While temporary does mean short-term, when that time is shorter than expected, it hurts business. According to the Staffing Industry Analysts’ 2017 Temporary Worker Survey, 31 percent of temporary workers have quit a position early. How can a business succeed if one in three workers leave before the job is done?

A client company spends a considerable amount of time and resources to identify needs, interview candidates, and train new hires. So it’s costly when a temporary employee quits early. Replacing someone in a low-paying position typically costs 16 percent of the annual salary, which translates to $3,328 for a retail employee who makes $10 an hour. That percentage increases as experience level and salary go up — replacing a management-level position runs around $8,000. And that cost does not include intangibles like the hit to employee morale when extra help leaves.

Although temporary workers’ expenses are shared between the staffing agency and the client, this problem could cost agencies more if it strains relations with a big client. Fortunately, understanding why temporary workers quit mid-job can help you prevent it.

Why Your Temporary Workers Are Leaving You

The same SIA survey identified the top reasons for early exits. This insight is the secret to your retention success. With a little foresight and a commitment to communication, your temporary employees will stay the course. But know this: Concrete reasons do exist for their exits.


1. There’s a better offer. A top-notch staffing agency provides highly qualified temporary workers. As it happens, these employees — the best of the bunch — are susceptible to being recruited away.

A quarter of temporary workers said they have left a position to pursue another job, but you can make top talent an offer they can’t refuse. Your people should be paid their worth or higher. A manager at a compensation research site, Melissa Quade has seen contract employees paid four or five times the rate of full-time employees. She said this compensates for specialized skills, but it’s also often necessary in order to keep temporary hires from seeking opportunities elsewhere.

Another strategy is to ensure workers receive assignments that line up with their career goals. If more money isn’t feasible, make sure temps get satisfaction and valuable experience from a job that aligns with their aspirations.


2. Communication breaks down. Miscommunication has been the primary issue for another quarter of temporary workers who quit early. Fifteen percent felt a placement wasn’t the job they were told it would be, while 10 percent said pay or benefits were not delivered as promised. Solving this problem is absolutely something agencies can own.

Strive to improve communication. Go deeper than the job description to know all the ins and outs of a position, and take time to figure out who your client sees in a position beyond the skills the worker must possess. Be careful and thorough when you pass that information on to the temporary employee, especially describing benefits.

Questioning throughout this process is your best bet. Pose plenty of questions to both parties to make sure you have the right information (and that they understand you as well).


3. It’s not the right culture fit. Temporary workers are there to help. They want to contribute good work and be a part of the team. But that team integration is where many companies fall short, says Josh Bersin, principal and founder of a research advisory firm. Interpersonal reasons ranked high on the list, with 21 percent of respondents claiming that an uncomfortable work environment caused them to quit. Some felt ostracized and isolated, while others just didn’t click with managers and co-workers.

The right culture fit and a welcoming team are extremely important to temporary hires who are expected to jump right into a new work environment. Bersin says a connection to the company’s mission or recognition from colleagues make the difference.

Recruiters should intimately know clients’ culture and hiring managers’ style. You can better match temporary employees with the right assignments and set accurate expectations with those workers. Also, encourage the hiring manager and the client company to treat temporary workers just like full-time employees.


4. Training is lacking. The remaining respondents had a handful of reasons, including insufficient training and unsafe or unethical work environments. Agencies can address these before they become problems.

You have a role in properly onboarding temporary workers and ensuring their safety. When you can be positive a worker is fully equipped to handle the job, your client receives the full value for the cost of a temp. Work with the client to coordinate a thorough onboarding process. This includes conducting safety inspections prior to taking on new clients. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration suggests both parties take a role in safety training, with agencies providing general training and employers providing job specific safety instructions.


Ongoing dissatisfaction devalues temporary work, hurting agencies and businesses. It’s costly to recruit employees — and more so to replace them if they quit. But agencies can help clients and workers have rewarding partnerships from start to finish.

Communication is key. Ensure a placement aligns with a temporary worker’s career goals, and thoroughly discuss details like benefits, expectations, and the commute. Honesty will save everyone from surprises — especially the surprise of a temporary hire putting in two weeks’ notice too early.


Peter Limone is the president and CFO of Innovative Employee Solutions, a leading nationwide employer of record that specializes in human relations and payroll services. Founded in 1974 in San Diego, IES has grown into one of the city’s largest women-owned businesses and been named one of its “Best Places to Work” for 10 years in a row.

Peter joined IES in 2011 as the company’s corporate controller. He was promoted to CFO the following year, and in 2013, he was also named company president. Prior to his work at IES, Peter worked for 3E Company, where he oversaw integration of the company’s accounting, financial, and tax systems. He has also served as division vice president of finance and information systems at Follett Software Company.


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