“We think in language. The quality of our thoughts and ideas can only be as good as the quality of our language.”
George Carlin said this in one of his stand-up routines thirty years ago, and I still remember it so clearly. That comment in particular is the one that sticks with me, because of its simplicity and its timelessness.
What does the word “temp” suggest to you? People in our industry often refer to contracted employees as temps (or the more formal “temporaries”) as merely part of their regular business vernacular. In the same routine, George said that a word itself is not bad or good—it’s the intention behind the word, the real meaning of that word to you in your mind.
A blast from the past…
I once worked in a warehouse as a temp, and I didn’t give much thought to the label. I was 18, and it was a summer gig in college. I wasn’t offended being referred to as “one of the temps,” nor did I feel any bias from management or company employees. There were a few dozen of us temps working alongside company employees, we ate in the same cafeteria, punched the same clock (look it up, kids), and we even went to the same company picnic.
Being called a temp didn’t bother me, not because I was so young, but because I didn’t feel like I was treated any differently than company employees. I saw them get reprimanded for the same things (remember, I was 18), and I received praise for a job well-done, just like they did.
Let’s flash forward to the present. More recently, I’ve spoken with hiring managers, human resources officers, and even staffing industry professionals who may view temporary workers as more dispensable and even transient.
“I don’t understand why a temp would bring in personal items like family pictures or coffee mugs…”
“We are closing early for an employee appreciation party, so please let your temps know they’ll be sent home early Friday…”
People work on a contract basis for various reasons, and their hourly wages can exceed that of some salaried employees, if that matters. Maybe they don’t need insurance benefits. Maybe they are financially stable enough to work when they want to and because they want to. And just maybe they are trying out your company and your position to see if it is a good fit for them.
Should we stop staying “temps” or “temporaries”? Maybe not. Maybe it’s more important to think about our own thoughts and about how these thoughts creep into our business practices.
Do you get it?
I visited a production facility recently, and my interaction with the human resources manager was one of the most enjoyable I’ve had. She took pride in working with our field employees to help them become full-time company employees. She didn’t speak about our field employees any differently than she did those that have worked there for years. During a recent half-day shutdown, she even made sure our folks were paid for the time lost due to no fault of their own. And guess what? Our field employees love it there, and they are thrilled when they are hired on full-time. They are on-time and work as hard as the company employees. For her, the temp distinction is nothing more than a payroll designation. By George, I think she’s got it.
Whether you are looking for temporary employees, full-time staff, or want to explore your own options, give us a call, we would be happy to help. We specialize in customer service, administrative, clerical, human resources, finance, and accounting positions of all levels.