How to Build Your Staff Slowly and Safely

Barbara Weltman This “jobless recovery” is starting to add back jobs, albeit at a snail’s pace. If your work pipeline is starting to flow and you need more help, there are ways to add to your staff while protecting yourself against the possibility that things might not pan out as expected. Here’s how.

Use consultants and contingency workers

It’s a buyer’s market – there is a flood of talent in many fields at all levels – from accounting and data processing to graphic design. Contract with workers on a per-job basis to meet your hiring needs. For example, if you have an upcoming job requiring more help, contract for the duration of the job.

Advantages. You don’t obligate yourself to these workers beyond the term of the job, so you won’t have to fire anyone if the next job doesn’t materialize. You are free to contract for an additional term if you are satisfied with their performance and you have more work for them to do.

If the workers are not under your control – that is, you cannot dictate how, when and where the work is performed – then they are independent contractors and you aren’t responsible for employment taxes, such as the employer’s share of Social Security and Medicare taxes and unemployment insurance. And you don’t have to provide employee benefits, such as medical insurance and retirement plan contributions.

Use temporary workers

Instead of advertising for consultants, turn to an agency that provides workers on a temporary basis. Today, there are agencies that provide all types of workers, from unskilled and clerical help to professionals in all fields. Last year, more than 10 million people provided work through temporary agencies.

Advantages. The agency is responsible for screening and qualifying workers. The agency is also the employer and is therefore responsible for all payments (including employment tax obligations) for the workers; you merely pay a flat rate to the agency.


Instead of taking on workers in-house, whether through your own efforts or staffing agencies, you can shift aspects of jobs to independent companies. They, in turn, will complete their assignments for a fixed payment.

Advantages. You don’t have any supervisory responsibilities. You don’t need to provide space for new workers.

Another solution

If you are confident that the improved economic activity is permanent and you want to expand your payroll, you may be ready to hire an employee.

Before advertising for an employee, “test drive” a worker through a temporary agency or using any of the other arrangements discussed above. According to the American Staffing Association, last year, seven million of the 10 million temporary workers were hired on a permanent basis.

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