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By Lisa Kopochinski

Large companies have long hired temporary workers at extra busy times or to help with special projects. Many smaller companies have been more hesitant to do so, but are taking the cue from their bigger counterparts – particularly due to the time and difficulty it can take to find the right full-time employee or a lack of resources to do so.

“Smaller companies don’t necessarily always have the skills they need, so [temporary workers] provide that specialized skill for a defined period of time,” said Dianne Hunnam-Jones, Canadian district president for Accountemps, a firm that places highly skilled candidates into temporary accounting and finance positions. “For example, we help smaller companies when they have a peak workload. They might have landed a big account and do not need a full-time person, but there is an increase in workload. They don’t want to spend their time training. It’s expensive. They want someone with key skills who can hit the ground running.”

Hunnam-Jones says that many companies will also use a temp agency in their search for a full-time employee to see if they are right fit.

“It takes a long time to hire – particularly in finance and accounting. We did a survey recently that showed it took 49 weeks to fill a full-time position.”

Specialized firms place temporary professionals in contracts that can last a few days to several months. Some companies require a temp to help keep the workflow going while another may need a fill-in for a maternity leave.

Danley Yip, branch manager for Robert Half Management Resources, says that within accounting and finance, companies often need professionals who can help them cut costs, increase operational efficiencies, meet regulatory requirements and improve accounting processes.

Timing is everything

So when is the right time to bring on a temporary professional?

“A company should consider bringing in a temp when there is expertise required,” said Yip. “Companies today are requesting consultants to support a variety of projects, including internal audit, financial and SEC reporting and tax.”

Yip says consultants are also brought in to work on large-scale initiatives, such as systems upgrades, merger and acquisitions and business process improvement efforts.

“Companies also need to see if their employees are working a lot of overtime,” said Hunnam-Jones. “Is everyone is pitching in because you have a big project? That’s when you should bring in a temporary professional. Let’s say you land a big account and need 10 people on the phone answering customer service calls; you know that’s coming and can prepare for it.”

In the technology field, highly skilled temporary professionals are especially sought after, says Deborah Bottineau, regional manager of Robert Half Technology, which provides professionals for initiatives ranging from web development and multiplatform systems to network security and technical support.

“This industry is so fast-paced that companies need to always be on the cutting edge in order to be successful,” she said. “Small to midsized businesses don’t always have the resources needed to keep specialized professionals on staff full-time or invest in ongoing training. Temporary professionals can be a great asset with specialized skills, but without the long-term commitment.”

Smaller companies may also be slower to hire temps because they lack a human resources manager who oversees that area of the business.

“For many companies, there isn’t that ability to take that strategic step back and look,” said Hunnam-Jones.

Strategies to consider

When looking to hire a temporary professional, HR managers need to consider a number of factors, such as the type of recruitment firm they choose.

“There are many reputable firms out there that do a very good job at interviewing, reference checking and putting candidates through test runs,” said Hunnam-Jones. “Others will farm workers out without the proper vetting process. You want to do your due diligence and use a highly specialized organization.”

While the importance of utilizing a reputable recruitment firm is high, the flipside is whether there are actually enough highly qualified temporary professionals to fill the demand.

“I think the market has started to turn over the last few months, but it’s still very difficult getting highly skilled professionals,” said Hunnam-Jones. “Companies struggle to find full-time people, so finding high-quality temps is getting tougher, for sure.”

Still, there are those individuals who like the flexibility that temporary work provides.

“There are temp professionals who love going from organization to organization to learn the ins and outs of different companies,” she said. “It also gives them the opportunity to learn new skills and makes them more marketable for a full-time position. It’s a foot in the door.”

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