Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Making a Personnel Investment: How to Effectively Manage the Use of Temporary Labor in the Production Environment

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Making a Personnel Investment: How to Effectively Manage the Use of Temporary Labor in the Production Environment

Article excerpt


At one point or another it seems that we all have the need for temporary help in production. Whether it's during our Thanksgiving preprint push or throughout the holiday season, a large majority of newspapers find themselves using temporary labor to get through. Most often we suffer from a labor shortage in the mailroom and distribution area, but this can extend to other areas of production as well.

There are many questions you need to ask yourself when it comes to use of this commodity, but the primary question should be, is the use of temporary labor truly an effective means to an end or does the expense simply outweigh the benefits?

Finding the Best Solutions

Several other questions need to be answered when it comes down to measuring the efficiency of temp help and how best to optimize its use in your operation.

Do you provide the agency with job descriptions so that they can better match the individual to the specific position? This isn't something we all think about doing. Honestly, most of us call the temp agency, tell them how many people we need, when to report for the shift, and we're done with it. Then, when the individual or crew shows up and isn't close to being matched with the job, we use them for what we can and cost the company dollars in less than productive labor cost. I truly don't think that the best way to manage is by the "warm body" measurement many have decided is acceptable.

I've found that the best way to effectively communicate your needs is to meet with the agency on your turf and go over each written job description so that the agency is prepared and can prescreen candidates to ensure they closely match the job description and enable you to maximize productivity. In this phase, you can discuss the position in detail to determine if there are any educational or special requirements and what other qualities may be needed to fulfill the position.

Recently, a temp agency emailed me a job description that was supposedly geared to a position we had open. They pulled it from the archives of job descriptions furnished to them. Reading over the description, I quickly realized that it had very little to do with what we needed and that because we didn't provide them with updated information, they were attempting to fill the position with someone with the wrong skill set.

While they were reviewing the corrected job description I then sent along, they asked me why when it stated "two to three weeks to learn the basics of the position and three months to become proficient," did we expect a temp laborer to be able to do the same job with perhaps one day of training and no prior understanding of the process? Great question, and one I didn't exactly have a good answer to.

What about training? Training can be key to getting the most out of your temp labor dollars. Most of us spend about five minutes explaining the job to a temp laborer, then when they do a terrible job because they don't understand what's expected of them, so we either send them away and request someone new or put up with someone who isn't productive and frustrates us to no end.

Take the time to work with the laborer as well as the agency. I'm not talking about a full blown training program that takes hours or days, but make sure the individual understands what's expected of them and how to correctly do the job. Give them the opportunity to succeed and have a positive benefit to the company.

Bottom line, it's about communication, a clear understanding of the job requirements and what you expect from the agency. You're paying a premium for the convenience of temp labor. Working with the agency is critical in order to get the most bang for your buck.

Is there a clear expectation of schedules? Next on my list is providing the agency with an approximate schedule of what the temp worker should be expecting. Will this be a one-time event or a daily project for a particular period of time? …

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