Finding the best temp worker for the job

Employer and agency need to provide whole picture to ensure right fit
By Greg White
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 05/04/2009

Finding temporary workers through a staffing agency is often a quick and financially viable solution to an employer’s staffing needs. But how can an employer ensure it is getting the best employee for the job? By asking the right questions and providing as much information as possible about the specific job requirements. 

When requesting temporary workers from a staffing agency, an employer should provide all relevant details about the nature of the position, including a description of the tasks, the number of workers required, hours of operation, location of the job site and duration of the work.

The employer will also need to provide the relevant health and safety information related to the job. It must fully disclose any potential safety risks associated with the tasks and work site and indicate any safety training, information, instruction and supervision provided to workers to address safety risks. If a task requires any form of personal protective equipment, such as steel-toed boots, the employer will need to indicate which items are needed and if they will be provided at the job site.

Access to a work site by public transportation is also a major factor in finding the best candidate. If a job site is not accessible by public transportation, the recruiter is required to find a candidate with her own means of transportation and a premium may be reflected in the pay rate.

Questions employers should ask agencies

While the staffing agency will have a number of questions for the employer to ensure it understands all aspects of the job requirements, an employer should, in turn, take the opportunity to ask the agency any questions. For one, it should inquire about the recruitment process (such as how the agency finds candidates and what screening tests it does to ensure their skills and knowledge are valid), required safety training for temp workers and agency policies (such as rebates for employees who don’t work out). Employers can also ask to see a potential worker’s resumé, along with a copy of any licensing or certification required for the job. And employers should inquire about the compensation and benefits provided to the temporary staff to ensure a higher calibre of workers.

Asking these types of questions will show an employer how the agency operates and give an indication of the quality of labour available. If important information about the job is overlooked, a candidate may not turn out to be the best possible fit, which could result in turnover and lost productivity — the last thing an employer wants.

Despite best efforts, a candidate may not be the best match when she arrives at the work site. If an employer is not completely satisfied with the worker, it can simply contact the agency and a new worker will be supplied to replace the existing one.

When requesting temporary workers through a staffing agency, employers should be prepared to enter into a contract with the agency that outlines the mutual agreement and responsibilities of both parties. The employer should fully understand the billing terms and conditions along with payroll-reporting requirements for workers supplied. As standard practice, when entering into a new contract with an agency, an employer should also be prepared to complete a credit application for the agency.

Since temporary workers are employed by the agency and not the employer, the agency is responsible for reporting all workplace injuries to the workers’ compensation board. Employers should note, in the event of a workplace injury, the agency must be informed as soon as the incident occurs to ensure adequate followup takes place. Employers and on-site supervisors should be prepared to work with the agency in completing all incident and accident investigations.

A temporary staffing agency can provide an employer with solutions for sick leave, long-term disability, maternity and paternity leave, peak-demand periods and new assignments. Using temporary workers for a project allows an employer to mitigate the financial burden by only paying for labour when needed. Staffing agencies have pre-screened candidates who are ready to go, which means an employer no longer has to interrupt operations to recruit the labour needed.

And a staffing agency can focus on finding the best possible candidate for the job, allowing more time for an employer and an HR department to focus their attention on core business issues.

Greg White is a human resources generalist with Atlantic Employment Services in Halifax, an HR and staffing solutions provider. He can be reached at or (902) 444-3305. For more information, visit

Temp Workers

5 benefits of flexible staffing

Many corporations are realizing the benefits of using a flexible staffing model and are beginning to build them into organizational structures. These companies are permanently staffing to meet the minimum requirements of the workload and then supplementing permanent staff at peak times with contingency staff. This practice enables companies to enjoy five distinct benefits:

Cost savings: Corporations save costs by directly reducing the fixed overhead associated with employees, such as benefits, equipment and facilities. Indirect cost reductions include the expense of complying with regulatory employment issues.

Market flexibility: By using flexible staffing, a company can respond more flexibly to competitive pressures. If business is booming, contingent workers can be added as needed to handle the extra work until the company is confident the business will sustain additional employment. If profits are significantly down, contingent workers can be easily removed without the loss of morale associated with permanent staff layoffs. If a company wishes to enter a new line of business with a minimum amount of investment and start-up time, contingent workers can be a quick, low-risk staffing alternative.

Specific expertise on an interim basis: If a company’s need for specific expertise is irregular, contingency workers can be a sensible alternative to hiring permanent staff who ultimately will be underutilized. Contingency workers used for this reason often provide cross-fertilization, introducing new working methods or new technologies the company might not have considered before.

Test drive: The U.S. National Association of Tempo­rary Services estimates one out of three temporary assignments leads to full-time work. Hiring a contingent worker can be an ideal strategy for determining an individual’s skills, knowledge and behaviours before hiring him on permanently.

Guaranteed minimum level of performance: If a company is not satisfied with the output of a contingency worker, it can replace that worker with someone else until it is satisfied with his performance.

Source: The Art and Science of Flexible Staffing, Drake International

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