4 Strategies for Retaining Temporary Talent

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With turnover or layoffs often comes a need for temporary employees to help pick up the slack, and if the contract workers end up unhappy, their turnover can make a big impact. Project timelines can be derailed, stalling progress as new temporary employees are onboarded and trained up on the current project.   

Below, we outline what drives temporary employees to quit, and ways to help prevent it. 

Onboarding/training: The majority of contract worker turnover happens within the training period, or within 90 days of their start. This is likely before they can get fully comfortable with the role. Helping new contract workers achieve small, quick wins right from the start can often help kickstart their confidence in the role. Within the first 90 days, managers can help set up the contractors’ schedules and tasks in a way that ramps them up through starting with more achievable tasks first. While their employment is short-term, the way they are integrated into the role and prepared for their responsibilities is an essential component to retaining them throughout their contract. 

One way to help set contractors up for success is by ensuring all their training resources are easily accessible and that employees are shown how to access these materials before they begin working independently. This allows them to problem-solve in the moment, helping them feel more empowered and confident sooner and reducing the risk of turnover.  

Consider creating regular touch points throughout the duration of the contract for these professionals to meet with managers in order to ask questions and get guidance for improving their performance. This not only helps contractors improve but can also allow them to see their leaders are investing in their professional growth.  

Consider surveying contract workers after their training to receive feedback on what areas are still unclear, if any. The survey should indicate not only their understanding of the role itself, but also other expectations, including things like time off, office policies and norms, or who to reach out to with questions. Uncertainty in what is expected of them can leave contractors feeling disengaged or confused, and potentially more likely to leave for a new opportunity. Be sure to follow up on what wasn’t understood. 

Communication: Proper communication ensures contractors not only understand their day-to-day responsibilities and are able to perform them well, but also helps reduce uncertainties. Frequent communication from supervisors can help ensure these workers feel supported. Especially if working remotely, the value of face time with leadership should not be undervalued. Consider setting up regular, reoccurring calls with contractors to check in.  

Clear communication is essential not only with the contractors themselves, but also with the temp agency or employer of the contractor to ensure continuity. Communication within that partnership can help ensure contractors are getting the same information from both parties and feel supported, in turn helping them be more successful and satisfied with the role.  

Consider also how to recognize contractors for their work throughout their assignment. This could include e-newsletters highlighting a ‘Contractor of the Month’ or an attendance raffle giving contractors who don’t miss work or are not late small prizes, like a gift card for lunch or coffee. Making contractors feel valued and appreciated can help them feel connected to the assignment, and ultimately help increase retention.  

Work environment: It is important that employers consider how their current environment welcomes contractors. Some may feel isolated from others within the business because of the nature of their work being short-term or because they often are not included in culture-building events and/or team meetings. When contractors feel isolated from others or like they are treated differently because of their temporary status, they may be more likely to turnover before the end of their assignment.  

Creating a welcoming environment for contractors does not merely mean planning an occasional happy hour, though that may be a good start. It requires intention behind day-to-day interactions and norms within the office. Encouraging connection between contract workers and employees can help them to feel more a part of the team and could help boost engagement.  

Pay: Offering competitive pay is important to retaining talent. However, oftentimes increasing hourly pay is not an option for many companies, so another way to help combat losing contractors mid-assignment is by offering a completion bonus.  

Some may also consider offering referral bonuses, if applicable, as a way of further engaging contractors and getting them more invested in the business.  

Also consider what non-monetary incentives can help increase engagement and cultivate a connection to the organization, such as sending contractors a giftbox of company swag, or offering on-site perks like access to the building’s gym or other amenities that may currently only be offered to salaried employees. 


While some turnover may be inevitable, retaining contract workers is important to keeping a business on track and meeting goals. However, with today’s strong jobs market, retaining contract workers throughout their assignment may be more challenging than ever. Employers should consider how they are getting temporary employees invested in their assignment and confident in their role in order to reduce the risk of turnover as much as possible. 


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