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Using temps to keep your business in business

According to the NSW Business Chamber’s first Workforce Skills Survey released last quarter, more than half of employers in NSW are experiencing skills shortages and nearly two-thirds expect a shortage in the next 12 months. Almost 85 per cent of the 800 businesses surveyed expressed concern about the impact skills shortages might have on their business.

Surprisingly, however, only 11 per cent of those employers surveyed have ever engaged temps to assist with short-term projects. And yet, with a tightening Australian employment market and the increasing availability of flexible labour hire, using temps strategically to source employees is now one of the smartest ways to keep your business in business.

Use temps strategically to plug the skills gaps

As recently as a decade or so ago, engaging a temp was considered to be an immediate solution to fill a short-term need – when an employee was sick or on annual leave. Last minute temps were also relied upon for a day or two to help clear accumulated workloads, drawing on experienced data entry and general administration skills.

And although this approach is still invaluable for many businesses, the use of temps within the workplace is shifting. Rather than a day here and a day there, many temps are now being engaged for their readily-available niche skill sets and ability to assist with business-critical projects lasting weeks, if not months.

Recruitment agencies now have a range of temporary labour hire options available, from temps on call who can be on site within an hour for assignments as short as one day, to highly skilled temps looking for work for several months, depending on requirements.


Temps can maintain service levels in times of high workload while you look for a suitable employee.

Keep your existing team engaged and motivated

Not only does hiring a temp ensure your business continues to maintain service levels in times of high workload, a temp also takes the pressure off your existing employees. According to the Workforce Skills Survey, 40 per cent of businesses in NSW have attempted to address their skills gaps either by increasing the workloads of their existing employees or encouraging overtime. And while this might work to your advantage in the short term, it can often take months to find a suitable permanent employee.

Being mindful of the motivation and engagement of your existing employees is crucial – especially in times of skills shortages. More often than not, employers believe employees resign because they have been offered a more lucrative role elsewhere. But the real reason is often to do with unfavourable working conditions.

Tap into potential long-term skills

Hiring a temp is also a great way to meet potential permanent employees within a very short timeframe, and without having to commit to a permanent contract. Almost 50 per cent of our temps at EST10 transition into permanent roles when their assignments have ended. Not because this was always the intention – although many temps are now looking for permanent roles – but because hiring temps allows you both to gauge cultural fit and to determine where they can add real value for the long term.


A thorough job brief will help the recruiter find exactly the right person for the job.

5 tips for engaging a temp for your small business

Most small business owners are pleasantly surprised when it comes to securing a temp through a reputable recruitment agency. Here are some top tips to make sure the process runs as smoothly as possible.

1.  Find an agency that understands your industry

Although there are a number of recruitment industry associations, there is no definitive directory for agencies and specialisations. Asking for recommendations from your networks is often the best place to start. LinkedIn is also an invaluable resource as most recruitment agencies will have a LinkedIn page with all services listed and the necessary contact details.

2.  Ask the right questions

When contacting a recruitment agency for the first time, ask as many questions as you can. Find out what their processes are, how long it will take to secure a temp, and if looking for a temp urgently, make sure you ask how long it will take for the temp to arrive in your office. Every agency is different, but to give you an indicator of how quickly EST10 can organise a same day temp, we will get back to you within 30 minutes of your original call and then have a temp at your office within an hour.

3.  Be clear on rates and fees

Other questions to ask are around billing and payment to temps. Most agencies will pay the temp on your behalf, so you only need to pay the invoice issued by the recruitment agency. Generally speaking, an agency’s fee will include the wages paid directly to the temp, mandatory superannuation, government costs and the agency’s margin.

4.  Prepare a thorough job brief

To make the process run as smoothly as possible, it is best to have a thorough job brief prepared before you call an agency. This doesn’t need to be a formal job description but a detailed list of duties will help the recruiter find exactly the right person for the job. With this information, the recruiter will also advise on the hourly rates required for the level of experience and seniority required.

5.  Always ask about cultural fit

And finally, find an agency that recognises the importance of cultural fit when finding the right temp for your role. This is especially important for longer assignments but also has an impact on something as simple as booking a receptionist for the day. For example, a temp from a media environment is often not suited to a more formal finance environment.

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Roxanne Calder

Roxanne Calder is founder and managing director of EST10, a Sydney-based boutique recruitment agency specialising in executive assistant, administration and office support recruitment. With over 20 years’ international recruitment experience, Roxanne and her team provide high quality, high care talent sourcing services for businesses large and small.

The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Homeloans Ltd.