Traditionally, temporary help firms have been useful when you
need a replacement for a full-time employee who is away from
work for vacation,
leave of absence, or illness. But temporary help may be what you
need to fill your more long-term needs.
If you do decide to use a temporary agency,
the Business Tools area contains
some helpful checklists
to help you screen an agency.
Pros of using temps. The trend toward using
temporaries and other nonregular employees is growing, with good
reason. There are several advantages to using temporary
employees in your business, including:
- Cost. You may save on payroll administration and
fringe benefits costs.
- Time. The temp agency recruits the employees and
sends you people with the qualifications you specify. Some
agencies may even train workers; for example, they may teach
them to use common word-processing or spreadsheet programs.
- No long-term commitment. If you're not sure whether
you have enough work to keep a full-time employee busy, try
a temp and find out.
- Less dependency on contractors. You may feel
uncomfortable being dependent on nonemployees if large
segments of your business are farmed out to independent
contractors, and temps may cost less than contractors.
With a temp, you do have the power to directly supervise the
- Possibility of hiring good temps, permanently. If a
particular temp worker seems to fit well into your business,
you can always offer to hire him or her as a permanent
employee. In this case, you avoid the risks of a
probationary period you'd normally have with a new hire.
The downside of temporary help. While temporary
employees do seem like a great option, they are not without
their disadvantages, including:
- Legal compliance issues. While some businesses may
think that hiring temporaries gets them out of having to
comply with employment laws, that's not always the case.
There have been instances where temporary help agencies and
the businesses where the temporary help worked were involved
in discrimination cases. In many cases, after a temp works
for you for one year, you'll have to offer him or her the
same employee benefits you offer your regular employees.
- Morale issues. Many businesses use what they call
temporary employees just as they would permanent employees,
except that the temps don't receive the normal fringe
benefits that permanent employees receive. When you have
temps who work 40 hours per week for months alongside
permanent employees who are receiving the benefits
associated with full-time employment, it can create employee
relations or morale problems.
- Compatibility. Not all jobs and businesses lend
themselves to using temporary workers, either because the
job requires a high or specialized level of skill or, in
some rare cases, because of union constraints.
So how do you go about getting temporary help? Well,
you can either hire temporary workers on your own, using some
standard recruiting methods such as advertising,
or you can use a temporary help agency. There can be problems
with recruiting people for less than full-time positions. Make
sure to target people who really want part-time work and not
those who really want full-time work but who take the part-time
positions hoping that they will develop into full-time
If you do use a temporary help agency, you must realize that
you're going to pay more for the convenience of having someone
else do the legwork. For example, for a worker who gets $6.00
per hour in pay from the agency, you may actually pay $8.00 or
$9.00 per hour for that employee. Nevertheless, for short-term
projects or situations where the worker will need a lot of
supervision (for example, receptionists, secretaries,
administrative assistants), temp agencies are a great
alternative. Consider other options (such as independent
contractors or part-time
employees) for long-term projects — it may end up being
When using temp agencies, be sure to structure
contracts in such a way that your liability is minimal. And
be sure to choose a reputable agency!