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Temps and Contractors - 10 June 2014

If there were just one word to describe the sentiment that many temps and contractors have toward their workplace, that word would be ‘fragile’.  But that fragility doesn’t mean those workers are less engaged.  In fact, the empirical research on that point is inconsistent and inconclusive.  Some studies indicate temps and contractors are more engaged than their permanent colleagues; others say the opposite.  

But an interesting new study published in The Leadership and Organisational Development Journal provides some insight on how that fragility can be lessened.  The study compared the source of job satisfaction among temps and contractors on the one hand, and permanent employees on the other.

The researchers found that permanent employees are more likely to prioritise the connection they have with their organisation.  This means their job satisfaction is influenced by factors such as pay, stability, security, career opportunities, wellbeing, and so on.  In other words, they can potentially still enjoy their job even if they have an average boss, so long as the right organisational elements are in place.

Temps and contractors, though, are more likely to prioritise the connection they have with theirsupervisor.  This means that, in the absence of permanent employment, they resort instead to the relationship they have with their leader in order to generate job satisfaction. 

So, if you’ve got temps and contractors in your team whose jobs you’d like to make more engaging, consider the following:

  -  Include them in group activities as if they were a permanent employee.
  -  Spend as much time coaching them as you do the rest of your team.
  -  Build relationships as though they were long-term workers.
  -  Keep them notified about new information, decisions and plans.
  -  Include them in rewards and recognition initiatives.

To treat temporary workers differently is to be a leader only some of the time.  Making it, in effect, only temporary leadership.  Average at best.


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