Organizations across the U.S. are reassessing their long-term needs in response to the economic disruptions created by COVID-19.
Contingent workforce arrangements are one solution to maintain flexibility, and a temp-to-hire model also helps you minimize the cost of a bad hire. Temp-to-hire has particular benefits for small and midsize organizations, where a bad hire can have more severe financial repercussions. “If you make a bad decision but you have 300,000 employees, you may not even feel that speed bump,” says Kimberly Jones, PHR, CEO at Kelton Legend. “But if you make a bad decision in a smaller organization, that can have a much larger impact.”
At the same time, you don’t want the workers you’re evaluating to feel like you’re stringing them along. Eventually, you need to make a decision about whether to bring them on permanently or let them free to find other opportunities.
Here are three things to consider as you make that decision.
Assess Your Need for a Full-Time Employee
Working with contractors or temporary workers offers more flexibility than traditional outright hiring models. “The temp-to-hire model brings value in a short period of time,” says Keirsten Greggs, founder at TRAP Recruiter. In the traditional hiring model, you can only gauge skills and performance through the interview process. With temp-to-hire, you get to see a worker’s performance before making the full-time offer.
However, deciding when to convert depends not only on whether the worker meets (or exceeds) expectations but also on your full-time employment needs, says Josh Rock, a sourcing strategy specialist at Fairview Health Services. Balance the productivity of the candidate and what they contribute to the team against the cost of bringing them on full time. At the same time, weigh the profitability of the role itself in comparison to your budget and an added full-time salary. Let temporary workers know that you’ll be assessing your needs, and keep them apprised of the direction their employment could take. Even if the relationship doesn’t work out, letting them know your reasons along the way can help manage their expectations.
Look for Signs of a Great Long-Term Investment
Once you’ve determined the need for a full-time role, look for signs that a temp worker is right for your organizational processes. Overperformance is a clear sign of a temp-to-hire’s dedication to the job, Greggs says, as is showing interest in or looking for other opportunities in the company.
“If they're building relationships, performing well, asking about a future with a company, and are committed to the mission of the organization,” Greggs says, “they're really there making an investment in themselves and in your organization.”
But be cautious of relying too much on a sense of cultural “fitness,” Jones warns. Just because someone thinks differently doesn’t mean they aren’t a good “fit.” On the contrary: Fostering diverse perspectives and new ideas is a business imperative, especially during times of turmoil. Innovation springs from difference and controlled friction. If your temp-to-hire is spurring conversations regarding changes in processes or new directions your company could take, stop and listen.
Consider an Early Conversion
If a temp brings all of the signs of a good hire to the table, consider making an early conversion. You want to maintain a sense of momentum and morale, and keeping someone lingering as a temp when they hope to convert puts that at risk. Before making concrete decisions, however, consult legal counsel regarding contract conversion guidelines. “It's imperative that not only the hiring leaders but also the HR partners know those regulations in their state,” Rock says. “That way, they don't set the wrong expectations, because you don't want to put out false hope of somebody converting early.”
Look at your agreement with your staffing company, too, as they may require you to pay more for an early conversion, Jones suggests. But even if there is a conversion fee, Greggs says, an early conversion improves morale and builds momentum and dedication. “It does a lot,” she says. “It says not only are you committed to the organization but we're committed to you as well.”
Share your goals and decision-making process from the very beginning. Temporary workers have their own obligations and financial stressors, so temps hoping to convert need to be apprised of your decision-making process. If they don’t see their excitement reflected in moves to convert, they’ll lose critical momentum in their work. Making the conversion early, on the other hand, relieves stress and builds loyalty and trust with your company.