The temporary workforce is on the rise. Roughly 900,000 temporary workers were employed in Germany in 2019. This accounted to 2.3 per cent of all employees. Of them, 27 per cent worked in the transport and logistics industries. Almost 16 million temporary and contract employees are hired throughout the course of a single year in the USA. These staggering figures are increasing across Europe, too.
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The skills gap, worker shortages and an ever-increasing workload as a result of COVID-19 mean logistics industries are increasingly dependent on temp workers. The 3PL sector is prone to fluctuating demand. So hiring temporary workers is a great way to respond to business cycles. While the advantages of lowering costs and bridging bottlenecks are clear, the true cost of hiring temp workers are often higher than expected. Securing productivity, safety and quality standards amid fluctuating staff isn’t that simple. Maximizing efficiency needs quick yet thorough onboarding measures, structured training and continuous performance support.
Temp workers solve the problem of getting staff on short notice. It can even lead to hiring qualified, full-time workers. Positives aside, managing temporary staff presents its own challenges.
The pros of hiring temp workers
During times of talent shortage and high employment, temp agencies offer a solution for logistics companies needing warehouse workers to match the service-level-agreements of their customers.
The greatest advantage of using temporary workers is their immediate availability. They can help you meet the demands of a heavy period of work rather than risk employee burnout because of dramatic overtime. Temp workers can also come with a specialized skill set for a short term task.
Temporary employees can also be a great place to start looking for permanent hires. Often they go on to become full time workers after proving themselves to be an invaluable asset to the company.
Likewise, if you aren’t satisfied with someone’s performance, you can simply end their contract.
The challenges of using temp workers
The greatest challenge faced by companies who employ temp workers is meeting the demanding volume of onboarding temp workers.
Temporary workers come from all walks of life including a myriad of cultures and languages. This poses a challenge for training everyone simultaneously.
Temp workers often change jobs to secure better working conditions. High turnover rates mean you’ll be onboarding and training new hires constantly. This takes your seasoned employees away from other duties and can affect overall productivity.
Training and onboarding temp workers is crucial
Despite arriving with a specialized skill set, procedures always vary from workplace to workplace. Temp workers often need time to adapt their skills to a new context. This is even more difficult for temp workers tasked with performing hazardous jobs, such as operating machinery on production sites.
One issue which emerges continually is the safety of the workers.
A study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine confirmed that temporary workers average a much higher rate of injury claims than regular employees. This can be due to their unfamiliarity with a workplace environment, but also stress factors such as demanding physical and mental workloads. Sometimes workers simply may not fully understand the work instructions due to missing languages skills.
The best way to reduce the risk of injuries is through safety training. While this is particularly important for younger and less experienced temporary workers, all temp employees should be thoroughly familiarized with procedures and equipment. Ideally, training should take place before the job starts and continue throughout the contracted work period. In a perfect world, training would be offered in the native language of the workers to ensure everyone understands how to stay safe.
Effective training is also the best way to ramp up worker productivity and lower error rates. By providing proper training, you give workers a real chance at success.
Since a temp worker is, no surprise, “temporary”, the key to onboarding is efficiency. If the worker is merely filling gaps for a limited period of time, it makes no sense to instate a long training process. Rather, consider training purposefully. Bring new hires up to speed and able to start fulfilling their tasks while offering continued training support for the entirety of their work period.
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Current training methods
There are many existing training methods for onboarding temp workers. Onboarding should include a full orientation of the company policies as well as your expectations of the employee.
Distributing training materials is a great way to introduce new employees to their work environment. Training materials need to be fully updated and prepared in advance to ensure the best learning experience. Employees should receive initial information regarding their daily work procedures before they begin. Training materials should not only offer general knowledge but also careful instruction on how to approach the different procedures they will face. This sets up the worker for success.
Using digital solutions eliminates the possibility that you will have various, outdated versions of your training materials. Plus, it makes it much easier to update the content.
Group training might be an efficient use of training time, if you have a heterogenous group of workers. Health and safety training can often take place in a group setting. Plus, it offers workers a chance to build relationships with one another and feel more incorporated into the company.
Shadowing is another way new hires can benefit from the experience of regular employees. Temps learn best practices by following seasoned employees through the daily routine and seeing how they approach the work. Temp workers learn their job and gain the confidence to perform their tasks by imitating their experienced colleagues.
To take it one step further, consider assigning a mentor. Experienced employees are assigned to temporary workers to offer support in daily activities, respond to arising questions and give advice on completing tasks. Mentoring is one aspect of training on-the-job as mentors help temp workers gain confidence in their ability to complete tasks and greatly lower error rates.
The downsides of traditional training methods
Even though these methods help to train and onboard temporary or seasonal workers, there are some downsides, especially concerning cost-efficiency and speed.
While training materials offer relevant information, they do not offer real-time support and feedback. They also fail to provide shift training off-the-job. The days of watching training videos on a tiny television in a stuffy office should be a thing of that past.
Group training is great if you’re dealing with a heterogeneous group. However, temporary workers often don’t speak the same language.
Shadowing and mentoring are costly and often slow down other employees. Many experts believe that overall company productivity decreases with temp workers because of the time spent on training the new hires. As the time of seasoned employees is limited, these approaches are not really scalable nor efficient.
So what is the perfect approach?
Training should empower new and temporary workers to learn the job quickly. The best approach to training and onboarding temp workers is one you can implement efficiently in order to ensure productive performance.
It is critical that any training materials, but most importantly health and safety instructions, are available in a wide array of languages to meet the needs of our globalized workforce. Work instructions have to be carefully documented and continually updated to ensure high standards.
Combining off and on-the-job training is the basis for success. Learning on the job is the best training method when partnered with instant and ongoing performance support. Combined they reinforce training concepts and allow new hires to perform with confidence.
Train temp workers digitally
Based on expert opinions across blue-collar industries, going digital with your onboarding and training programs is the perfect solution.
By turning your company procedures into digital instructions, you are empowering temp workers to learn at their own speed. Furthermore, you can offer training in several languages.
Digital instructions combine audio with visuals into entertaining content more likely to hold their attention than print-outs or an outdated VHS video.
Plus, a digital coaching method like how.fm, is fully scalable and offers 24/7 performance support for workers. Since it works on mobile devices like tablets or smartphones, workers feel fully equipped and can access information both off- and on-the-job.
By speeding up onboarding and making training materials always accessible, workers can review procedures whenever they need. It gives them the confidence to start fulfilling tasks much faster and continue learning while they work.
To conclude, companies need to really invest in training and onboarding temp workers. Otherwise, they face low productivity and issues with quality and safety in the workplace.
Training methods need to be scalable in order to be cost-efficient and give continuous support to guarantee training success. Digital coaching and work instructions offer precise advantages by providing full-time availability and easy-to-use training.
While this solution has clear benefits for temporary workers, it likewise positively impacts new and regular employees.