Management at Work
The Temptations of Temping
ack in 2002, New Yorker Diana Bloom logged on “are more than willing to try new occupations-much more
B to Craigslist, an online network that posts free clas- willing than they were even a year ago.”
sified ads, and offered her services as a tutor, editor, Interestingly, for a lot of people, the adjustment to cur-
and translator. She’s been making a living on the short-term rent labor-market conditions isn’t necessarily as traumatic
7 jobs that come her way fronfl’he website ever since. A for- as you might think. A recent survey conducted by the
mer English professor who couldn’t find secure long-term temporary-staffing agency Kelly Services found that as many
employment, Bloom works out ofher home in order to take as 26 percent of employed American adults regard them-
care ofa young son. Temp work is also appealing, she says, selves as “free agents” when it comes to the type of job that
because “I’m not very outgoing, and getting my foot in the they’re willing to take (up from 19 percent in 2006). Of all
door to companies would have been hard.” those polled, only 10 percent said that they’re doing tempo-
Craigslist works in the other direction, too, with employ- rary work because they’ve been laid off from permanent jobs;
ers posting openings for jobs both permanent and temporary. 90 percent said that they’re doing it because they like the
Another New Yorker, Simone Sneed, scours the Craigslist variety and flexibility that temping affords them.
“Gigs” section for jobs that last for perhaps a day, often for Kelly client Jaime Cacharna’s first assignment was pack-
just a few hours. Whether as a backup singer or a grants aging products for a light-industrial wholesaler-“putting
writer, she’s turned the strategy of patching together “gigs” doorknobs into little bags,” he recalls. Since then, he’s
A into a convenient way to supplement the income from her worked for eight different employers, working at a job for
full-time job. “I’ll use the extra money to pay off my school a few days, a few weeks, or a few months. He doesn’t mind
loan,” she says. “Every little bit helps.” the constant adjustments because the variety in his work life
In the current economic climate, unfortunately, over- compensates for the drawbacks. “IfI want to try something
all job postings are down on Craigslist and everywhere out, and I like it,” says Cacharna, “I can stay with [the com-
else, except for short-term jobs-gigs that usually include pany]. IfI don’t, I can always just call up Kelly and say I want
I; no health benefits, sick days, or paid vacations. If you’re something different.”
employed short term or part time for economic reasons In fact, temping offers several advantages. It can, for
(probably because you got laid off), the Bureau of Labor Sta- example, provide income during career transitions, and it’s a
tistics (BLS) classifies you as “underemployed.” good way to exercise a little control over the balance between- _,~‘r
Naturally, most people who are “underemployed” are, your work and the rest of your life. In 1995, for example,
by definition, “overqualified.” In fact, they often have years when she was seven months pregnant with her first child,
of professional experience but are willing to take jobs that veteran retail manager Stacey Schick accepted a two-week
don’t call for their levels of training or experience. Take data-entry job with the Orange County (New York) Associa-
the case of Gloria Christ. As national project manager for tion of Realtors. “I didn’t know how to turn on a computer,”
an information-technology company in the Chicago area, she remembers, but “they needed bodies.” Now the mother
Christ used to coordinate the installation of WiFi hotspots of two, Schick is still with the Association as its education
all over the country. She has nearly 20 years of managerial coordinator. “I would never have considered it,” she says, if
y ‘ experience, but today she’s willing to put it to use as a tem- a job in her field had come up, but the job she landed in
porary office manager. Of course, she’d like something with has turned out to be a much better fit with her lifestyle: “It’s
a little more long-term promise: “At this point in time,” she afforded me the opportunity to have a family and be able to
says, “I think even if there was something that was tempo- have time with them.” i
rary it could become full time later on. . . . Sometimes,” she The path taken by Schick is called “temp-to-perm,” and
if explains, “you can go in at a low level to interview just to ge’t it offers employers several advantages as well. Companies
i _ your foot in the door.” that are hesitant to make commitments to untested employ-
l i It may be small compensation (so to speak), but during ees can try before they buy-they get a chance to see employ-
the current recession, although many companies are reluc- ees in action before finalizing hiring decisions. Because
fant to add costly permanent jobs, they are increasingly there are no fees to pay when an employee goes from temp to
Willing to open up temporary positions to tide them over. perm, trying out temps is also cheaper than paying an agency
i; Often, of course, you’ll have to take a job that isn’t exactly outright to find a hire. The big savings, of course, come from
What you’ve trained for or set your sights on, but as one benefits, which can amount to one-third of the total cost of
employment-services manager observes, job seekers today compensating a permanent position. .I
And then there’s the recession. While many employers As a matter of fact, if you’re a US. employer, you’ve
are laying off full-time workers, many are also trying to com- always been able to get temp workers at a relatively good
pensate by turning over some of the work to temp staff. Ironi- price. As of December 2010, according to the BLS, the aver.
cally, of course, many of those who’ve been laid off are highly age cost of a full-time worker in private industry was $22.26
qualified, and as they hit the job market willing to accept per hour in wages plus $9.75 in benefits, for a total of$32.01
lower-level positions, the ranks of job hunters are being in compensation. By contrast, the average wages for a temp
joined by a substantial number of highly qualified (which were $12.14 and the average benefits were $3.42, for total
is to say, overqualified) workers. “The quality of candidates,” compensation of $1 5.56. One of the results of this cost differ-
says Laura Long of Banner Personnel, a Chicago-area staff- ential has been a long-term increase in the number of temp
ing agency, “is tremendous. . . . As an employer, you can get workers which, over the last 20 years, has far outstripped the
great employees for a great price.” increase in jobs occupied by full-time workers.
1. You’re a senior manager at a growing business and you’re , position? Under what circumstances are you most likely
ready to add employees. Your HR manager has recom- to take a temp-to-perm position?
mended a temp-to-perm policy. You know the advan- 3. What sort of challenges are likely to confront a man-
tages of this approach, but what might be some of the ager who supervises a mix of temporary and perma-
disadvantages? nent employees? In what ways might these challenges
2. Assume that you’re a prospective job seeker (which you differ if the temporary workers have been hired on a
may very well be). What do you personally see as the temp-to-perm basis rather than on a strictly temporary
advantages and disadvantages of taking a temp-to-perm basis?
“For Some, 3 Patchwork of Jobs Pays the Bills,” Boston.com, March 27, sion,” Fox Business, February 27, 2009. www.iobs-work-employment.com on
2009, www.boston.corn on April 15, 2011; Kristin Kridel, “Overqualified April 15, 2011; US. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “Employer Costs for
Applying for Temporary Work,” Spokesmancom, March 4, 2009, www Employee Compensation,” news release. December 2010, www.bls.gov on
spokesmencom on April 15, 2011; Anne Fisher, “Be a Manager and a March 31, 2009; BLS, “Table 12. Private Industry, by Industry Group and
an; end-16% o’n Full-Time ime Status,” news release, December 2010, www.bls
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