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Making the Best Employee Using a Temporary Worker

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Olivia Cook
July 2, 2018


Economic turmoil can happen at any moment. And, when it happens, more temporary workers are likely to be hired due to abrupt retirement, termination, expansion of workload or downsizing of the organization. Because the economy can change at any time, organizations are more inclined to hire temporary employees to manage their workload. However, developing the best temporary employee in times of economic uncertainty is a peril many public administrators in local government face. This is because when hiring a short-term worker, it is difficult to clearly edify the individual since his mindset is typically in a temporary perspective. To motivate these individuals, it is vitally important for the short-term worker to know the “why” or purpose behind what they are doing. Knowing this helps them understand the likely contribution their work will have on the lives of others. From there, leadership matters when motivating employees to a higher calling. Beyond that, a positive and inclusive organizational culture is important as peer influence lies in this realm.

Organizational Culture

Organizations use temporary employees because they can quickly provide a business with qualified staff, they save can save them money and they can provide a form of stability in an unstable economy. On the one side, the temporary worker can be more flexible and get the job done without the heavy responsibility of permanent employment. On the other side, the employer gets to outsource help without directly hiring them and they are not obligated to provide benefits. For this to be effective, the beliefs, principles, ideologies, values and organizational leadership that is displayed must be a part of the foundation to form the organization’s culture. This is because the organizational culture is large enough to impact the temporary worker far greater and longer than the leadership possibly will. Why is this so? Because organizational culture is everywhere – it is in all the places whether the leader is there or not. Put simple, the culture of the workplace controls how employees act and behave amongst themselves. It also influences the way workers engage with stakeholders and other entities outside of the organization.


When managing temporary workers, leadership is also important. Particularly because it is the way a person uses his or her power, personality, and provision to steer and motivate other people. For public administrators, to motivate a temporary worker it is necessary to possess the ability to guide or lead one in a way that successfully articulates the goal and encourages others to want to follow. Leadership is undeniably important for individuals that work in the public sector because they are there for the public, by the public. Due to the growing mediums of social media outlets, there are much greater levels of public awareness, which lead to increased accountability measures and need for transparency. Therefore, leadership is important because it provides the organization with direction, encourages a healthy environment, and it sets the standards for others, especially temporary workers, in the organization to refer to. To be clear, temporary employees only work well if, an only if, they are led well.


Research shows that determining the “why” is behind the job is most important, primarily because the organization’s mission, potential results and the likely impact the employee’s contribution will have on others both start and end here. It is here where different skill sets are introduced that have not been explored and the short-term worker embodies the purpose behind what they are doing. Purpose is essential for the temporary worker to have as it invites effective communication and buy-in to the organization’s mission. This is leading from the inside out and organizing personal meaning behind the work that they do.

Why does this matter?

In the past, temporary employees were traditionally viewed as replacements for permanent employees, but increasingly, organizations are beginning to regard them as integral parts of their personnel approaches and essential components of informal organizational charts. The temporary worker has the potential to fill a commitment that is unlike that of permanent employees – they encounter a belongingness that makes them want to work harder in hopes to one day become a full-time employee. Therefore, as public administrators, we should determine strategic ways that sound values can be integrated into the structures, processes and systems of public organizations as they have the potential to influence a short-term workers job performance.

Things to grow on

Put simple, to build good temporary workers, it is vitally important for practitioners to articulate the ‘why,’ embody good, arguably ethical, leadership, and promote a nurturing organizational culture. If this were viewed in a concentric circle, organizational culture would form the outer most circle, leadership in the middle, and finally purpose, or the “why” as the center. When this mindset is embodied, the public administrator is in position to fulfill the needs of their organization all while motivating their temporary worker to embrace the organization’s mission and perform at high levels.

Author: Olivia Cook, PhD Student, Auburn University email: [email protected]

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