Rise of Temp Workers: Killer for the Future of Business

Protecting a talent pool for a firm is like a fisherman protecting a fish preserve. It is also prudent to have an efficiently run company. Efficiency comes with guidance over a capable workforce. Some have viewed temp workers as a talent pool that can be tapped into when needed, but there’s a negative side to exhausting the resource which takes from both capability and efficiency.

It’s often said that having a job is the best way of getting a job. Somewhat of needing a chicken to produce an egg situation. For the many workers without a job, temp agencies have been a go to source for a stepping stone. Since temp jobs traditionally have been ridiculed for low wages and lack of benefits, they are an alternate source of income for people looking for true careers and not always a pool of qualified candidates lining up for the next career option.

Good or bad, temp jobs have been increasing, particularly in the IT and medical fields, over the first part of 2015. The good news is that these are hugely needed fields and, as noted, some temp agencies are beginning to offer benefits packages to encourage long term retention. But, is long term retention a good goal for the temp industry?  That can’t really be considered “temp” at that point. So, what quality of employee results from that industry?

Disjointed and Unskilled Labor

Over time, this temp culture has grown into disjointed relationships of workers of separate pay scales side-by-side doing the same jobs. Add in contractors and freelancers and there is a huge chunk of the workforce with no particular future, ties, or loyalty to their organizations.

Quality is not part of the picture in cheaper labor.

In hiring temps, less money is paying more people, both the temp worker and their agency. Overall, the buyer gets what they pay for, which ultimately is a degraded product. What workers see as depressed working conditions is met with depressed or alternative motivations, resulting in lack of concern for the end product. Fear culture among desperate workers taking temp jobs, lack of unions overseeing worker rights and safety is not helping to create more qualified workers just more desperate workers.

Almost necessarily, working with temps involves cutting corners. Safety and training, despite the desire to improve, worsens with essential components in the hands of an outside sources than when companies have direct control. Additionally, not only is there a quality and skill issue, but there are also more unfilled jobs because the system doesn’t foster a system of people wanting to work.

Lower standards are only an issue if the company can find so much as desperate workers. Some can’t even find that. Skilled workers won’t have many problems finding a job through a temp agency, but they are likely snapped up as a quality employee by a company even if used outside of their specialty. Staff shortages are a real situation in a market jockeying for cheaper labor because everyone wants quality and it takes a lot of luck to get quality cheaply.

Workplace Safety

Another issue with outsourcing labor is that employees getting paid less often opt for more jobs or more hours, which leads to unsafe conditions. It should be noted that lack of sleep was at least partially responsible for accidents at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Exxon Valdez crash. Lack of sleep was also the issue for the truck driver that hit Tracy Morgan’s limo last year. What happens when we bring such shortcomings into either the health care or IT field?  Who would want to pay for such a service? In short, it’s not a sustainable practice.

Data management

Protection of consumer information has caused increasing problems for businesses. Intriguing that IT and the medical profession are among major uses of the temporary workforce. The two fields are inextricably connected with consideration to data management in the medical industry, such as how long it takes to find documents, or how patient care, including good control of medication, is tracked.

To a critical level, if unqualified medical personnel give information to unqualified computer personnel problems can be exponentially exasperated. One mistake, boom! Hundreds of thousands of dollars in a lawsuit later, the organization may be struggling to stay in business. Cutting corners always comes with a certain risk.


This doesn’t need to be a grim forecast. If worked out correctly, one issue can fix the other.

Proper data management from IT can contribute to an easier job for the medical personnel making things work correctly. Different positions must work in tandem to make a complete team environment, but it takes skill to work together in successful collaboration.

Going forward, a shortage of workers in critical fields like healthcare becomes even more problematic with baby boomers retiring and needing healthcare that may not be available in an already understaffed field. With companies becoming increasingly reliant on cheaper temporary staff, problems only worsen. There is no reason that if an organization is trying to fill needs, they wouldn’t go for quality and long term overall success. That comes with fostering a culture of responsible, dedicated employees and not taking shortcuts by outsourcing control of the workforce.

It starts with qualified employees being properly managed. Not that that outcome can’t happen through temp labor, but the temp scenario doesn’t help foster a cohesive collaboration. As long as workers are worried about security and their own options, they will be less concerned with the long term success of an organization.

Employers especially need to care not only for the talent pool, but work on building that talent to contribute to the company's long term benefit. At best, temp labor benefits the employer as a filter of auditioning talent and being able to cherry pick the best candidates that come through the system. It is an inefficient way to deal with the situation and in every case still keeps cheap production on the floor.

This guest post is courtesy of Daniel Myrick.

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