Temps work best when they are treated well, both by their agency and the client organisation, a new study from BI Norwegian Business School.

Temps work best when they are treated well, both by their agency and the client organisation, shows stud from BI Norwegian Business School.

RESEARCH @ BI: Motivation at work

An increasing number of organisations make use of hired help from staffing agencies. This is a trend that has grown considerably over the last 20 years.

Many temps live up to, and even exceed the expectations expressed by the client organisation. They deliver high performance, work efficiently, and are willing to go the extra mile if necessary.

But this isn’t always the case. Some temps fall through, and just don’t do a good enough job.

Triangular relationships

Temps are characterised by the fact that they relate to both their agency, and to the client organisation where they are given work.
Doctoral research fellow Robert Buch, together with Professor Bård Kuvaas and Associate Professor Anders Dysvik from BI Norwegian Business School have conducted a comprehensive study.

They surveyed more than 2000 temps from three leading agencies in order to investigate the effect of temps’ relationships to the agency and the client organisation on work performance.

Dual support makes for efficient temps

Earlier research has shown that temps, just like permanent employees, perform better when they feel supported by the client organisation.

Support may be expressed by the organisation investing in developing employees through training, for example.

Buch, Kuvaas and Dysvik have now investigated whether temps’ perception of support from the agency may also affect the relationship between temp and client organisation.

The motivation researchers conclude that support and good treatment by the agency and client organisation are a condition of the temp delivering especially good work.

In other words, it’s not enough for the temp to be treated well by the employer. The temp must also feel supported by his/her agency, in order to perform his/her best.

”Temps must feel supported by both their agency and the client organisation in order for them to give the job just that little bit more,” the research team at BI Norwegian Business School claims.

The results seem to be independent of factors such as contract duration, working climate in the client organisation, how long temps have worked for the client organisation, whether the motive to work as a temp in the client organisation is to get a permanent job or not, and demographic factors such as age, gender and level of education.

Carefully selecting a staffing agency

The study indicates that organisations may profit from hiring temps who feel supported by their staffing agency.

It will contribute to the organisation getting as much as possible out of their investments in temporary labour.

”Organisations who make use of temporary labour from staffing agencies, may benefit from selecting their agencies carefully. The agency’s ability to support their temps should be a selection criterion,” Buch, Kuvaas and Dysvik recommend.


Buch, Robert, Kuvaas, Bård and Dysvik, Anders. (2010): Dual support in contract workers' triangular employment relationships, Journal of Vocational Behavior, Volume 77, Issue 1, August 2010, Pages 93-103, doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2010.02.009.


Text: Audun Farbrot, Head of Science Communication at BI Norwegian Business School 



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