Try a temp

Employers now have the same opportunities that general managers do in professional sports.

The pool of available, experienced free agents is at an all time high. There are engineers, financial analysts, human resource and salespeople in the job market who could have an immediate impact on your company.

It’s time to go to your “war room” and look at your “draft board” and see where you have skill set gaps that need to be filed. You may need one or more of these free agents to move your company forward during the economic recovery.

Since most companies don’t have a “war room” or a “draft board,” you need to sit down with your human resource people and begin to develop an inventory of the available skills in your company. Once the process is completed, you need to answer the following question: Do I develop these skills in house with existing employees or do we acquire the needed skill sets by hiring one or more new employees?

There are really two answers to this question and they both rely on one element: time. If you have a great deal of time to upgrade your skill sets in house, then training programs, either internal or external, can assist you in achieving your goal. If time is not your friend but your enemy, then you need to go to your “draft board” and get that experienced wide receiver, tight end or punter as soon as you can.

You may be asking yourself, what is a skill inventory and why do I need one? A skill inventory is a listing of abilities, capacities, qualifications, and career goals of your employees to identify suitable candidates for internal recruitment or promotions. It can also identify where you don’t have the necessary skill sets to complete a particular task or to achieve an identified goal.

Next, you need to develop a list of the skill sets required to take your company to a higher level of profitability. Now that you have the two skill set lists, you need to identify which skill sets you have versus the ones you require.

During a recent Council of Small Business Executives (COSBE) leaders meeting at the MMAC, Attorney Thomas Kammerait of the Von Briesen & Roper law firm shared a new recruiting strategy with us. Many firms today are contracting with unemployed individuals to work on short and long-term projects as a way of trying them out for a permanent position. It is a win/win situation for both parties. You get to try out or audition this individual, evaluate their skills sets and see if they fit into your corporate culture. You also don’t incur any benefit costs, such as health insurance, unemployment, payroll taxes and disability insurance. You also have an arm’s length relationship since they are not employed by your firm, but are paid on a 1099. The contracted employee gets an opportunity to demonstrate their skills, usually at a rate lower than their normal salary and benefits, but a rate higher than unemployment compensation.

Kammerait recounted an example where a firm auditioned two individuals for a vice president of sales position. This permitted them to see how the individuals interacted with customers, prospects, and the firm’s own employees and peers. They hired the second candidate after evaluating their soft and hard skills.

In the temp-to-perm market, employers are using temporary employees for two reasons. The first is to have them audition their skills. The second is that many employers are still not convinced that the recession is really over.

According to Dave Balistreri, owner and president of Select Technical Staffing, Inc., “contract to direct placement is a great way to try a potential permanent employee out without taking on unemployment and worker’s compensation exposure.”

Temp-to-hire is not a new concept, but one that has been usually relegated to lower skilled employees, such as warehouse and production line workers. Now you can apply this concept to individuals who posses’ specific skill sets, including middle and upper level managers and have them work at your company on “project” or as a “temp to perm” basis. Either strategy permits you evaluate the individual, see if they meet your needs, see if they have the specific skill set you’re looking for and finally to see if they “fit” into the organization.

With the current pool of talent, employers have a rare opportunity to find that special employee, the one who will make their company more competitive, productive and ultimately more profitable.

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