Temporary employeesWhile many warehouse and DC managers think of temporary employees (temps) as an afterthought, assuming that the full responsibility for their selection and performance rests with the local temp agency, managers who reap the best results are ones who devote a great deal of time to selecting and managing temporary workers.

If you visit some warehouses and DCs around the country early in the morning, you may see prison busses pulling up and unloading convicts, who enter the warehouses and spend the next eight hours working inside, being picked up at the end of the day by the busses and transported back to prison. No, this isn’t the plot of some strange Hollywood movie. It’s reality. “Some sheriff ’s departments around the country have programs where prisoners are allowed to work during the day,” says Daniel Bolger, P.E., president of The Bolger Group (Millersport, Ohio, www.bolgergroup.com), a management consulting firm. “The sheriff usually arranges to drop the workers off in a bus and pick them up at the end of the shift. A portion of their earnings go back to the sheriff’s department to cover incarceration costs.” Most of these programs are managed through local temp agencies, which take care of workers’ compensation issues, etc.

A good idea? It depends. “Most of these programs work with prisoners living in community transition homes, which tend to be low security,” says Bolger. “These are not mainstream prisoners.”

That’s one way to get temporary workers. There are others. And, these days, warehouse and DC managers are looking for as many different options as possible, because some previously reliable sources have dried up, and unemployment figures are low in many parts of the country. “There was a time when it was common to hire school teachers and shiftwork firefighters as temps,” says Bolger. “As pay scales have increased, though, these people tend to be less available for temp work.”

Some managers work with local colleges and hire students as temps. However, according to Bolger, because of benefits programs, workers’ comp, liability insurance, etc., it may make more sense to work through a professional temp agency.

One exception to working through an agency, though, might be to consider hiring family members of full-time employees. “For example, your full-time workers may have children who are available to work during the summer or other times when you have a need for temps,” says Bolger. The benefit here is that, if the full-time workers are reliable, there’s a good chance they will make sure their children (or other relatives) will be equally reliable.

Agency Options
Of course, when it comes to hiring temps, the most common route is to work with traditional temp agencies, which will work to fill requirements of a number of different job positions for companies in a number of different industries. But it’s also worthwhile to consider some specialty agencies.

One of these is AfterCollege Inc. (San Francisco, www.aftercollege.com), the largest college Web-based employment network in U.S., which works with individual academic departments to help their students connect with employers. “For warehouse and DC workers, we work with college logistics and supply chain departments,” says Roberto Angulo, CEO. Warehouses and DCs can post their job openings on the agency’s Web site for entry-level jobs parttime throughout the year, during the summer, and even for internships.

One benefit of hiring college students as temps, according to Angulo, is that you end up getting people who are eager to learn about your specific industry, since this is what they are majoring in at college. “For this same reason, the program provides an excellent source of people to consider for permanent jobs, who can even move up in your organization,” he says.

Another specialty agency is Lift Temp Industrial (Mississauga, Ontario, www.lifttemp.com), which has offices in Canada and the U.S. The company offers positions for general labor and lift truck operators, as well as all other warehouse positions. The agency specializes in providing certified and experienced lift truck operators. “We have our own lift truck training center, where we train, qualify, and certify operators,” says Sheri Brimley, president. Some of the people are trained in distribution, shipping/ receiving, and some are trained in supervision and management.

“We won’t place temporary employees with a client until we have done a full tour of the facility ourselves,” says Richard Jones, vice president. “We want to make sure the work environment is safe. They are our employees, so we have a responsibility for them, and we want to ensure their safety.”