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Motivating temporary staff

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RewardThe popularity of reward and recognition schemes are increasing each year, but do you extend the programme to your temporary and contract staff? Derrick Hardman outlines the benefits of implementing motivation schemes for this group of workers.


As 2008 marches on and the effects of the credit squeeze on staff loyalty and retention become apparent, it is clear that there is now a requirement for reward and recognition schemes that target all employees, rather than just the sales personnel who have traditionally been the focus of many programmes.

In fact, in 2007 we saw a significant increase in organisation-wide reward and recognition schemes in comparison with 2006 and this trend is continuing as companies look to engage all employees and reduce staff turnover with all its associated costs.

“The recent trend towards increasing numbers of temporary workers have forced employers to consider how best to motivate these workers.”

The expanded scope of many programmes need not incur significantly higher expenditure. In many areas where employers seek to encourage a change in behaviour, such as absenteeism and motivation, the ‘positive reward’ is often highly cost effective. However, the award values need not be huge to be effective with vouchers, for example, coming into their own as an instantly available, low-cost option.

While the popularity of employee loyalty and motivation schemes is growing, there is one section of the workforce that is often neglected by most schemes: temporary and contract workers.

In line with the current economic crisis, the recent trend towards increasing numbers of temporary workers have forced employers to consider how best to motivate these workers who by their nature, have little or no long-term affinity or loyalty to the business.

Memorable messages

It is important to include temporary or contract workers in motivation schemes because for the scheme to be totally effective, it needs to motivate 100% of the participants all of the time. That is why elements like communicating with participants in the appropriate way, memorable messages and the opportunity to earn appealing and aspirational rewards are so important.

It therefore follows that if a sizeable proportion of a workforce or team are temporary or contract workers, they simply must be included as participants alongside permanent staff. Failure to include them will drag down the performance of the entire team as they will not be focussed on achieving the same goals.

Many employers may see motivating temporary workers or contractors as an unnecessary expenditure as they are only with the company for a short time. However, incentive programmes generally focus on short-term objectives. If temporary or contract workers help the organisation to achieve these goals, then the investment in motivation has not been wasted.

The logistics of including temporary staff on an existing scheme don’t have to be a nightmare. The scheme, its objectives and the rewards available need to be carefully explained. Awards should be given on a pro-rata basis according to the period of participation. A temporary staff member who leaves before the end of an incentive scheme, in common with all participants, will usually forfeit their right to receive awards. This needs to be built into the scheme rules to avoid disputes in such instances.

“For temporary staff, having instant rewards is even more important.”

One of the most common problems with temporary staff is that they can often break their temporary contract to go into permanent employment with another company. An incentive scheme can be an extremely useful tool for a company to create loyalty and reduce staff turnover, so it follows that temporary staff should be included in these schemes to give them an incentive to stay.

The incentive may need to be divided in a way that makes it easier to involve short-term staff with, for example, smaller monthly targets instead of larger quarterly targets.

For temporary staff, having instant rewards is even more important. From hitting objectives to receiving awards, the scheme should be quickly administered with no long processes to go through to claim awards.

Retailers frequently employ large numbers of temporary staff at peak sales times (for example Christmas) and retailers should always run incentives that these temporary staff should be included in. For example, vouchers are the perfect reward for temporary staff as they can be supplied even in small amounts and provide a reward that is appreciated.

Points schemes do not work for temporary staff as the collection period to earn a meaningful reward is probably longer than most temps contracts. Equally, they are unlikely to be able to qualify for incentive travel awards, which are inappropriate for this type of worker.

Temporary staff should be treated fairly alongside permanent staff on a scheme. However, the value of awards that they can earn should be pro-rata in accordance with the time they have participated in the programme. The same programme rules must apply to all participants.


Derrick Hardman is managing director of Capital Incentives and Motivation.

One Response

  1. Temporary staff are people too
    There certainly is an issue with temporary staff working alongside permanent staff but receiving a different compensation package. The basic issue of fairness is the key to ensuring that both groups of people are not de-motivated by any incentive scheme.

    People, of whatever employment status, go to work for the money but waht they do when they get there is down to their motivation.

    Money, incentives or rewards are not the primary drivers of motivation, though it may be nice to sweeten the compensation pot in this way. This does not replace the need for the people managers to create the conditions for good motivation to flourish.

    There are some things you can’t outsource!

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