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Developing Hiring Standards for Temporary Workers

December 18, 2012
by by Tim Tolan
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Contract workers are proving their value in the new economy by filling gaps in the labor pool, but hiring managers need to be vigilant in the screening process
Tim Tolan

Hiring permanent employees usually involves a relatively thorough process, as contacting references, conducting assessments and multiple interview screens are all part of the procedure. This also includes ordering criminal background checks that contain state, federal and sexual offender reports on all new full-time employees.

But what about temporary workers? Taking shortcuts and lowering the hiring standards of short-term temp employees could be a problem when it comes to how smoothly some organizations function. That’s where it gets a bit dicey for CIOs.

The change in the economy over the past few years has increased the demand for temporary workers. Contractors are often used to fill the gap in the labor pool when you include new large-scale enterprise implementations or the sun-setting of older departmental solutions. This demand for increased temporary hiring is likely here to stay for the foreseeable future. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that employment of temporary workers is expected to grow 19 percent through 2018. When you combine that information with the aging baby boomers and dire projections of a significant shortage in the number of qualified workers, as well as the growing demand for HCIT workers, the situation seems like it’s only going to get worse.

Temporary positions across the healthcare enterprise are not just limited to IT personnel, either. Many organizations are finding help filling voids in the executive suite when a senior-level hospital executive suddenly departs. This includes C-Level executives, finance executives, healthcare delivery workers, and yes—HCIT staffers. These people, whom you’ve barely met, will be here today, gone tomorrow before you will be able to remember their names. Let’s remember that the temporary staff has access to a significant amount of valuable information during their short stay. For a “go-live” implementation or a change in departmental system, you may think that only having this person on board for a matter of six to 12 weeks minimizes your exposure. Nothing could be farther from the truth. A lot of damage can be done in a relatively short period of time. All of these workers have access to your IT infrastructure—vital to the day-to-day operations of your facility—and like permanent employees, they should go through a complete screening process. If the new normal is to hire more temporary workers, then more diligence needs to be done on each and every person on the team, regardless of the length of their assignment.

This new paradigm is a real game-changer. All of a sudden, temporary workers are serving in critical roles and have a significant amount of influence over their sphere of responsibility. They need to be screened the same way you screen permanent members of your staff—period. If the wheels come off, and there is a huge problem with the temporary worker, someone higher up will take the fall. Lots of finger-pointing could take place while both sides argue who is to blame. Long story short: if your staffing partners are worth their value, they should be supplying you with all of the background information and screening they’ve done to vet out a temporary worker.

When the demand for talent eclipses the available supply side, there’s a tendency to fill the slots no matter what. It becomes a commodity game and quality all of a sudden becomes secondary. Makes your strategy includes a thorough vetting process—even for temporary workers. The staffing firm you hire works for you, and it needs to follow your standards of excellence in hiring.
Don’t let anyone take shortcuts with your organization—it will wind up sacrificing quality. In the end, you will have to pay for it one way or another.

Tim Tolan is a senior partner at Sanford Rose Associates Healthcare IT Practice. He can be reached at or (843)579-3077ext. 301. His blog can be found at