Temps take hold  at Canadian firms

Pressures to cut costs and the demand for a more agile workforce able to respond to a company’s shifting needs are changing the face of the corporate workplace.

While companies are faced with an increasing number of “footloose” young tech-savvy professionals, hiring experts report a growing number of Canadian firms appear to show preference for temporary workers.

For instance, a recent survey of Canadian executives indicated that a majority of businesses are including allocation for interim employees into their strategic budgeting.

“More and more, companies are using temporary employees not just as a stopgap measure but as part of their long-term planning efforts,” said Nancy Tethmeyer, director of the Calgary division of OfficeTeam, a specialized administrative staffing agency.

She said more than 76 per cent of executives polled by OfficeTeam incorporate temporary employees into their overall staffing budget.

Hiring temps permit companies to avoid expenditures such as salary increases and benefits while facilitating prompt adjustment of staffing levels to suit demand and reduce the burden on full-time employees, Tethmeyer said.

Project-based assignments contribute to the growing demand of temporary employee, according to executives of a Toronto-based IT staffing firm.

“We’ve seen a more than 30 per cent increase in the demand for temporary staff in the last 12 months-that’s higher than any requirements we had back in the Y2K days,” says Terry Power, president of CNC Global Ltd.

He said Canadian firms still deploy temps for emergency purposes, but are “increasingly hiring for long term and project-based assignments.”

Short term stints run up to about six months while long-term positions generally last nine months or more.

Power and Tethmeyer said the pool of highly skilled professionals seeking temporary placement has also increased.

Among the primary challenges for companies deploying temporary staff is finding the right fit and making sure they are able to “hit the ground running,” according to Chris Drummond, vice-president of marketing for CNC Global.

Among the primary challenges for companies deploying temporary staff is finding the right fit and making sure they are able to “hit the ground running,” according to Chris Drummond, vice-president of marketing for CNC Global.

“To maximize the cost advantages of temporary staff, you need to find the qualified talent and set the stage for them to deliver results as soon as possible,” he said.

To accomplish this he encourages firms to diligently research for staffing firms that are equipped to handle their needs. Next, company human resources personnel and managers who need the temp staff must make a list of required skills sets and attributes based on factors such as job demands, assignment and workplace culture.

“A clearly defined wish list and mission goals will help streamline the process and assure a better fit,” said Power.

“On-boarding” is the term CNC uses to describe the process of familiarizing a newly hired temp to the workplace. While the higher quality of interim employees has reduced the need for extensive training, companies can still help in easing and shortening the adjustment period.

Power suggests companies allocate needed workspace and equipment well before the help arrives and alert IT administrators and building security for the need to set up facility and network access and passwords.

New hires should also receive a brief orientation on rules and regulations as well a company and team expectations. “There’s no need for the grand tour, but temporary employees need to be introduced to the people they will be working with, know the team mission and what is expected of them.”

In some instances, a “welcome kit” containing security badges, passwords and materials on regulations and procedures or emergency numbers might help.

Temporary employment need not mean goodbye to job security, says Tethmeyer of OfficeTeam.

“Interim workers should always look at temporary assignments as an on-the-job interview,” she said.

Be alert and prepare to shine and do your best on your assignment, she said. Temporary positions can be a valuable source of education, training and even professional references. A large number of temporary projects get extended or eventually lead to permanent positions.

“Some companies use temporary assignments as a way of evaluating prospective full-time employees,” Tethmeyer said.

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