Integrating temporary workers into your company culture

A positive company culture has evolved from a nice-to-have to a key driver of competitive advantage. According to Deloitte, workers who feel a sense of meaning and purpose at work will perform at a higher level and put in more discretionary effort for their employer. Culture is also crucial for employee engagement, boosting financial performance and staff retention. Organisations are attracting workers by elevating their company culture to the top of their employee value propositions (EVPs).

But in a country where nearly a quarter of the workforce is regarded as contingent, the risk is that efforts to improve organisational culture are not reaching a growing cohort of temporary workers. Even when permanent staff are fully on-board with cultural improvement, temporary workers may not be as invested in their current employer’s values, mission or related goals.

Traditionally, company culture programs take time and steady, consistent messaging to stick. But how can organisations disseminate cultural values to someone who may only be at the organisation for a few months?

Risks of failing to integrate temp workers into company culture

If left unmanaged, this risk can lead to a two-speed culture or “us vs them” situation. While permanent staff are highly engaged and aligned with company values, temporary workers are left disengaged and untrained – after all, the argument goes, why spend money on cultural training for someone due to leave the business in a few weeks anyway?

Temporary workers need to be engaged and aligned with cultural values from the very beginning to the end of their tenure. Failing to do so may lead to contingent workers undermining the good work HR has been doing with permanent staff.

For example, your business may have invested significant time and energy in creating a psychologically safe culture where employees feel empowered to speak up in meetings and respectfully challenge the views of others. Your program is already bearing fruit, with an observable improvement in decision-making and innovation-sparking debates. However, a contingent worker brought in at the middle-manager level is unaware of these efforts and chastises a junior staff member for disagreeing with her in a weekly meeting. The junior staff member is embarrassed, and won’t feel safe to speak up again without fear of retribution. Just like that, the cultural initiative has been undermined.

Worse still, contingent workers may display ignorance of key values such as appreciating diversity or respect for women. The problem is that customers who witness negative behaviour that is unaligned with company values won’t be able to differentiate between your permanent and contingent staff – the brand damage is the same.

Solutions for including temporary workers in cultural initiatives

Even if temporary staff will only be with your organisation for a short time, they should receive the full benefit of your training programs. There’s a strong argument to be made that temps should spend more time on cultural training than permanent staff because they haven’t been around to absorb ongoing cultural messaging over time.

Below we explore some solutions for aligning temporary workers with cultural values during hiring and their term of employment.

During hiring:

  • Hire for cultural fit. Consider asking candidates values-based behavioural questions in the interview, garnering their ability to collaborate, communicate, willingness to learn, and how they would handle workforce disagreements. However, be careful that cultural fit doesn’t undermine diversity hiring.
  • Consider requiring cultural/values-based certification – for example, an organisation working closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities could require all new temporary hires to have completed CCCA training. Companies can work with staffing agencies to implement this sort of requirement.
  • Ensure cultural training is a key pillar of onboarding/induction training. Make the training engaging, relevant and targeted to contingent workers, and explain why it’s so important. Used mixed formats such as text, videos and quizzes, and don’t fall into the trap of cultural training becoming a box-ticking exercise.

During employment:

  • Focus on inclusion to avoid an us-vs-them workplace. Ensure temporary workers are included in all relevant emails and team meetings and invited to team-building events, mental health workshops, D&I training, and reward/recognition programs. Avoid using subtle status differentiators for temp staff such as different colour ID badges or different access to office facilities.
  • Continue communicating your messaging about values initiatives throughout the temporary worker’s entire term of employment. Don’t rely solely on induction training. Use targeted messaging that makes it clear that it applies equally to temporary workers.
  • Leverage technology that supports your cultural efforts: build a positive culture on digital collaboration spaces such as Slack, or employ built-to-purpose company culture software including reward and recognition platforms or team-building software.
  • Remove barriers between permanent and temporary staff. Consider instituting an informal buddy system or more formal mentor program that includes regular “culture check-ins”.
  • Gather feedback from departing temporary workers about their experience of the company culture and how included they felt, then use this information to drive continuous improvement.

Over recent years, our team of business consultants have noticed an increasing focus placed on overall business compliance. Whilst organisations are required to meet regulatory requirements, how do people and culture teams and HR managers ensure company culture is embedded across workers of all types? Talk to the Cited team today: