back to blog

Using Temporary Staffing to Retain Top Talent

temporary staffing

Temporary staffing holds more value than you may think. If you’re like most employers, you’ve struggled to attract and keep top talent for years. Those you’ve managed to keep through the Great Resignation, you certainly don’t want to let go of now. But the financials tell a different story, and economic fears only make that drum beat louder. Temporary staffing can help, but it may not be in the way you anticipate. Sure, you can replace workers with temps, but you can also supplement the great workforce you have, using temporary staffing to actually help retain your best employees.

Today’s Job Market

As the economy continues to fluctuate, employers are looking for ways to cut costs without sacrificing quality or productivity. It’s hard to beat the results of temporary staffing in this area. Research shows temporary workers can be valuable assets during times of economic uncertainty. In fact, companies that have turned to temporary staffing during past recessions report increased satisfaction and likelihood to recommend working with a staffing firm during those challenging times.

Businesses all over the world are trying to adjust to new norms. And when we say “new norms,” we mean a job market that is truly unlike anything we’ve seen before. As we grapple with economic uncertainty, job cuts and hiring freezes seem to be the order of the day, yet the worker shortage persists. What gives?

“There have been plenty of high-profile layoff announcements lately, from the likes of Inc. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. But they may prove to be outliers,” Bloomberg reports. “Almost three years after Covid-19 hit, companies around the world still complain that they can’t get the talent they need. They worry about labor shortages that will likely last beyond not just the pandemic, but the next downturn, too. Deeper forces, such as changes in population and immigration, are shrinking the pool of workers they can hire from. [So], despite weakening demand for their goods and services, many businesses are looking to retain or even add staff, rather than let them go — hoarding labor that they know they’ll need once the economy starts accelerating again.” 

The Role of Temporary Staffing

Temporary staffing can help companies survive turbulent times in more ways than one, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has the data to prove it.

The agency studied temporary staffing during the Great Recession from 2007 to 2009, “which gave rise to a massive loss of jobs in nearly every industry and the largest post-World War II levels of unemployment on record, barring the recent employment changes from the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.” Comparing what they found with data gathered from other recessions, they concluded that temp agencies add jobs several months before the overall labor market recovers from recessionary periods. In short, temporary staffing is a critical recovery tool for employers.

“When the economy expands, employers are able to ramp up quickly by using temporary workers until permanent staff are hired,” the study authors write. “Also, temporary help agencies offer flexible staffing, candidate screening, and the opportunity to try out potential hires before committing to a permanent employment contract. Conversely, when the economy contracts, flexible labor arrangements provided by temp agencies allow firms to scale down their operations readily and without the added expense of separation pay or having to let go of their best workers. For these and other reasons, temporary help jobs are widely viewed as an important port of entry to permanent employment from the candidate’s perspective and a flexible staffing tool for employers.”

How to Make It Work

So how else can temporary staffing help you recruit and retain your best workers during economic uncertainty? Let’s talk about backfilling first.

It’s been said that workers expect to be promoted every three years. That seems reasonable until you consider that the economic uncertainty due to COVID-19 has also lasted three years and counting. While you’ve been preoccupied with the ensuing drama, your top talent who stayed with you is likely getting antsy. An IBM study found employees who feel they cannot develop in the company and fulfill their career goals are 12 times more likely to leave the company. Take the opportunity to uncover how you might be able to upskill or promote these loyal employees while backfilling their previous roles. Backfilling is a great solution if money is tight (a poor hire can cost 30% of an employee’s salary). If the economy is a top concern, backfilling these roles with temporary workers can hold even more value.

Temporary staffing can also cure overhiring, which is the epidemic affecting large tech companies right now. (There’s a term for the recent overhiring-turned-layoffs trend. It’s being called—get ready for it: the “Great Regret.”)

“When that long-term career path isn’t obvious, or there’s a need for a huge headcount increase that may be seasonal, unpredictable, or outside the core business strategy, that’s when contingency staffing makes the most sense,” says Stephanie Grubbs, Regional Managing Director for The HT Group’s Staffing Division. “Using temporary staffing for sudden or seasonal rushes can help you fill your needs while your organization stays lean. Likewise, contract and temp-to-hire arrangements can help you ‘feel out’ unpredicted growth spurts.”

The way to make this strategy successful is to use a recruiting partner that puts process and quality first. Don’t cut corners on sourcing and screening candidates, and ask the staffing firm about their training support. Reputable full-service firms like The HT Group can handle training for you and can even provide onsite management of temporary workers so that ramping up and down is as seamless as possible and doesn’t infringe on your current workers’ time and resources.

Don’t discount how temporary staffing can support recruiting and retention efforts and contribute to your talent pipeline for potential permanent hires while helping you build a workforce that can flex in response to economic strains.