Between now and Christmas I expect the demand for temporary staff to increase significantly in the workplace.
Business demands, seasonal fluctuations and in some cases the arrival of swathes of University students looking for ways to earn extra cash adds fuel to the fire. In addition, many organisations do not want to make long term commitments in the current economic climate. As such temporary staff and contractors are invaluable to a range of industries.
The problem is how do you nurture loyalty and improve retention with employees who are only going to be with you for a couple of months, and in the same breath why try to nurture loyalty with these employees in the first place?
Let’s address the easy question first – Why create loyalty with temporary workers? In short you would be hard pushed to find an HR professional or business leader who does not see employee retention and loyalty as being key to organisational success. Loyal employees provide a cost saving in having to recruit and train new hires. Loyal employees help build company culture, they create loyal customers, and they can provide a significant return of investment if managed correctly.
How to build loyalty is the slightly tougher question. Firstly, it requires a change in mindset from host organisations. Companies need to reconsider what loyalty actually means to them. One thought is loyalty should no longer be measured by length of service, instead loyalty should be measured by employee engagement and dedication.
The traditional concept of loyalty where an employer provides a reward package in return for an employee’s best work and them staying with an organisation for their foreseeable working life has long died. Employees and employers are increasingly focused on their own interests and not a mutual arrangement.
Look at things another way, would you like someone on your team who has been traditionally loyal to the organisation by providing long service over a number of years and yet is not actually fully engaged. Or, someone who is dedicated to their work, has a positive impact to the organisation and yet will only be with you for a number of months. Most organisations would take the latter option and probably fight tooth and nail to extend the employees tenure.
So, this is the question when it comes to temporary or short-term employees and loyalty:
Are you providing the most compelling opportunity to win an employee’s loyalty?
If another organisation is providing a more compelling opportunity…guess where the employee ends up? Do not see it as disloyalty – see it as the employee moving for their best interests and the need for you to reflect on the question above!
So how do you up your game? The first thing I have observed and research backs it up – The employment relationship with temporary staff is often poorly managed. Too often the onboarding process, the communication levels, the training and the overall effort invested in short term staff is very different to permanent staff. I accept there would be a difference, but there should not be a such a huge gulf.
These differences can continue throughout a temporary employee’s contract. In short, the relationship with the host organisation is different compared to a permanent member of staff. Loyalty, engagement, enjoyment, a sense of belonging it is all cemented through relationships with line-managers, colleagues and those that surround us. If those relationships with temporary staff are different to others in the organisation…ask yourself why and what you think the outcome would be!
So this is the bit which is not rocket science – treat short employees fairly and comparably to permanent staff. Be fair in how reward and punishment is distributed. Foster supportive relationships, invest time in individuals and get to know them. Involve short term employees in meetings and briefs that ensure they learn how meaningful their work is to the organisation and their customers. Always give recognition for great work and provide development opportunities so new skills can be learned. These are the things which create loyalty.
On the flipside; when short term staff feel they have been mistreated by employers – not offered a permanent contract they were promised, not paid extra for working overtime requested of them, or not being given praise and rewards for their efforts – the employee performs worse, has greater job neglect and a higher intention to leave…their loyalty has been lost.
I don’t believe my blog has captured the full picture and anywhere near all the variables around short term employee loyalty, in fact it really has only touched on one aspect of it. What I have no doubt over is organisations need to reconsider what they mean when they discuss employee ‘loyalty’ and start thinking about employee ‘engagement’. I also think when working on improving employee ‘loyal’ organisations need to figure out if their offering creates loyalty or whether an employee will feel their interests are better met elsewhere.