U.S. staffing firms employ almost 3 million people per day across all industries, according to a survey conducted by the American Staffing Association (www.americanstaffing.net). This vast work force can provide a pool of talent that can be tapped into by businesses to fill a variety of part- and full-time jobs from secretarial to middle-management positions.
“Tapping into this resource allows a business to ramp up at a moment’s notice,” says David Lemoine, Regional Vice President for Talent Tree, a staffing company based in Houston.
Smart Business spoke with Lemoine about the steps you can take to select the right staffing firm for your business.
In what industries/jobs do staffing firms typically specialize?
The main categories are as follows:
- Office and clerical
- Accounting and payroll
- Information technology
- Nursing and health care
Light industrial (jobs such as forklift driver, picker, packer)
- Skill craft workers (such as manufacturing plant workers)
- C-level executives
Staffing firms can sometimes specialize in two or three of these areas. But it is rare that a staffing company can provide qualified employees for all these positions. Often, a business may have to rely on more than one staffing company for all its needs.
What are the steps to consider when selecting a firm?
Your human resources department can go through these steps. For smaller firms, this responsibility can fall to the general or office manager.
- Meet face-to-face with representatives of the staffing firm. This is important to start developing a relationship with the firm and for its representatives to get a good understanding of your business and its culture.
- Get references of current customers. Ask current clients how the staffing firm has helped, particularly with customized solutions to unique problems.
- Make sure the firm is stable and credible. Do not select a firm that has just started in the business. Make sure there is low turnover internally so that you can ensure that you will have continuity with representatives.
- Have the firm give you a checklist of what it provides with its services. Some important elements include: background and reference checks, social security verification, drug screening, workers’ compensation certificates, standard terms and condition of contract.
What are some red flags to look out for when selecting a staffing firm?
The biggest red flag is when a staffing firm competes solely on price. The fact is that costs and profit margins are pretty much the same for all staffing companies. If a staffing firm is coming in at 15 percent less than its competitors, you bet they are cutting costs and making shortcuts somewhere, such as not providing drug screenings or background checks.
What can a business owner do if the firm is not the right fit or the people they are sending are not a good fit?
This is why it is important to take time with the staffing company on the front end. If a fit isn’t right, you need to call the staffing company right away and have the employee replaced.
You also need to have a conversation about what went wrong and why. Was there a miscommunication? How did the staffing company miss the mark? Was more training needed? Did the employee not have enough experience? You can opt to give the staffing firm another chance to correct the situation. If the same mistake happens again, you need to move your business to another firm.
What distinguishes an average staffing firm from one that is superior?
Many businesses don’t really understand what a staffing firm can offer. They believe staffing firms exist to offer short-term solutions to pressing employment needs. But businesses need to realize that the best staffing firms can provide a wealth of advice that is outside the realm of simply filling a job slot.
For example, firms can provide a wealth of reporting statistics, such as how much a business is spending on overtime (and if the money would be better spent in hiring more employees) and the cost of vacancy. The key is to mine the firm for this information; a representative can often help a business uncover problems involving human capital issues, such as high turnover rates. This opens up possibilities for business owners to understand their business at a deeper level, and make human capital decisions based on the numbers, rather than instinct.
Regional Vice President