Office temps

The anonymous office temp – the nameless worker who takes lunch alone and spends most of their time at the photocopier – has become a thing of the past.

According to a survey by office recruitment firm Gordon Yates, a whole new breed of ‘career temp’ is emerging.

Often graduates invest a lot of themselves into an organisation and have high expectations in return. And while ‘portfolio careers’ are usually associated with high-earning interim managers or consultants, this is now a realistic option for temporary office workers.

Deliberate choice

This is good news for HR, according to Richard Grace, joint managing director of Gordon Yates.

“I was taken aback that one-third of the temps we surveyed said they had made a deliberate choice to work on a temporary basis. Some temps are unable to take permanent jobs for visa reasons, but portfolio working was cited as a popular reason.

“Temporary assignments are now stimulating, interesting and challenging, and temps can be a key part of a team,” he explains.

One of the key drivers for HR to get on side with temps is that even the most commitment-phobic career temp may be tempted into a permanent role, which can cut costs on recruitment.

Fertile ground

Grace describes the temp market as fertile ground for recruitment. “Temps get jobs by being in situ and demonstrating what they are capable of,” he says.

Carrie Kuenzi, head of resourcing for business banking at Barclays, says that the bank’s long-term temps help the company cope through periods of transition.

“If the transition period takes longer than we anticipated, then that is when we have to decide to try to convert them to permanent staff,” she explains.

“It’s at this stage that the people who want to stay as temps move on. There are benefits for both parties. We can access very talented people for specific periods, and they get flexibility.”

Not for everyone

However, this model does not suit everyone. Senior managers want a permanent assistant, for example, who will become accustomed to their management style.

After working for a year with a company, temps are entitled to sick pay and holiday pay, but bonuses or pay rises are rare.

Bethan Dixon Bate is a prime example of someone who is a career temp. She has temped for the past 20 years, and combines it with acting, gardening and floristry.

“I really enjoy the flexibility,” she says. “It’s enabled me to get a broad view of lots of different businesses.

“I’m operating in isolation so I don’t get caught up in the office politics. I’ll carry on as long as it suits me, but we’re no longer paid for the insecurity.”

Temps: the vital statistics

  • 55% of temps have been offered a permanent job.

  • 50% of temps are graduates.

  • 80% of firms use temps.

  • 48% of temps feel firms could make more use of their skills and experience.

  • 67% of temps said internet job searches were most useful.

  • 53% of temps have stayed with the same company for at least six months.

  • 27% of temps have stayed with the same company for more than a year.

  • 47% of ‘career temps’ are more satisfied now than they were a year ago.

Source: Gordon Yates

By Lucy Freeman

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