Temporary professionals are becoming a common staffing solution in many accounting and finance departments. According to a recent study, 45 percent of organizations with $5 billion or more in annual revenue regularly use temporary help, as do 59 percent of firms with $500 million to $999 million in annual revenue.
In many of those companies, as shown by the Benchmarking the Accounting & Finance Function, a joint study released by Robert Half and Financial Executives Research Foundation, the number of temporary professionals working in the office depends mainly on the workload. Sixty-three percent of U.S. firms and 63 percent of Canadian companies said their use of temporary staff fluctuates based on the amount of work to be done.
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Firms aren’t just using project-based staff for peak periods. Temporary professionals can solve a variety of workplace challenges these days. Here are four ways the firms surveyed for the report are relying more on accounting temps:
1. To try out a potential new hire
Executives interviewed for the Benchmarking report said they like to bring potential hires in on a temporary basis for what becomes, in essence, a tryout period. If the person is a good fit for the job and the organization, they extend a full-time offer at the end of the contract. Certainly, these types of arrangements help companies avoid a bad hire. But one executive also reported discovering valuable skills and qualities in interim staff that made them even more attractive as potential new hires.
2. To determine their workload
With the global economy improving, many companies are growing and adding jobs. Companies surveyed for the report said they use temporary-to-hire arrangements to assess whether the workload can sustain a full-time hire. They bring in a project professional, and if the person stays busy for an extended period of time, they transition the job into a permanent one.
3. To fill in for an employee on long-term leave
Firms surveyed for the report stated that they often use temporary professionals to fill in while employees are on leave. When an employee takes extended time off — whether to take care of a newborn baby or aging parent or because of an illness — the remaining staff that has to take on the person’s workload can quickly get overwhelmed. The help of project staff can alleviate the burden and lower the chance of burnout. Canadian companies have taken particular advantage of this strategy for employees on maternity/paternity leave, as Canada allows parents to take a year off following the birth of a child.
4. To fill an expertise gap or provide help for a project
Some executives interviewed for the Benchmarking report also said they used temporary professionals for specific projects that required certain expertise. One reported that a consultant was leading the firm’s enterprise resource planning system upgrade, and another had hired an interim accountant to help with the financial aspects of a large-scale project. Another executive experienced this on the flip side: He was brought in on an interim basis to help a public company complete either a sale of the business or a transition into a private company.
Yes, temporary professionals can save your sanity during peak periods. They can also help companies meet their goals in other ways, too.
More than a quarter of U.S. firms use temporary or project professionals to assist with their accounting and finance function. Here's an infographic from the Benchmarking report that shows what specific functions they fill.
Editor's note: This post was updated recently to reflect current information.