Temp Workers Are Less Reliable – True or False?

FALSE!  While it may be intuitive to conclude that temp workers are less reliable than W2 wage-earning counterparts within any organization, (after all, the word “temporary”does appear in their official employment classification) upon closer inspection it is revealed that this is not the case.  Let’s examine how “temp”workers developed a reputation for poor reliability and how this characterization is disproved.  Let’s also look at the characteristics of the organization wherein contingent labor is completely reliable.

Temp labor today is far from what it was when the practice first became popular among retailers who wanted to meet holiday demand.  The positions were accepted by workers who fully understood the arrangement – seasonal work for some extra pocket money.  Accelerated by globalization beginning in the 1990s, the utilization of temporary contract workers, as well as independent contractors grew into a widely accepted business practice. The cost savings and flexibility yielded for businesses was undeniable.

Yet, as the practice grew in popularity, abuse of these resources inevitably followed.  Temp labor was in some cases used as a way to sidestep tax liabilities and the provision of benefits in accordance with federal and state regulations.  It was in this early period of temp usage that the reputation of the unreliable temp worker was established.  Temp workers’attitudes towards their employers mirrored the regards the employers paid to their temp workers.  That is to say that many employers viewed temps as an “expendable”and eminently replaceable “human resource”.  There was no implicit loyalty on either side of the equation.

IRS worker classification guidelines and unprecedented global economic changes in the 2000s transformed the way industries looked at temp labor. In order to remain competitive with emerging economies in countries in Asia, Europe, and South America, a more sophisticated approach to staffing grew in prominence.  Companies looked to solution providers –groups of HR, labor, and staffing experts –to help them determine the most effective mix of full time employees, contingent workers, contractors, and ICs to achieve their business goals.  Those organizations that were able to achieve the elusive balance between all these labor types were able to achieve serious competitive advantage and profitability.

 Yet, there were still many organizations that viewed non-employee labor as second-class workers.  Efforts of successful workforce management solution providers educated organizations on how to leverage non-employee labor in ways that maximized the effectiveness of the strategy.  Best practices included:

  • Clear pathways for conversion to full time positions (where appropriate)
  • Honest disclosure of positions that have no pathway to conversion
  • Increased outreach to contractors, extending the positive benefits of the cultural environment without crossing classification lines
  • More equitable tenure arrangements
  • Opportunities for remote work/telecommuting

Overall, the fabric of the modern workforce includes all classification of non-employee worker to an extent never before seen.  The organizations that go out of their way to welcome and encourage this new class of “free agent”worker are the ones yielding the optimal results from their workforce strategy.