Saturday, October 13, 2007

Being an un-person - with thanks to Legal Eagle

A very interesting post from Legal Eagle on 11 October. The post begins:

I really hate being a sessional lecturer. Most of the time, I feel like I’m an un-person as far as this university is concerned. I do not have a proper office; I have to squat in the office of whichever person happens to be on leave at the time. I do not have a proper phone number; I have the phone of the person in whose office I am presently “squatting”, so there’s no point writing it down as a contact number, because it will change in a few months. I am not on the official website as a staff member. I’m not on the staff e-mail list. I do not get a business card. I do not get a parking space. I have to pay an exorbitant yearly fee in order to be able to park in the staff parking lot. Ironically, if I had a proper ongoing position, I would not have to pay this fee, even though my income would be higher. I don’t get sick days, I don’t get holiday pay and I don’t get maternity leave.

I won't repeat Legal Eagle's whole post. It is a good post and I encourage you to read it. However, the post drives to a broader issue, the way temporary and contract staff are treated by modern organisations.

It is, I think, a fact that many organisations today rely on contract and temporary staff. Such staff used to be used just to fill gaps, to meet special needs. Today, they are used as an alternative to permanent staff.

The difficulty in this is that most organisations do not know how to use these resources effectively. There appear to be two models.

The first is the example given by Legal Eagle. Here the temporary or contract staff are used as cannon fodder, as a way of cutting costs. In the second, they are treated in the same way as permanent staff right down to compliance with policies and procedures designed to manage those staff. Neither approach is very sensible.

In the first case, organisations lose because of reduced loyalty and enthusiasm. In the second, organisations lose because they waste staff time. They can also reduce reduce staff enthusiasm, because temporary staff feel (often correctly) that some of the things they are required to do a just plain silly.

The bottom line in all this is that if you are going to use temporary staff and contractors on a regular basis and want to get best results, you need to define a specific approach to their management.

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