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Webinar: Hiring Temporary Staff Members

Corporate hiring is picking up – finally. This solves some problems for some lab managers coping with accomplishing goals with a limited number of laboratory staff members. However, resuming hiring gives rise to a new concern: making good hirin

Corporate hiring is picking up – finally. This solves some problems for some lab managers coping with accomplishing goals with a limited number of laboratory staff members. However, resuming hiring gives rise to a new concern: making good hiring decisions and avoiding bad ones. Hiring someone who turns out to be a low productivity or disruptive employee can reduce the productivity and lower the morale of other staff members. This is particularly the case for smaller laboratories where a single person can have a proportionally greater effect on lab operations.


Terminating unsatisfactory staff members

One can work with low productivity employees to improve their performance. Unfortunately, this often is usually a lengthy process. Poor attitude and disruptive behavior are often even harder problems to fix because they may have deep seated roots in the employee's personality. Terminating an employee for cause can be a lengthy, tedious and demoralizing process due to the need to provide evidence and documentation to support the termination decision should lawsuits later arise. I know because I've been there.

All these concerns are not the case when is hiring a person for a temporary position. A temp is a person who works at your laboratory but for the temporary agency. The agency handles paying the individual a salary, providing benefits, reporting the individual's income to the federal and state governments for tax purposes, etc.

Of course, it may take longer to determine if a temporary staff member can adequately fulfill the job responsibilities of the position. If it does take longer, you do have to pay the agency a fee. However, terminating a temp is not subject to the legal and government scrutiny that firing a regular employee is. This is because the individual is an employee of the agency, not of your laboratory. Thus hiring a temp is a more flexible staffing option than hiring a new employee.

Customarily, a layoff or firing a staff member for cause can have disruptive effects on remaining lab staff members reducing productivity and morale. However, letting a temp go seldom has this adverse effect. This is because the alert lab manager times these departures to occur quickly before the temp has developed strong relationships with employees. Also, just knowing that an individual is a temp having a different, weaker bond with the laboratory than conventional employees makes these employees more willing to accept their departure. Indeed in many cases the staff members who worked most closely with an unproductive temp are relieved at that individual's departure. They may have more work heaped on their shoulders because of the temp's low productivity or experience more workplace stress because the temp is hard to get along with.


Supply of temps is ample

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that most corporate hiring for the past year has been for temporary positions. This is because many hiring managers are uncertain about the strength of the economic recovery and want to be able to reduce staffing levels if necessary without conducting an employee layoff.

Should you decide to hire a temporary lab employee, be sure you work with reputable agencies such as Kelly Scientific Resources, Aerotek Staffing, LabTemps or other agencies that you check out online. Among the services offered by some reputable agencies is often the option to let a newly hired staff member go after their first day without paying a fee. Lab managers can do this if it is obvious the individual is unsuitable.

In the past many excellent candidates have not considered temporary positions when job hunting. The Great Recession and the continued slow pace of industrial laboratory hiring have changed this. Even should laboratory hiring rapidly increase; there is still a large supply of unemployed chemists, post-docs looking for industrial positions and graduate students who are delaying the completion of their studies. Many of these individuals are registered with temporary agencies and are willing to consider temporary staff employment.

This means that laboratory managers can hire good candidates on a temporary basis. If they do work out well, the laboratory manager has the option of hiring them as long-term employees when the staffing budget permits it.

John K. Borchardt

Dr. Borchardt is a consultant and technical writer. The author of the book “Career Management for Scientists and Engineers,” he writes often on career-related subjects.