It’s 5:18 a.m. and the phone rings. Your morning chef is on the line with awful news: She won’t be coming in to work today. Sick. Hungover. Won the lottery. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter. You have 350 guests arriving at 10 a.m. for a high-profile wedding brunch — a make-or-break moment for your restaurant, perhaps your biggest engagement of the year — and you need a chef.
Don’t know what to do? You should. Situations like this happen all the time. The employee you’re counting on to open up shop, to fix the ice machine, to watch a classroom full of toddlers, etc., isn’t going to show up today, on very short notice.
You could call a temporary employment agency, of course, but for many small businesses that’s not an option. Temp agencies tend to be pricey, and some prefer to do only volume business or to work only for large companies with massive credit reserves. What’s more, temps may be unfamiliar with your industry, your business, and even the job at hand. You risk getting a short-timer whose under-performance could harm your reputation — something that you simply cannot afford.
So, what do you do? Here are three tips for hiring temporary employees to avoid permanent problems:
- Plan. You knew this day would come, so don’t let it surprise you. A temporary workforce should be part of your business plan. You never have one position to fill; you have three. Every time you hire an employee, recruit two temporary workers for the same job.
- Process. Don’t manage your temporary payroll with cash under the table. We all know where that can lead. Hiring temporary employees requires special paperwork and agreements. The basic forms to have ready include the I-9, the W-4, state withholding forms and agreements, a temporary employment agreement letter, training agreements (we’ll get to that in a moment), and a valid temporary employee contract. The latter will bring clarity should issues of unemployment compensation arise. Temporary employment contract templates abound on the internet, but always check with your business attorney to be sure the agreement you use is legal and binding in the state(s) where you employ people.
- Prepare. Trial-by-fire is not the way for temporary employees to learn the job. Begin training them the minute you hire them, right alongside the regular employee. Call them in for any new training, and schedule regular refresher training. If you don’t hold regular refresher training sessions for all employees, schedule it now. And when you get that big job, notify your temporary employees that they must be prepared — and standing by — should something happen to your regular staffer(s).
Of course, these tips are not a comprehensive guide to using temporary employees, but they will certainly start you down the path to managing employee absences smoothly with minimal disruption to your business.