Anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that employers spend little time thinking about how to keep temporary workers engaged. It’s no secret that engaged workers are more productive but engaging temps comes with its own challenges.

For this week’s topic, we asked Greg Muccio, senior manager, People Department, at Southwest Airlines his opinion.

Muccio said one of the biggest concerns he sees are managers going too far in separating contingent workers from their teams because of co-employment concerns.

“There are some lines, and there are some things you don’t necessarily do,” Muccio said. However, there’s no need to put on a hazmat suit before approaching a contingent worker or just leaving them alone.

“You would do a lot of the same things you would do with a full-time employee, you may just do them differently,” he said. For example, contingent workers still need to be onboarded; it’s not productive to simply let them figure things out for themselves.

And there’s no reason contingent workers and traditional workers can’t engage on friendly level. One example at Southwest: a contract recruiter was having a child and co-workers threw a baby shower.

Cutlture is important at Southwest, and some people have left full-time jobs elsewhere to join the team as contractors, which is huge, Muccio said. And the company wants to make sure the contingent workers are treated with respect.

“The biggest thing that’s out there is don’t ever forget they are a person not a pencil, product or service; they are always a person,” Muccio said. People are working for you and getting stuff done. Important stuff and sometimes better than an FTE. They are doing valuable work for you, so treat them like they are valuable, he said.

And co-employment started the first minute they walked in the door anyway, he said.

“I think not engaging them properly and making them feel like they are a stepchild is actually more dangerous to your company than being cozier with them.”