Focus: People Management - Temporary staff 'can fill the skillsgap'

Graham Willgoss,

Employees on short-term contracts can take the heat off full-time workers.

Charities should bridge the skills gap they face in hard-to-fill positions with temporary staff on short-term contracts, according to recruitment consultancy Morgan Hunt.

Jyoti Manani, the firm's charities and supported housing manager, said charities benefit because they are able to fill gaps immediately and do not overstretch full-time staff. They also save on the cost of advertising for new recruits.

"There is a shortage of skilled staff in many specialisms, but most acutely in fundraising and direct marketing," she said. "With many charities vying for a small pool of experienced staff, the reality is that some charities find they wait months to fill permanent posts."

Manani argued that the voluntary sector should follow the example of the housing and regeneration industry, which is addressing its own skills shortage by training temporary staff and using their existing transferable skills.

"Ideally, you should concentrate on a candidate's personality and aptitude to consider if they are worth investing in," she said. "If they lack experience in a certain field, they will often accept a lower rate, which can be increased once they reach a competent level."

Manani says temps do not have to be expensive. "There is usually only a marginal cost difference compared with an annual salary," she said.

"As long as there is a long-term strategy with clear budgets and set time-frames, charities can keep a tight control on recruitment spending."

Homelessness charity Crisis employs temporary staff in its communications department to cover extra activity over the Christmas period.

"From a seasonal point of view, temps are cost-effective," said Lucy Maggs, head of communications and campaigning at Crisis. "There's no point paying someone all year round if you need them only to cover a busy period.

"The problem is that someone coming in for the first time has to find their feet very quickly. Someone employed for three months goes through exactly the same induction process as someone coming in on a permanent contract. They might have an intense week or two, but it enables them to get going a lot quicker."

Sara Hazzard, external communications manager at St Mungo's, said temps are useful for one-off, short-term projects or for work that requires specialist skills from time to time.

"We use three basic guidelines," she said. "Make sure the temp has the right skills, provide as much clarity as possible and check references if you need them for longer than a week. The right approach can ensure that a short-term role helps achieve long-term goals."

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