How to Select the Right Staffing Partner
A Seattle Staffing Agency “Point of View”
Selecting the right vendor to support your needs for temporary and contract staff has become an increasingly important purchasing decision for many Seattle area employers. As the employer community continues to use temporary and contract workers to maintain the flexibility that served them well throughout the recession, they also face serious challenges in getting the right temporary and contract workers in a very tight candidate market. Most staffing vendors are running short on both the quality and quantity of employees who can make a difference, requiring employers to seek out new vendors and new ways to procure the employees they need NOW!
Unfortunately, up until recently, the purchasing process most employers have been using to find these new resources, has been very “vendor” focused, involving an internet key word search for possible vendors, asking candidates for a “pricing quote” and suffering through a series of sales presentations from the vendor’s sales staff. We think these purchasing processes can easily miss the mark, putting too much emphasis on a vendor’s marketing savvy rather than their service delivery.
Here is a short list of things you can do differently to make sure that when its time to shop for a new staffing vendor, you increase the chances of ending up with a real staffing partner instead.
- Meet the Company’s service staff, not just their sales team. The folks selling staffing services keep their jobs because they look and sound good. Those of us in the biz know it’s the people doing the actual service delivery who matter most to service success. Are the agency recruiters’ people you can communicate with? Trust? Rely on? Do they have the expertise that will help your company take your staffing operation to the next level? Do they have the same values around communication and results that you do?
- Find out how willing and able the staffing company is to customize their service model to meet your needs. Very rarely will a staffing company’s off-the-shelf service model meet your specific needs for service and/or people. We think a key factor in selecting the right staffing partner is their ability and willingness to adjust their service model to meet your specific needs. How often and in what ways do they regularly customize their work for customers? Are they able and willing to make changes to accommodate your needs? Will you have access to the company’s management/decision makers so changes can be orchestrated quickly? How good are they at listening to your needs and bringing fresh new ideas to the table?
- Find out how they organize the service process – who does what? Most employers prefer one point of contact which is pretty much a norm in today’s staffing environment. But how many people will actually touch your account in the background? In what roles?
We believe even the smallest employer needs at least three points of service contact from their staffing partner:
- Someone to orchestrate and guide you through the placement process. At PACE, we call these folks our “order managers” because they take your requests for staff, making sure those requests are market competitive. They also act as your “point of contact” throughout the placement process – so you are never without a person focused “only on you.”
- Someone who can stay dedicated to the recruiting process. This can be one person or a team of folks, depending on the volume or urgency of your staffing request. Recruiters are the folks who stay in the marketplace full time, looking for the people who fit your hiring profile. Recruiters are different from Order Managers in that their focus is on the candidate, making sure the candidate’s needs for the “right job” match up with your needs for the “right person”
- A member of management – someone who makes sure your recruit gets the resources it needs; someone you can go to if things go wrong. In our company we call these people Partnership or Solutions Managers and they provide general oversight of your bigger picture staffing needs, anticipating where in the service process your company may require additional customization.
The more complex your staffing needs, the more people assigned to service your needs. Make sure your vendor has the scope of service resources it takes to fill the quality and quantity of your anticipated staffing requirements.
- Understand the Company’s Pricing Philosophy, not just their Rate Sheet. A rate sheet is not enough. You need to know what factors are considered when your vendor establishes their bill rates and/or service fees. How flexible will they be when your needs for service change? Again, speaking from personal bias, we think the more transparent your staffing partner is willing to be in terms of how they price their services, the more likely you are to have a staffing partner who can pass the test of time.
- Check out their Staffing Metrics. Most staffing companies manage their operations tightly, and will have a set of metrics they use to regularly measure their performance against industry benchmarks. They should have data on their:
- Placement Ratios – the % of staffing requests they take and fill.
- Cycle time – how long it takes to fill requests – typically broken down by job categories.
- Placement Outcomes—the % of placements that result in either a hire or a successful completion.
- Ratings of Customer Satisfaction.
- Find out what changes they are making NOW to adjust to the new tight labor market. This is a time of significant change for most staffing companies. Most are dealing with new recruiting challenges and a very changed candidate marketplace. Ask vendors not only to walk you through each step in their recruiting and evaluation process but how that process has changed for them in the last 12-18 months. Vendors who are stuck in old ways of doing things, are likely not going to be able to deliver the people you need.
- Check out their Technology – the tools they will use to streamline your service relationship. In today’s marketplace, there is an abundance of automated technologies that are used to manage many of the interactions between the staffing provider, you, and the employees being placed in your work environment.
- Can you place an order online?
- Can you check on the status of an order online?
- How will you receive candidate submittals? What documentation will accompany those submittals?
- How will you approve hours of work?
- How will you receive invoices? Can invoices be broken down in accordance with your accounting needs?
- What kinds of utilization information and reports can be made available to you online?
Make sure you are working with a partner who regularly invests in state-of-the-art staffing technology.
- Talk to both Current and Previous Customers Ask for access to their “oldest client,” a relatively “new client,” a “former” client, and a dissatisfied client who they “turned around.” Talk to each about what they like best and least about their partnership.
Don’t expect perfection—staffing is too people-dependent for that, but do check out how they have responded when issues arise. How have they adjusted to their client’s changes? Brought new service ideas to the table? Been a real partner when things went left that should have gone right?
- Focus on the Differences in their Service Model that Matter to You! Although most staffing companies look and sound alike, there are actually significant differences in how staffing companies approach both their service delivery and how they develop relationships with customers. Ask vendors to describe how they differentiate themselves from others. Use your reference conversations to verify what they say is what they deliver. Select a staffing partner whose “sweet spot” best matches your needs.
As a special precaution, if you are an employer with very specific requirements for onboarding or compliance (for example companies in healthcare or manufacturing), make sure your staffing provider has the capability of managing your specific onboarding requirements. Make sure they have processes that will ensure all your onboarding requirements will be met before an employee is assigned, and that their documentation stays audit ready.
- Check out their “long term” Perspective. If you are expecting a new staffing provider to nail your service requirements out of the gate, expect to be disappointed. And a vendor who promises immediate success should be suspect. Building a true staffing partnership requires a long term commitment from both you and your staffing vendor. The right partner will do their homework to be prepared to perform, but will be more focused on continuous improvements rather than “out of the gate” heroics. The more you can agree on a shared but realistic vision of your future staffing partnership, the greater your chances of building the type of partnership you need.
If you are looking for a new staffing vendor or wondering if your current staffing partner is still meeting your organizational needs, we’d like to have a personal chat. Our partnership development team is focused on your long term service satisfaction. We know that our approach to staffing can sometimes make a big difference to our client’s operational performance, and sometimes it can’t, depending on what you have in place now. We’ll let you know which scenario applies to you.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 425-637-3312
This article was written by Jeanne Knutzen, founder and CEO of the PACE Staffing Network, a leading Northwest staffing company who has been helping local employers find and hire high talent employees for over 40 years. For additional ideas and information on how you can tackle the current marketplace in terms of temporary, contract or permanent employment solutions – contact the PACE team at 425-637-3312 or email us at email@example.com