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Behind the News: Treat Temps Right or Employees Could Gripe - CWS 30 June 2.11

Contingent Workforce Strategies 30





A collaborative workplace is the new buzzword, and there is evidence to prove that many employees want it. As HR experts analyze workplace developments, one thing is clear: firms are turning more and more to part-time and temporary workers to bridge the productivity gap. During times of economic change, it makes financial sense to use contingents to ramp up and down projects or production. As a result, companies have contingents working alongside their traditional employees, often on the same project.

Given this trend, how should hiring managers treat temporary workers? The obvious answer would be -- the same as they would their regular employees. But traditionally, that has not been the case. And the result? Management's treatment of temporary workers could have unintended consequences for their regular employees, according to research by University of Arizona professor Joseph Broschak. He has studied the issue with his colleague, Alison Davis-Blake of the University of Minnesota.

According to Broschak, issues can arise when several contingents work alongside traditional employees. "In many organizations, the task of training and socializing temporary workers on company-specific processes is often delegated to full-time workers. Having more temporary co-workers makes full-time workers' jobs more complicated since they are always training new people," he says.

As a result, employees could get behind in their own tasks and resent their temporary counterparts. Additionally, limiting the extent to which temps and employees interact socially at work also has negative effects on full-time employees. So Broschak recommends encouraging social interaction among all workers and to include contingents in departmental lunches and parties.

In fact, "allowing workers who are employed under different work arrangements to develop social ties at work is a key to developing a cohesive and well-functioning workforce," says Broschak. Employment attorneys have debunked various co-employment myths surrounding contingents and their treatment at the worksite. (See Contingent Workforce Strategies magazine, March 2008.) Topping that list of myths is the misconception that preventing a contingent worker from attending holiday parties/company meetings will protect a company from claims that the contingent worker is an employee.

So corporations need to sit up, take notice and treat contingents in a manner that allows them to work hard and fit in. The dividends of doing so are enormous; the downside of not treating temps appropriately could hurt the company's bottom line.

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