Do temps and Olympic athletes have anything in common? Catherine Sinclair draws a few parallels.
From the outside it wouldn’t appear that your average temporary office worker and an Olympic athlete would have much in common. In fact; they do: both groups have to continuously push themselves outside their comfort zone to do their jobs properly.
In my experience both as a recruiter and as a temporary worker, there are an awful lot of misconceptions around employing temporary workers. Employers often assume that bringing in a temp incurs more cost than benefit – in terms of time, effort and money.
But the reality couldn’t be more different. Hiring the best talent in the market by the hour, day or week is a superb and cost-effective way to benefit from people with incredible skills adding genuine value to your organisation.
The benefits of hiring temporary support staff are endless. Temps deliver an eclectic range of valuable skills – whether that be an experienced hire with invaluable market knowledge or a recent graduate delivering a fresh set of eyes and original perspective.
You need to be exceptionally flexible, adaptable, resilient, inquisitive and able to constantly think on your feet.
A friend of mine is in the midst of a career change and as a result is currently temping for a well-known brand as an administrative assistant. Her extensive knowledge of streamlining systems and processes, running international projects and superb soft skills have delivered immense value to her team – so much so she has been offered the role permanently twice!
This example only reiterates that, by working with a good recruiter, employers can access brilliant talent that wouldn’t usually fit the bill – either for budgetary reasons, or because their skills aren’t easy to immediately pigeonhole.
In terms of softer skills, it takes a particular type of person to temp. You need to be exceptionally flexible, adaptable, resilient, inquisitive and able to constantly think on your feet. Temps are often expected to work with minimal guidance and limited on-the-job training – because often they are covering for someone who is away sick or on holiday.
Temps need to be natural problem solvers and are expected to work efficiently with very little room for error. I once undertook an ‘accounts payable’ position with a lovely company in Bank. Although I received an excellent handover, once the individual I was covering had left I was completely on my own.
I naturally had questions but with no one to ask, it was up to me to answer them. After a hair-raising first few days, the booking went extremely well and the client was very happy. This is not a unique situation.
Many of my temps are thrown in at the deep end without training or guidance, but it is their approach and mindset that sees them through the fog of uncertainty, and it is this that makes them so invaluable to organisations.
No Olympic athlete reaches the dizzy heights of their success without resilience, diligence, reflection and continuously pushing themselves out of their comfort zones – much like temporary workers.
‘Mindset’ is a simple idea that emanates from the world-renowned Psychologist Carol Dweck. From decades of research on achievement and success, Dweck discusses two mindsets, a ‘fixed mindset’ and a ‘growth mindset’ (Dweck, 2010).
Those with a ‘fixed mindset’ simply believe that their talent and abilities are determined from birth, they don’t tend to take risks and work within their self-perceived limits. Conversely, individuals with a ‘growth mindset’ understand that talent is something you build upon and develop through practice, dedication and reflection.
Dweck goes on to discuss her research with reference to athletes and Olympians, a research field I have first-hand experience with. No Olympic athlete reaches the dizzy heights of their success without resilience, diligence, reflection and continuously pushing themselves out of their comfort zones – much like temporary workers!
As well as the enormous added value to the business, scientific research has shown that diversity within a workforce can promote innovation and creativity, which in turn positively influence organisational performance (Lambert, 2016).
In a competitive world, we must stay one step ahead of the game and use the best talent that is out there. We need to be entrepreneurial and innovative, both of which stem from diversity. In that vein, then, the diversity of skills, personalities, cultural backgrounds, experience and knowledge temporary workers bring to an organisation could potentially hugely improve company performance.
About the author
Catherine Sinclair is head of temporary talent at Sidekicks