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Strategies for a more reliable contingent workforce

This article originally appeared in Smart Business Magazine


Reliability in the workforce is one of the greatest challenges companies face in today’s world. The cost of employee turnover is significant, so businesses are always looking for ways to overcome this unnecessary expense. Companies can often reduce turnover by implementing key changes in how they hire, onboard and manage a temporary workforce, says Andrew Deutsch, ARM, Executive Vice President, Commercial Division, at Nesco Resource.

Smart Business spoke with Deutsch about how this approach can help you create a safer, more efficient work environment.

Is pay the best way to reduce turnover?

Ensuring pay rates are competitive is definitely a factor, but it’s not the only way to reduce turnover for contingent workers. According to an American Staffing Association survey, nearly 50 percent of contract workers said that their assignments were a means to a permanent position, 28 percent were looking for work experience and 24 percent were looking to improve skills. Understanding that the temporary workforce operates in tandem with the motivations of the workforce as a whole is an important first step in reducing turnover.

What are some keys to retaining temporary workers for a longer period of time?

Reducing turnover starts on day one with temporary workers. A personal greeting at the point of arrival sets the tone for the entire working relationship. A short orientation can be part of this greeting and should include, a tour of the facility and essentials such as the rest rooms, break rooms and/or cafeteria; an introduction to supervisors and co-workers; an outline of what type of work they’ll be doing; and any required safety information. You should also leave time for questions.

This is an essential time to convey information on company policies, culture, safety protocols and more. Even if this information is covered elsewhere in the process, it is a chance to ensure that temporary workers have everything they need to do their jobs efficiently and safely.

What are other common turnover pitfalls in how companies approach temporary workers?

Don’t leave temporary workers out. Team-building activities — birthday parties, regular staffing meetings, after-work gatherings — often leave out temporary workers. Inclusion at a very basic level can help them feel like part of the team. Even items like uniforms, T-shirts, hats and bags can help a temporary worker feel like part of the company.

It is also important to prep other workers upon the arrival of temporary employees. Explaining that they are part of the team and part of an overall growth strategy for the company can help set the tone for how these individuals are treated by the rest of the workforce.

Research has shown that two weeks is a make-or-break time for employee turnover. Employees that make it past the two-week mark have a sudden and significant drop in turnover rates. When you introduce incentive programs such as a bonus given after two weeks of work, the overall turnover rate drops by almost half. More significantly, that favorable turnover rate continues no matter how long the workers are assigned to that employer.

Is there any one thing companies can do to reduce turnover for a contingent workforce?

Often the difference between high turnover and low turnover is a conversation about what works. According to an American Staffing Association study, more than four out of 10 workers value schedule flexibility most in their current jobs — even more than pay and wage potential. By simply discussing the way that hours are structured, longer term relationships can be fostered that can help reduce turnover.

Attitude is key. If you view these key contributors as disposable, that is a pathway to high turnover. In the end, temporary employees are misnamed. Recent industry studies advocate using terms like contract workers or contractors; eliminating the ‘temp’ label altogether can make a difference. They are a part of many companies’ permanent growth strategy. Reducing turnover in this segment can be a way to trim expenses and add to the bottom line without expanding budgets.

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