Competence development of Temporary Agency Workers : understanding the complexities of a triangular employment relationship

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


Today, many employees in organizations are employed via temporary agency work (TAW) constructions. Organizations profit from this form of flexible work, but TAWs themselves often do not appreciate it. This dissertation explored in what ways TAWs themselves and their two employment parties (employment agency and client organization) can increase the benefits from opportunities for competence development (OfCD), as this helps TAWs to stay employable.

Three studies were conducted. Study 1, a survey study among 449 TAWs, aimed to explore TAWs’ expectations and fulfilled expectations of OfCD at both employment organizations, and to explore its relations with TAWs’ affective commitment towards these employment organizations. Study 2, a multiple case study of 7 TAW-cases in which all three parties of the triangle were involved, explored why TAW constructions do not work as an actual triangle, as well as what is needed to utilize the triangular employment relationship better. Study 3, a latent class analysis (n=449), aimed to explore which different profiles of TAWs can be distinguished regarding their deliberate informal learning activities and personal factors that relate to this informal learning behaviour.

The dissertation showed that TAWs’ perceptions of TAW-work are rather traditional: short-term temporary work in which there is no room for competence development. This withholds them from engaging in competence development. Second, it was concluded that there is much diversity among TAWs which is one of the reasons that current policies for competence development fail. Third, we found that there is (almost) no communication between the two employment parties about individual TAW’s competence development. To make better usage of the potential of the triangular relationships among TAWs and their employers, the communication between the three parties should be improved.

Based on these conclusions, it can be stated that a culture change is needed when it comes to providing TAWs with OfCD that contributes to both their short-term and their longer-term career, and when building a fruitful triangular employment construction. This culture change requires stratification of different aspects (further elaborated in this dissertation): (1) a different approach to facilitating TAWs’ CD, (2) a different approach to how these competencies can be managed, and (3) a different approach to the HRD-system. CD needs to be seen both as a means to maintaining a regular joint conversation and remain on speaking terms, and as a goal in itself, to generate a profitable situation for all parties involved. Only then, TAW-constructions can come closer to achieving its ideal.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Mulder, M., Promotor
  • Wesselink, Renate, Co-promotor
  • Runhaar, Piety, Co-promotor
Award date24 May 2019
Place of PublicationWageningen
Print ISBNs9789463434263
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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