This holiday season temporary hires in the U.S. are expected to surpass 800,000, the most since 1999 and two and a half times the 2008 numbers. This is according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a leading outplacement consulting firm. They observe that as the economy improves, retail sales go up and our dependency on temporary workers increases.

The increase in temporary hires presents an opportunity for companies to help these new workers, in a very short time, become valued contributors to the workplace. This is not an easy task and the beliefs and worries of managers often get in the way of this happening. Managers say to themselves:

  • "Temps are a necessary evil. They aren’t reliable and they can’t be trusted but we need the bodies."
  • "We don’t have the staff to train temps, especially now, when we are so busy."
  • "I don’t want to give them too much. They will leave and take the information and skills to a competitor."

The attitudes reflected in these statements are setting up these workers for failure. And that will be a waste of resources that no organization can afford. Temps, as well as independent contractors, contingent workers, and free-lancers, are often the face of the company to its customers. Especially if they are selling products and services, their effectiveness on the job can make the difference between being profitable or not.

Contingent workers who are not trained and supported by their managers will create a negative atmosphere in the workplace. If they are not happy and not engaged, if they are angry and complaining, this will affect the attitudes of all employees. Also, temporary workers are a great source of future employees, so you want to give them every opportunity to learn and succeed.

Unfortunately, temps have not been contributing as much as they could to the overall success of business. They are not allowed to apply their knowledge and skills fully to the work of the organization. They are marginalized and ignored by full-time employees. They aren’t given the training they need to be safe and successful on the job. They aren’t encouraged to become engaged in their work and the organization.

If you want temporary employees to have the best interests of the company in mind, effectively complete essential tasks, some which require substantial knowledge and skill, and strive to do their best, then these workers need to be given every opportunity to do their best work for the good of the organization.

Here’s 5 things you can do (adapted from 5As Framework) to get the most from your temporary workers:

  1. Alignment – help them understand how doing their job contributes to the success of the team Workers at computerand the organization as a whole
  2. Anticipation – clearly state your expectations for them; have high but reasonable expectations; and make sure they have reasonable expectations for themselves
  3. Alliance – engage their managers in helping them be successful; give those managers a role in the learning and performance improvement of temporary workers
  4. Application – provide immediate opportunities for temps to practice and apply newly learned knowledge and skills
  5. Accountability – measure performance to temps and give them constructive feedback on how they are doing and how they can improve

Companies can’t afford any longer to have workers, even if only temporary, who are not engaged in their jobs, who are not properly trained, and who don’t understand the mission and goals of the company. Rather, they need contingent workers who are excited about being there and will give their best effort.

Some people do temp work for the money, some for experience, some want to learn about that business, and some just want something to do over the holidays. Regardless of their motivation, they should be treated with dignity and respect and given the opportunity to learn and to contribute value to the organization.