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How Employment and Recruitment Agencies Work

Agency employment is an effective strategy that you can use to help fill staff shortages at a business. Staff shortages can occur for numerous reasons, including long-term sick, parental leave or holiday leave. Temporary employment agencies can also find cover in the event of an employee’s short-term absence.

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When to use a temporary employment agency

Temporary employment agencies, also known as employment businesses, may be able to help you find temporary staff to cover the following occasions:

  • sick leave;
  • holiday leave;
  • parental leave;
  • during your search for a permanent employee;
  • seasonal projects;
  • busy periods.

Using an employment agency to cover temporary positions has its advantages. You can trust a good employment agency to find staff who will be able to start work immediately, without much or any prior training. Employment agencies will help you to find staff who have the right experience to cover the role. You will usually work with a consultant, who will help you to decide what kind of candidate you are looking for.

Other benefits of using employment agencies include:

  • the agency handling the entire recruitment process, saving you valuable time;
  • the agency handling everything involved with temporary staff pay, including insurance and pension;
  • the agency helping to support your business while your permanent employee is on leave.

You can save a lot of time by approaching an employment agency to search for and screen candidates to fill a temporary position. They can also test candidates to make sure that they have the right skill set by setting them proficiency tests, enabling them to provide you with a qualified candidate for the role.

What are the downsides to hiring temporary staff?

Although there are many benefits to hiring temporary staff, be aware that there are some pitfalls too.

These include a range of potential issues:

  • temporary staff may not be as loyal or motivated as permanent employees;
  • although temporary staff will have some experience, you may still have to train them or conduct an orientation. Some temporary staff may need to be trained in in-house technology and computer systems, especially in more technical roles;
  • some of your team may be reluctant to assist temporary workers if it prevents them from getting on with their own work;
  • there may be customer service or other communication issues if messages are not adequately passed to permanent employees or those higher up in the organisation;
  • hiring mostly temporary staff can result in high turnover, reducing team-building opportunities and resulting in poor staff morale.

You should make sure that most of your workforce are permanent employees, and that you only take on temporary staff when really necessary. Ask your employment agency to find candidates who are familiar with the systems that you use, if possible.

Your HR department should help provide guidance or handover notes for new temps, to help ease them into the role. Make sure that your HR team is actively involved in providing any necessary information or training if required. If the booking is for a week or more, or ongoing, then companies are likely to benefit from establishing a proper induction process for temps.

Why do candidates search for temporary roles?

Jobseekers may seek temporary agency work for many reasons. Perhaps they are new to an area and are looking for a temp-to-perm role. They might enjoy working across different teams and meeting new people. Candidates may also be looking to build on their skill set, and hone experience in a certain area. Some may be looking to try out different working environments, teams and roles, to find out which one suits them best. Alternatively they may be students with some free time during the holidays or young people looking to gain some experience and a foothold in the job market. Even though these candidates are looking for a temporary position, they will usually have some previous experience in the role that you are recruiting for, unless it’s a simple role that requires no experience, such as basic factory, warehouse or agricultural work. If they have experience, you will still need to explain some specific aspects of the job and your team to them, but they should have already had any prerequisite training for the work they will be doing. Ask your agency more about their selected candidates to ensure that their experience matches that of the role.

Temporary to permanent recruitment

You may be using an employment agency to fill a temporary staffing shortage, such as when a member of staff is on leave or during a busy period. However, you can also use one to find a permanent employee through temporary to permanent recruitment (often referred to as ‘temp-to-perm’). One of the benefits of this kind of recruitment is that you can try someone out before you decide whether to take them on permanently as an employee of your company. You can find out not only whether they are qualified for the role, but whether they collaborate well with your current team. Doing so can save you money in the long term as you are more likely to retain this member of staff. After all, you will be looking for a loyal, passionate team player.

Other advantages of temp-to-perm recruitment include:

  • access to a greater pool of experienced workers;
  • aligning the departure of one employee with the permanent recruitment of a replacement who is taken on initially as a temp;
  • not having to search through applicants for the right candidate, as the employment agency will find them for you.

Difference between employment agencies and employment businesses

Although they sound similar, be aware of the subtle difference between an employment agency and an employment business. Employment businesses find temporary contracts for workers and are paid by the employment business – not by you as a company. They are therefore the same as a temporary employment agency. On the other hand, an employment agency finds permanent roles for candidates. That said, many agencies find candidates for both temporary and permanent roles.

Consider using a temporary employment agency to fill gaps when your permanent staff are on leave. They can help you to save time and money during the recruitment process. You can also use temporary employment agencies to eventually fill permanent roles, by advertising temporary to permanent positions. This way, you can try out a candidate to see if they are a good fit for your team before deciding to take them on permanently. Temporary staff may not be as loyal or experienced as your permanent staff, and you should always factor this in when using a temporary employment agency. Although you may not want to train temporary staff, you may have to provide some learning modules for in-house systems or software, or handover notes to help make the transition period run more smoothly.

Related: General Guidelines for Job Application Forms

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