This article first appeared in IMPO's August 2013 issue.
In a recent article by the Associated Press (“Temporary Jobs Are Becoming a Permanent U.S. Fixture”), AP Economics Writer Christopher S. Rugaber describes the hiring explosion that is taking place in the U.S.: temporary workers. Surprisingly, 12 percent of those with a job are temporary workers, and hiring of temps has jumped 50 percent since the recession ended. And though the temporary worker has never been a stranger to manufacturing, where seasonal or short production runs sometimes demand a flexible workforce, our industry is still seeing an uptick in their use: About one-third of temporary workers work in manufacturing, says the AP.
As the rise in temporary workers continues to affect our industry, it’s important that plant managers have a strategy for managing this new crop of personnel. Many plant-wide initiatives, like a strong safety culture, for example, are grassroots efforts that come from the ground up. They succeed through repetition and camaraderie; through consistent training and knowledge of and respect for the equipment in use. When an organization has a glitch in its safety culture, it’s not necessarily an easy fix so if you’re contending with a lot of new team members — or a lot of related turnover — it’s hard to understand how to define the underpinnings of morale and motivation.
And it can be even harder to address if these temporary workers don't feel (at least temporarily) at home. According to the AP article, temps “typically receive low pay, few benefits, and scant job security,” resulting in a less committed relationship between the firm and the worker. But the other side of this coin is that temporary or seasonal workers often transition well into permanent employment, if and when those positions become available. It’s management’s job to nurture these individuals and be able to adequately assess who will be strong candidates for longer term projects or full time positions, so it’s important not to view them as a less critical version of your regular, full time team.