Getting the work done Featured

7:00pm EDT January 26, 2009

Businesses all across the country are cutting back. In December, the national unemployment rate rose from 6.5 percent to 6.7 percent. But even with companies making cuts in areas such as staffing, the work still needs to get done. The high unemployment rate has led to an increased number of people who are looking for work through temporary staffing firms, something that companies can take advantage of.

“When the economy is down and all businesses are focused on the bottom line, utilizing the flexibility and cost savings that staffing firms offer is a win-win situation,” says Melissa Hulsey, president and CEO of Ashton.

Smart Business spoke with Hulsey about the services that temporary staffing firms offer and how you can take advantage of those to help get through these tough times.

How does the current unemployment rate affect available talent?

When unemployment rates rise above 4 percent, an increase is seen in the quality of the available labor pool. With our unemployment rate in Georgia currently at 7.5 percent, staffing firms have seen an increase in their database of well-qualified employees ready to go to work. There are great candidates out there who have been let go, through no fault of their own, and are willing to come in to help companies with projects. Many of these people have excellent qualifications, great attitudes and steady work history. By utilizing staffing firms, companies can see a big return on investment while tapping into this great talent. Another advantage of bringing in highly qualified contingent labor is the new ideas and perspective they can bring to your business in challenging times.

How can a staffing firm save businesses money?

You can save on the human resource cost by not having to spend on advertised postings, and ramp up interview and pre-screening time. Especially for small to midsized business, sometimes HR is one of the first positions to go. By utilizing a firm you can outsource the HR department in a timely manner without having a cost. Second is the benefit cost — you don’t have to provide temporary employees the benefits that you would have to your permanent employees; this generally adds a minimum of 30 percent to the average person’s salary. You’re saving that cost upfront and there’s also no risk of raising your state unemployment rate. Finally, you pay only for the project that you need done without the downtime.

What kinds of services can staffing firms provide during these tough times, and how can businesses take advantage of them?

Any short-term, temporary need — meaning you have somebody that’s going to be out for a limited period of time or you have a short project that needs to be done. Long-term contract projects that require more involvement in corporate operations are also widely used.

Contingent labor is a perfect solution to cover all of these needs. Currently there’s an ever-growing sector where companies are using staffing firms to fill positions in technology, finance, human resources, medical and more, including higher-level management such as CEOs, CFOs and CTOs.

As businesses are analyzing their budgets, they can look at parts of their company where job functions can be outsourced. They can use a firm to bring that person in for the needed period of time, take advantage of the talent that’s available and then reap the monetary savings of partnering with a staffing firm.

How will establishing a relationship now prepare you for future growth?

If you can, align yourself with a staffing firm that’s going to get to know your company and corporate culture. Just as it takes time to get to know a person, it takes time to get to know a company and build that relationship. Once this partnership is established, a firm can keep an eye out for particular talent that it recognizes as a good fit for your organization. Testing and prescreening processes can be reviewed and modified as needed. Most firms also have access to resources for job profiling; this is a great thing to do when work loads are down. Knowing what skills and personality fit best into your organization will put you ahead of the competition as growth occurs.

MELISSA HULSEY is president and CEO of Ashton. Reach her at (770) 419-1776 or