If your business's staffing needs are seasonal -- for example, you need extra workers during the holidays or during busy production periods -- then temporary employees could be the answer to your problem. If the thought of a temp brings to mind a secretary, think again. The services and skills temporary help companies offer small businesses have expanded.
Today, some companies specialize in medical services; others find their niche in professional or technical fields, supplying everything from temporary engineers, editors and accountants to computer programmers, bankers, lab support staff and even attorneys.
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With many temporary help companies now offering specialized employees, many business owners have learned that they don't have to settle for low skill levels or imperfect matches. Because most temporary help companies screen -- and often train -- their employees, entrepreneurs who choose this option stand a better chance of obtaining the quality employees they need for their business.
In addition to prescreened, pretrained individuals, temporary-help companies offer entrepreneurs a slew of other benefits. For one, they help keep your overhead low. For another, they save you time and money on recruiting efforts. You don't have to find, interview or relocate workers. Also, the cost of health and unemployment benefits, workers' compensation insurance, profit-sharing, vacation time and other benefits doesn't come out of your budget since many temporary-help companies provide these resources to their employees.
How do you find the temporary-help company that best suits your needs? Call a few and ask some questions, including:
- Do you have insurance? Look for adequate liability and workers' compensation coverage to protect your company from a temporary worker's claim.
- Do you check on the progress of your temporaries?
- How do you recruit your temporaries?
- How much training do you give temporaries? (According to the American Staffing Association, nearly 90 percent of the temporary work force receives free skills training of some kind.)
- What benefits do you offer your temporaries?
- Should a temporary fail to work out, does the firm offer any guarantees? Look for a firm that can provide a qualified temp right away.
- How quickly can you provide temporaries? (When you need one, you'll usually need one right away.)
Also ask the company to provide references. Contact references and ask their opinions of the temporary help company's quality level, reliability, reputation, service and training.
Before securing the services of a temporary help company, also consider your staffing needs. Do you need a part- or full-time temporary employee? What are your expectations? Clearly defining your needs helps the company understand and provide what you are looking for.
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Defining the expected duration of your needs is also very important. While many entrepreneurs bring on a temporary worker for just that -- temporary work -- some may eventually find they would like to hire the worker full time. Be aware that, at this point, some temporary-help firms require a negotiated fee for "stealing" the employee away from them. Defining your needs upfront can help you avoid such penalties.
Because a growing number of entrepreneurs purposely use temporary workers part time to get a feel for whether they should hire them full time, many temporary help companies offer an option: temporary-to-full-time programs, which allow the prospective employer and employee to evaluate each other. Temporary-to-full-time programs match a temporary worker who has expressed an interest in full-time work with an employer who has like interests. The client is encouraged to make a job offer to the employee within a predetermined time period, should the match seem like a good one. According to the American Staffing Association, 74 percent of temporary workers decide to become temporary employees because it's a way to get a full-time job.
Last, but not least, before contracting with a temporary-help company, consider finding out whether it is a member of a trade association such as the American Staffing Association. This means:
- The company has agreed to abide by a code of ethics and good practices.
- It is in the business for the long haul -- meaning it has invested in its industry by becoming a member of its trade association.
- It has access to up-to-date information on trends that impact its business.