CWS 3.0: February 29, 2012


Feature: Mistakes that Derail Contingent Worker Conversions

Looking to the contingent labor pool to identify talent to bring in-house is a common and understandable practice. The try-before-you-buy philosophy makes sense — you get a first-hand look at how the worker performs and how he or she interacts with your team. However, there are mistakes managers sometimes make even when going this route. Failing to anticipate problems or committing any of these snafus can result in lost productivity and training investments by preventing the conversion of valuable contingent workers at the end of assignments. Here are some of the most common mistakes to avoid:

1. Failing to Meet Contingent Worker Expectations
 “Conversions usually fail when the offer doesn’t meet the contingent worker’s expectations,” notes Wendy Sun, VP of recruiting at ATR International Inc. “You need to have an in-depth conversation before the assignment, especially when a highly paid contractor may have to take a pay cut to convert to regular status.”

Elicit the contingent’s expectations and nip future disappointment in the bud by discussing the benefit plan and a realistic, yet narrow salary range before a temp-to-regular assignment, because workers usually expect an offer near the top of the range.

2. Poor Communication
 No one likes being in a state of limbo, let alone for months. So, unless line managers alleviate uncertainty by providing updates on the status of impending conversions or assignment extensions, contingent workers may hit the market and accept another offer.

“IT contractors automatically look for work as soon as a project starts to wind down,” says Sun. “Unless the project manager reassures them by discussing a regular position or promising additional work.”

3. Last-Minute Background Screening
 Discovering that your soon-to-be employee has a criminal record is bound to ruin your day. Avoid last-minute surprises by using the same screening process and criteria to evaluate direct hire and temp-to-hire candidates.

4. Basing Decisions on Opinions Instead of Facts
 Chances are the decision to extend an offer will hinge on the opinions of several people. To prevent stealth performance issues and personality conflicts from surfacing late in the game, use quantifiable measures to evaluate the contingent’s performance and solicit feedback from peers and other managers over the course of the assignment.

5. Negotiating Terms at the Eleventh Hour
 You’ll be at the mercy of staffing firms if you don’t negotiate the conversion terms and fees before the start of an assignment, especially as the labor market heats up. To avoid paying a hefty fee to prevent the defection of a hot contingent worker, negotiate the terms while you still have the advantage.

Leslie Stevens-Huffman is a freelance writer in Southern California who has 20 years’ experience in the staffing industry. She can be reached at


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