Employment costs Featured

7:00pm EDT December 31, 2006

Companies are constantly looking for ways to control expenses and operate more efficiently. It’s no secret that payroll costs make up a substantial part of the budget — with estimates ranging from 30 percent to 42 percent.

“The ability to strike an effective balance between fixed and variable employment costs increases your control and flexibility,” says Lynn Billing, vice president of staffing services for Spherion Corp. in Atlanta. “The HR function is vital to virtually every business, and selecting the right HR strategic partner is crucial.”

Smart Business talked to Billing about what to consider when selecting a strategic HR partner.

How do you know where to begin?

A history of success is a good indicator of future success. Make sure you consider well-established HR firms with a history of effectiveness and financial stability. Ask for references from current clients and research the annual report. And your prospective HR partner should take the time to research your company, evaluate your staffing requirements and suggest a tailored program that will help meet your particular business objectives.

When you’re considering using an HR firm, what are the most important factors?

There are three basics to look at first. You want to be sure that any strategic HR partner offers a full range of services. Selecting one partner that can provide not only staffing but also full-time placement, executive search, consulting, career counseling and work force management creates a single point of contact for all HR needs, and can save a great deal of time and money.

Be sure that your staffing provider’s recruiters have relevant experience working in the industry or discipline they support. The best person to manage your accounting and financial staffing needs, for example, is someone who has worked in that profession and understands the special requirements associated with it.

Finally, an HR partner with a national presence has a wide variety of resources at its fingertips, whereas a local company may have limited tools available. A national network gives your HR partner broad experience to draw upon and deep resources for getting things done quickly, efficiently and correctly.

Once those basics are met, what’s next?

A lot can be learned about a potential partner by finding out the steps they take to ensure that only the most qualified candidates are hired. Testing and evaluation procedures are key to finding employees suitable for your company and qualified to fill your jobs.

Recruiting techniques are also very important. Ask yourself, ‘Does my HR provider use cutting-edge, creative recruiting techniques, or does it simply process applications from walk-ins and callers?’ The HR firm that aggressively uses multiple techniques — from the Internet and online searches to classified advertising, job fairs, grassroots recruiting and referrals — will have access to the best talent.

When a company uses an HR partner, who pays for the workers it finds?

A reputable recruiting and consulting firm assumes employer responsibility for its flexible workers, contractors and consultants, and pays all associated costs — payroll, bookkeeping, tax deductions, workers’ compensation, unemployment and benefits — as well as recruiting, interviewing, testing and training costs.

How do you know if your strategic HR partner is delivering?

Your HR partner’s reporting capabilities are essential to help you evaluate whether your investment is paying off. It should be able to benchmark productivity, study and track your staffing patterns, report on efficiencies and recommend improvements to you.

The ultimate goal for any potential HR partner should be an alliance — one in which your success and vision for the future are key parts of your partner’s everyday business.

LYNN BILLING is vice president of Spherion Staffing Services in Atlanta. Reach her at LynnBilling@spherion.com or (678) 867-3097. For information about Spherion visit www.spherion.com.