Seven Standards for Successful Leadership of Temporary Employees

The Seven Standards for Successful Leadership of your Temporary Employees

Article By Anthony Clyne

temporary labour
Temporary staff are commonly used for seasonal work such as this garlic processing line.

In many industries, temporary employees provide an important and flexible element of the workforce. The seasonal nature of Agri-business means that temporary labour is often required at peak harvest times, while other industries such as retail distribution rely on temporary labour to move high volumes of product at peak times such as Christmas.

In most businesses, temporary labour is employed through labour hire agencies. Therefore they are technically and legally employees of the agency. The labour hire agency is a supplier of the employer. For this reason, many businesses seem to forget that temporary employees are people and that they also require good leadership.

TXM’s Lean Daily Leadership Process provides a framework for maximising the value of temporary employees. Standardising Leadership of temporary employees can transform the effort and effectiveness of each individual. This includes:

  1. Standards for on-boarding, inducting, and training.
  2. Standards for Basic Needs
  3. Standards for Respect and Trust
  4. Standard Leadership Walk Around
  5. Standards for setting expectations
  6. Standards for giving feedback
  7. Standards communication methods for seeking feedback


  1. Standards for On-Boarding, Inducting, and Training

For new temporary employees, a proper induction is essential before starting work. It is a legal obligation in many countries. However, temporary employees don’t just need to be inducted into the physical workplace (e.g the location of the toilets) and the safety rules, but also need to be inducted into the culture of the business.  When introducing the employee to the workplace the initial tour of the premises is a crucial forum to set expectations.  When this induction is only done by the employment agency it misses the cultural induction.

Often the induction tour will be completed by another front line employee. This is OK as long as the person doing the induction is properly trained, understands their responsibility and properly represents the supervisor of the area. Each temporary should meet their supervisor before they start work and ideally before the induction tour takes place.  The induction tour needs to be in a structure of

  • What,
  • How it Is,
  • How it Is Not,
  • Why and then the Rule for each area.

Here is an example that could apply in any workplace:

  • What – “This is the lunch room.”
  • How it is – “You can see the dishes are washed, the lunches put away and the fridge has only labelled containers for meals.”
  • How it is Not – “We used to have meals in plastic bags.”
  • Why – “Plastic Bags take up too much space and often meals would be left in the bags and have to be thrown out. You can see from the photos of how it used to be and how it is now.”
  • The rule – “All meals need to be in a plastic container with your name labelled clearly.”


  1. Standards for Basic Needs

Basic needs are about providing employment and income and having accurate expectations of work hours and income.

Consider what each person needs to have their basic needs met:

What How Why
Give an expected income range Share the roster format and set an expected income range. Even if the exact roster is known on a daily or hourly basis the pattern or structure needs to be communicated. People need to budget and the uncertainty of income is a difficult environment to function well at work.
Communicate using three mediums of information Have a standard way to communicate information. There might be a verbal, a brief meeting, a handout, and a notice.  Pick three to allow some choice. Often temporary employees will have language and literacy barriers and need the information to be presented in multiple forms to enable understanding.
Set an expectation for the standard communication confirming the day’s work time An example is to communicate any overtime before the meal break. Have breaks at predictable times, avoid going on impromptu breaks. People need to make plans and need to communicate with family and friends to work together. It’s no good saying “No” to a school pick up on the small chance a person will be asked to do overtime.
Track individual income Have the actual data available to know how many hours each individual is being paid for. This is the value the employment agency could provide. People need to budget and the uncertainty of income is a difficult environment to function well at work.



  1. Standards for Respect and Trust

Have your frontline leaders define how individuals are to be spoken to and write down examples.  Help the frontline leaders adapt their personal style in brief role play.  Equipping leaders with simple phrases can make a big change to individual temporary employees.

Temporary Employees need a lot of reassurance.  A simple phrase might “You did exactly what was expected this morning in the situation.” Often supervisors, managers, and frontline leaders don’t have time to get to know each short term temporary employee at a personal level.  Ideally, it is better if you can get to know each person and understand their motivators.  Apply these seven steps should free up time more time for your leaders to work on building these relationships.


  1. Standard Leadership Walk Around

Structure the leadership walk around.  The TXM Lean Daily Leadership Process uses checklists in the form of tee cards to visualise the leader’s routine tasks, which include doing a set walk around the workplace at defined times during the workday. This includes noticing and giving feedback to temporary employees, not just the permanent team.


  1. Standards for Setting Expectations

Maintain the integrity of the front-line leaders by having them set realistic and mostly accurate expectations.  Job skills training, job rotation, what is good, what is not good are workplace expectations that can be managed and can help a temporary employee work with certainty.  The standards for setting these expectations need to be defined by the Front-line Leaders.  This again can be work-shopped by a group of Front-line Leaders and then role played to refine and standardise.  This process typically takes less than an hour.


  1. Standards for Giving Feedback

Giving feedback should follow a consistent methodology amongst the frontline leaders and be given in a way that maintains the personal style. Coaching frontline leaders in giving feedback is the role of the Supervisor and Manager. The way feedback is given is a key way in which your culture will be defined by your employees, temporary and permanent.


  1. Standard Communication Methods for Seeking Feedback

Temporary employees typically feel uncertain and not in a position to raise issues.  Daily meetings as part of the TXM Lean Daily Leadership Process provide a forum to raise concerns. Front-line leaders and key influencers in the workplace have roles to observe, ask, clarify, and reassure. The Toyota standard is to observe, respect the individual by showing empathy and not blame, ask why the observed behaviour is happening (and keep asking why up to a notional 5 times), challenge the barrier, and then lead the countermeasures to fix the immediate behaviour and the long term behaviour.


The TXM Leadership Framework Will Help You Manage Your Teams

TXM’s Lean Daily Leadership Process provides a framework for Leaders to provide all employees with the environment to perform and improve the business processes every day. This applies to all staff including long term full-time employees and short term or seasonal temporary employees.

Timothy McLean

Author: Timothy McLean

Timothy McLean is the Managing Director of TXM Lean Solutions and is an author of Lean books.