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Temping: Next best thing to permanent jobs!

Arti Sharma | October 30, 2004

Nainesh Shah, 24, a team leader handling home loans at Kotak Mahindra Bank in Mumbai, is no ordinary employee. He's part of a growing tribe of people who are not permanently on a company's regular payroll.

Though he has been working full-time with Kotak for the last eight months, he's fully aware that four months from now his contract with the bank will expire. Shah and numerous others like him are what are called temporary outsourced staffers -- or temps.

"It was a better offer and a learning opportunity so I took it up," says the commerce graduate.

Shah was working with another finance company till recruitment firm TeamLease offered to place him with Kotak. Taking up the offer meant that Shah was instantly doubling his salary.

And at the end of the contract, there is a possibility that he may be absorbed and made a permanent employee.

Gone are the days when an individual stayed loyal to an organisation for a lifetime. Qualified professionals are now throwing caution to the winds and opting for flexible job options.

And that's not surprising considering the demand for temps today. With costs being of utmost importance to corporates, headcounts being frozen and short-term projects on the rise, several domestic and multinational companies are outsourcing functions to temps.

Whereas earlier, temp jobs primarily meant secretarial positions, today companies are increasingly outsourcing key functions like accounts, legal, marketing and sales in middle and senior management positions as well.

Becoming a temp could be a perfect career solution for many people. It's perfect for someone who wants to take a break from a full-time job, or someone who has taken a break and wants to get back into the groove.

The question is how to systematically approach it so that you get the best deal. Today, apart from large recruitment firms, even regional players offer corporates temping services.

For instance, larger players like Ma Foi Management Consultants, TeamLease Services and PeopleOne Consulting specialise in temping services and have offices across the country. The net also hosts occasional temping offers.

The fastest way to get into the temp pool, however, is to register with a specialised recruitment firm. The obvious advantage of larger recruitment firms is that you have more options.

You don't have to pay to register with these firms and can, in fact, submit your resume to more than one firm as well. It's only once you accept an offer that you enter into a binding contract.

There are a variety of sectors opting for temping today. Anyone who is interested can chose between IT and IT-enabled services, fast-moving consumer goods, retail, manufacturing, legal firms, banking and financial services and insurance firms among others, depending on qualifications and experience. That isn't all.

There are a gamut of roles to perform as well. Some companies, for instance, even look to temporarily fill senior management positions like the role of a chief financial officer for short periods, say if an internal audit is going on.

"Temping is no longer sector or function specific," says Deep Mukherjee, assistant vice president, TeamLease Services.

Here's how the process works. A person interested in temping hands in their resume to a search firm which specialises in offering temporary jobs. The executives will format it to highlight your capabilities.

"We suggest changes to the candidates based on their profile and core competencies so that their resumes become more saleable," says Mukherjee.

Agrees a Mumbai-based recruiter, "Since we're looking for specific skill sets in most cases, it's important we know upfront what the candidate can offer."

The recruitment process works in two ways. Sometimes companies have excessive numbers on their rolls and decide to cut headcount.

However, since the organisation's functional needs still have to be met, the extra number of people are transferred to the payrolls of outsourcing organisations like Ma Foi and TeamLease. Sometimes even existing employees are converted into temps.

The real opportunity, however, arises when a company approaches recruitment firms for specific needs. At that time, recruitment firms dig into their databases to meet the company's needs.

"There's no difference in the recruitment process per se. It would be the same if a full-time employee is being hired," says Ma Foi's principal consultant, Sunil Gandhi.

Once a position has been matched to an individual's skill sets, he or she enters a tripartite agreement with the recruitment firm and corporate. It is at this stage that the salary structures and break-ups are discussed.

It's possible to negotiate the salary being offered, depending on how critical the position is. Clearly, a person has lower bargaining power if they are in lower management and are, say, a data entry operator or a front end sales executive.

If, however, you are a specialist, it's possible to put your foot down and negotiate for the salary you get.

While signing the agreement, make sure you read the fine print and understand that you are an employee of the recruitment firm and not the company.

Typically, salaries range from Rs 5,000 per month for frontline sales executives to Rs 80,000 per month for sales managers. Most of the firms also offer statutory benefits like a provident fund and medical insurance, but make sure to ask about it.

What does the recruitment firm get out of this? If the person is getting a salary of Rs 20,000 per month, the firm will earn a fee excluding the salary paid to you.

Usually, the fee ranges from 15 per cent-30 per cent of the monthly salary depending on the position, skills and duration of the employment.

At the end of the contract, you are either absorbed in the same company or placed in another project. Says Gandhi, "Often temping is used as a performance assessment tool."

Under the agreement, the recruitment firm cannot object if the company wishes to hire the person permanently. While the advantages are getting a wider canvas and experience, there are downsides to temping. It's important to be a tough negotiator because you constantly have to re-negotiate contracts.

Also, permanent employees often discriminate against temps. At the end of the day, you have to remember that your paycheque and perks come from the recruitment firm.

However, firms like TeamLease and Ma Foi hold regular performance appraisals and counselling sessions to make sure temps are well adjusted.

Then there's the insecurity of not knowing where you'll be a year down the line. If you can live with all this, it's worth giving temping a try.

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