It’s a scene Lauren Coker sees over and over. Employers bring in finance and accounting temps — staff accountants or bookkeepers, financial analysts or payroll specialists, to name a few — and then decide to hire them as full-time staff members.
“We love making matches like that,” says Coker, senior regional vice president for Robert Half. “It is so rewarding to be able to help people with their careers and companies with moving their business forward. Their most important asset as an organization is their employees, and it is so special to be a part of making that match.”
The temp-to-perm transition
For some companies, the progression from “temp to perm” comes as a surprise. The intention in working with a staffing firm is frequently to get some extra help during a busy season or temporarily staff an opening when someone takes a maternity leave.
"For these CFOs," Coker says, "bringing in accounting temps is part of a greater strategy to be able to staff up quickly and cost-effectively."
We asked her some questions about the “try-before-you-buy” concept with regard to accounting temps, and here are her answers:
Q: What is it that employers like about engaging accounting temps before they fill full-time staff positions?
A: Employers like the option of bringing people onto their teams as temporaries in order to evaluate them prior to hiring them permanently. It is a very attractive option for companies, because it is less risky than hiring someone and realizing it isn’t a good match. It can be extremely costly to make a bad hire, and starting them on a temporary basis allows both the employee and employer to evaluate the match prior to making a long-term commitment.
Q: What resources can companies draw on to help identify temp-to-perm potential talent, especially if this is to become a long-term trend?
A: After the recession, more and more companies realized the benefit of partnering with a staffing firm to access accounting temps for assistance during peak work periods when they were not sure the need would be ongoing. But as employers have found it more difficult to find qualified candidates in the last couple of years, they saw how this approach could also give them access to full-time talent they may not have been able to find on their own.
For example, many of the functional roles we staff for our clients have unemployment rates that are under 3 percent, which makes it extremely difficult to find the right candidate. Partnering with a staffing firm can help with access to more people. Staffing services, such as Accountemps, have a very broad network they are able to tap into in order to find qualified candidates for their customers.
I expect this to continue as we move forward. As the market continues to get tighter and tighter for talent, more and more firms will turn to staffing firms to help with engaging temporary-to-full-time employees for their organizations.
Q: Is there a cost savings for companies to work with a staffing firm?
A: The cost associated with hiring someone can be very high, including everything from the cost of the ad to getting the person trained, and also the cost associated with the work piling up while trying to find someone for the position. In addition, putting that extra workload on your employees can lead to overtime costs and lower morale, which all adds up quickly from a total cost perspective.
Right now, most employers are finding that it takes about six to eight weeks to fill a position with a permanent employee, and for more senior roles, it can take closer to 10 to 12 weeks — assuming they hire the right employee. If, for some reason, it isn’t the right fit, the cost of making the wrong hire is even more expensive, because it starts the whole process all over again.
Employers can bring in a temporary employee so the work doesn’t pile up. For example, we can usually have someone in a position for our clients within 24 hours. That allows the work to get done, saving time and money for the employer. If it isn’t the right fit, there is no ongoing cost for the company as it relates to unemployment. It is a great solution all the way around!
Q. What’s the typical timeframe to observe accounting temps before making the full-time hiring decision?
A: We are in a market now where candidates often have multiple opportunities, and if the employer is interested in them, they need to speed up the hiring process. I used to see most employers evaluating the employee for three or four months prior to hiring them on a full-time basis. However, as the market has shifted quite a bit and unemployment rates dropped in accounting and finance, many employers choose to make the decision to hire the temporary employee more quickly so they don’t risk losing the person to another opportunity.
Read more about the Benefits of a Temp-to-Hire Strategy.
Lauren Coker is senior regional vice president for Robert Half in the North and South Carolina region, where she oversees the Accountemps, OfficeTeam, Robert Half Management Resources and Robert Half Finance & Accounting divisions. In her role, Lauren focuses on business development while managing and training the region’s branches. She has worked nearly two decades in specialized recruiting. She joined Robert Half in 1999 as a staffing manager and quickly became a division director, followed by the roles of branch manager and regional manager.
She holds a master’s degree in English from East Carolina University as well as a BA in English and government from Wofford College.