the hope is that they will hit the ground running, whether on the front desk or on a new product team.  Yet, at the same time, a poorly prepared, low performing, poor attitude employee (temp or permanent) can have a devastating impact on work climate and team performance. Examine and continually improve the process of hiring, training, developing, and retaining temporary workers much as you would for permanent employees.