Temporary Staffing Mistakes & Best Practices in Hospitality & Retail

Temporary staff can be a blessing if you're busy, but there are mistakes to avoid. In this article, we're looking at staffing mistakes.
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Small Changes That Make a Big Difference

Earlier in this series we discussed the challenges involved in recruitment and onboarding new workers. It can be a long and messy business, which is why many restaurants and bars rely on temporary staff, usually from an agency (sometimes referred to as “contingency” staff).

But that too, has its pitfalls and can cause staffing mistakes!

Part 9: Hiring and Managing Temporary & Agency Staff

Sometimes it’s just busy and your regular full-time and part-time staff can’t cope. Maybe the situation is made worse by staff sickness. Temporary staff can be a blessing if you are busy, but not busy enough in the long term to recruit permanent employees.

But it is not a good idea to think, “I just need to get someone in quick. If I am lucky, they’ll be fine, and if not, well, they can’t do too much damage as they are only temporary, and I can get someone else.”

Mistake 1: Not hiring the right people for a temporary role

Even experienced owners and managers who know perfectly well that having the right people is half the battle can walk into the trap of thinking “we just need help so let’s pull someone in from the street…”

You might get away with it in a large business where other staff can cover up for a lazy or incompetent temp; all the same, it will cause irritation and resentment. But it is utterly disastrous in a small business where everybody’s job is critical to customer satisfaction.

Rather than go directly to a temp agency, think of alternatives.

Ask your permanent employees, your friends and business acquaintances: could they recommend someone who would be an asset to the company and is interested in doing just a few hours here and there during busy periods?

Remember, there are literally thousands of people who cannot work full time, perhaps because they care for children or the elderly, or have other commitments, who would jump at the opportunity to get out of the house for a break from routine and earn some money on the side.

But let’s say that doesn’t work and you have no choice but to call the agency. You should still follow some recruitment best practices, even with temps. Provide the agency with a full job description outlining duties in detail and the competencies you are looking for (such as handling cash, taking card payments, carrying in deliveries or whatever).

Then be ready to conduct an interview, or even two interviews. Yes, that is going to cost an hour or more of your time, but it will be time well spent.

Mistake 2: Lack of proper onboarding for temporary employees

The second big mistake is throwing the temp in at the deep end and expecting them to swim; i.e., avoiding the best practice of onboarding. Yes, they may have experience of working in other and perhaps similar establishments to yours, but they do not know your work routines, they don’t know where things are kept and most of all, they don’t know about your clientele.

In fact, “experienced” temps can be the worst: they sometimes gossip about how much better things are managed somewhere else. This can be distracting and demotivating for your permanent employees.

Therefore, at least for the first couple of shifts, it is a good idea to assign a “buddy” to the temp, just as you would with a full-time hire, to show the temp the ropes and educate them into your way of doing things. Make the “buddy” feel that this is a sign of your trust in them – they are not just acting as a “minder”.

Mistake 3: Treating temps differently than permanent employees

The third big mistake that employers often make is quite different: It is “treating the temp as a temp”. In other words, making them feel they are at the bottom of the pecking order and of little worth.

There are several reasons why this is a mistake. One is that it is simply bad manners. Another is that it encourages bullying and similar bad behaviour among staff, which always causes friction and makes for a bad working environment. A third is that customers notice these things, which might damage your reputation. Customers do not care whether your staff are full-time, part-time or temps, they just want a good experience. The problem is, their experience may be soured if they witness bad feeling among the staff.

And finally, you may need that temp in the future. In fact, you might want to offer them a permanent position one day. So best to treat them as one of the team from day one.

If you want to take a more systematic approach to recruiting and building relationships with temporary staff, you might want to take a look at our partner, Catapult. They use advanced technology to find the right match for your company. The results are spectacular, including 80% reduction in time spent finding staff and a 76% boost in revenues during peak times.

In the next article we’ll look at team leadership – leading from the floor.

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