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Trial Period for Employees? Consider Temp-to-Perm.


Trial Period for Employees? Consider Temp-to-Perm.

We’re all accustomed to trial periods for software programs, 30-day return policies for appliances, and easy refunds for clothes we return. But what about new employees?

It’s hard to imagine parting ways with a recent hire after a few short weeks, even if you’re sure it isn’t working out well. Not only can it be legally tough – in some states you can quickly incur financial obligations if you terminate even relatively short-lived employees, it’s also a painful, and just plain awkward conversation to have.


One inventive way to avoid this scenario is by using a staffing agency for a temp-to-perm solution.

Think of it as a mash up between a recruiter and a temp agency – you can hire the potential employees as temporary workers, for a few weeks or even several months, and then if the relationship is working out, convert them into your own full time employees. With more than a third of U.S. workers now available on a less-than-permanent basis, there is a huge supply of talented, willing new employees for you to test out.

Tips to make temp-to-perm work for you:

Be up front with the agency about your intentions. Not all staffing agencies offer a temp-to-perm solution. The best staffing agencies put a lot of time and effort into recruiting and keeping great talent, and there could be hefty “conversion fees” that are designed to deter, not encourage, what they see as poaching their most important assets.

 Set expectations with the employee, too. Once you find the right candidate, have an honest conversation with them as early as possible. Make it clear that the permanent job is a possibility, not a guarantee. This avoids any unnecessary friction at the end of the trial period if you decide not to go forward with them as a full time hire.

Invest in them as if they were your team member. A true temp employee is usually someone that you just have in place to fill an unusual skill set or fixed term situation – someone with a language fluency you need for a specific project, for example – and that you know you don’t have the demand for to keep on for the long term. But if you are vetting someone through a temp-to-perm arrangement with an eye to bring them on as a member of your team, it’s worth it to spend additional time with them:

  • Teach them about the business. Get your potential employee thinking about their role from a long term perspective by giving them greater context about what your organization does.
  • Give them a real orientation. Don’t just point out where the restroom and the canteen is, give them an introduction to your core values, introduce them to employees important to their role (who you can later survey for their thoughts on the person’s long term potential) and have them go through training similar to your standard hiring procedures.
  • Get to know them. Set up weekly check-ins with them and find out how they feel about the role – you want to make sure they are excited about this job as a real member of the team. Find out what their ideal career interests are. And have transparent conversations – about what is going well, and what isn’t – throughout the entire trial period.
    [bctt tweet=”The final decision to hire (or not) should not be a surprise but a confirmation of earlier discussions.”]

At the end of the trial period, you will probably have three options: hire them, end the temporary contract, or continue the temporary relationship instead of converting them. However, recognize that if you take the last option, the relationship could sour if the temp is disappointed that they were not offered a permanent position, or they could start looking for a new opportunity and leave.

Whichever you choose, be up front as soon as possible about your decision. Get honest feedback from the staffing agency on their opinion as well – their interests are aligned with yours, if you keep the person on or hire them, they make a fee – and they can (and should) help manage the individual.

While temp-to-perm arrangements don’t work for every situation, in the new economy they can be a fantastic way to find great talent without the costs and headaches of traditional recruitment and hiring. Find someone you like, get to know them on your own time, and don’t commit until you’re sure. Not a bad way to build your company with great people and less risk, right?