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How to Reduce Temporary Worker Turnover

Hiring temporary, or contingent, workers has become an essential strategy for managing a successful workforce in many industries. Temporary workers typically work for a specified amount of time, or contract length. These workers can support a specific project, address seasonal shifts in demand, or even join your company for a long-term assignment that turns into a full-time position. Ultimately, the goal is to retain them for their entire shift or project, which isn’t always that simple.

At the end of the day, your bottom line depends on your employees. It is notoriously more expensive to replace someone than it is to retain one, even if they are a contingent worker.

How do you get high-quality temporary workers to stick around?

The key is to build that sense of attachment or belonging in the workplace. Help the temporary workers realize they’re part of the team.

What steps should you take to do that?

  • Pay enough: Don’t assume temporary workers expect less because their position is temporary. If you do, then you shouldn’t be surprised when they leave early. To keep a temporary worker for the entire project, you need to pay market-level wages, or even more. As of July 2021, we are amidst a seismic shift in which hourly employees are commanding significant wage increases. A workforce solution partner may have access to business intelligence tools that can inform you on the appropriate pay rate for your region, skills desired, and length of previous experience.
    The point of contingent labor is not to save money on wages. The point is to switch some labor costs from fixed to variable. This way, you can easily adjust your headcount when production demands increase without increasing your full-time employees (FTEs).
  • Start on the right foot: Day one is crucial in setting the tone for the work environment. First impressions are lasting impressions. Therefore, you should thank your temporary worker for showing up and let them know where they fit into the bigger picture. Introduce them to their coworkers. Give them a first-day tour of the office or facility. Explain the value their skill set brings to the overall goals of the job.
  • Set clear expectations: Just like with full-time workers, contingent employees benefit from understanding exactly what is expected of them. Take the time to review their job description, explain any performance or quota requirements, and go over workplace policies (breaks, call-offs, safety requirements, etc.).
  • Update your terminology: One of the simplest things you can do to improve the employee experience is by updating how you refer to temp workers. According to a survey conducted by Staffing Industry Analysts, the most popular preferences are to be called “consultant” (30%), “contractor” (30%), or “associate” (14%).
  • Create a mentor program: Try connecting each temporary employee with a full-time employee as a mentor. Your full-time employee will have their workload to complete already, so this shouldn’t be onerous. Encourage the mentor to extend a warm welcome and offer their assistance with any questions that arise to provide a positive impact and experience for the associate.
  • Create an incentive program: You can let the employee know at the outset that they’ll earn a monetary reward if they complete the assigned project or stay on the job for a minimum amount of time. Other successful programs include refer-a-friend and attendance bonuses.

Where do staffing agencies fit into this turnover equation?

Nearly all temporary workers get hired through a staffing agency, so how do you decide which agency is the best choice? You want to choose an agency that’ll provide quality workers who will stay for the complete assignment or project. No problem, right? All the agencies are pretty much the same.

Not true.

Most staffing companies have specific sectors or industries that they tend to serve more than others. Make sure to choose a partner with a breadth of experience in your vertical. When vetting options, ask detailed questions about their past experience with the roles you’re looking to fill. You should also evaluate their core values and approach. You want a partner who will put your relationship above the transaction, one who will provide value-added advice, data, and services.

Once you’ve determined an agency has experience filling the exact type of positions you’re looking for and a good service mentality, here are some questions to ask the agency:

  • How have you worked with other companies to manage turnover? What you don’t want in response is something like, “We’ve never thought of that before.” They don’t necessarily need a fancy program, but they should show they’ve worked with other companies to address the issue.
  • Tell me how your screening process surfaces the best applicants in the shortest amount of time. The best employees are going to be selected fast, so screening should be adequate and timely.
  • Tell me about a time you resolved a worker problem. This question is known as behavioral interviewing. The answer should provide verifiable and concrete evidence to solving the problem.
  • How do you stay in contact with active associates? A successful agency doesn’t stop working with a candidate once they begin their contract. The best ones will continually be in contact with workers to find out how the assignment is going, answer questions, and even congratulate them on certain milestones. These small touches go a long way in reducing turnover.

Remember, you’re not looking for a vendor. You’re looking for a partner.

How can you work with a staffing agency to reduce turnover?

Make sure you’re on the same page in how you view contingent labor—and make sure the workers understand as well: temporary workers are just as important as permanent employees. Each one brings specific talents to the task. It’s an easy trap to fall into to think that churn is just the nature of the temporary staffing business.

When you choose Nesco Resource, you’re choosing a staffing partner that will help keep associates at your company for their complete assignment. We have deep experience filling engineering, IT, clerical, light industrial, accounting, and financial jobs. We know these verticals. Not only that, but we’re passionate about our approach: we make the personnel process personal. You’re not just a number or a means to an end, you’re a true partner for us.


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