Clear Expectations

June 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

I heard a story once about a father who told his toddler son that he could play in the front yard, but he was not to go around the corner of the house where dad could not see him.  As toddlers are wont to do, the boys play took him from one part of the yard and then another only to wind up out of sight on the side of the house.  The father, who was working on his car, did not spy his son during a periodic lift of the head. He began shouting the boys name and walking the yard with a parental urgency.  He found the boy on the side of the house, out of the father’s line of sight.

“Now son,” said the father sternly, holding the boys gaze, “we talked about this.  You may play in the yard, but your are not to go around the corner.  Do you understand?”  The boy nodded dutifully and was led by his father back into the front yard.

A short time later, the father again looked up from his task only to find that the boy again had wandered out of sight.  The father hurried to the side of the house and found the boy poking a bug with a stick.

The father felt that the first act of disobedience was resolved by confirming expectations.  The second act of disobedience was obviously an act of defiance that required measured discipline.  After “dusting his diaper” the father again held the boy’s gaze and said, “Now do you understand how important it is for you not to go around the corner?”  The boy tearfully looked in his father’s eyes and said, “Daddy, what’s a corner?”

One of the major advantages of staffing is to have the opportunity to work a person for a trial period without long term commitment.  If the person seems to fit in, do a good job, have a great attitude, then their assignment is continued, lengthened or they are even hired on.  If the candidate does not meet the needs of the customer, that person can be replaced or the assignment ended with no questions asked.

I have found in my 15 years of experience, that sometimes it is a matter of setting clear expectations for the temporary.  Put yourself in the temps shoes.  You are entering into a strange environment.  You don’t know if the atmosphere is serious, fun, or quiet.  You don’t know if the supervisor is driven, relaxed or lazy.  You don’t know where the bathroom is, much less when it is appropriate to excuse yourself.  Not only do you have to learn the tasks that complete your job quickly, you have to become aware of the politics within the department in which you work.  You have to know who to ask questions of and who not to.  There is a tremendous amount of pressure on a temporary worker to learn the job and the environment in a quick amount of time.  If you don’t, things “may not work out”.

My advice is to take extra time with a temporary worker during her first few days to insure that she completely understands the tasks for which she is responsible.  Here are some suggestions:

  1. Ask them open ended questions about their job history.  This opens the door for them to “sell” you on themselves and you can learn much about them.
  2. Take time to familiarize them with the workplace.  Show them the restroom, break room, smoking area, employee parking, etc.  Let them know what time they can take their breaks and lunch.
  3. Explain the job thoroughly.  Insist that the temp take notes.  This way you can insure they understand what you are saying.
  4. Create an atmosphere that is open to questions.  Sometimes, temps are too scared to ask questions.  They then make assumptions on what to do which leads to problems.
  5. If a mistake is made, review the process with them so that the same mistake is not made again.  Everyone makes mistakes when they are new to the job.  A quality employee goes to great effort not to make the same mistake repeatedly.
  6. Assume that the temp wants to do a good job until you receive information that proves otherwise.  Most temps want to perform well.  They are in transition between jobs and hold out hope that you will see nothing but gold in them and offer them a full time job.
  7. Finally, talk to your staffing professional.  They may be able to help you get the temp back on the road to productivity.  Often the staffing professional has worked with the temp on other assignments and can help correct any performance or behavioral issues.

Clear expectations are the key to quality performance in your temp.

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