Selecting Your Staffing Partner

Selecting Your Staffing Partner

by Jeanne Knutzen | January 13, 2014

0 Blog, Human Resource Roles

Selecting the right partner to support your needs for temporary and contract staff is becoming an increasingly important purchasing decision. As companies migrate to more flexible staffing strategies, they rely on their staffing vendors to staff long term projects or to be a source of employees they can hire directly. Your staffing partner can oftentimes make or break your operational performance.    

Many of the RFP processes often used to select staffing vendors can miss the mark because they focus on a vendor’s written and verbal persuasion expertise, rather than those factors that really matter in terms of service delivery.   

Here are 10 ideas for you to consider when selecting a staffing partner:

1. Meet their service staff, not just their sales team. The folks selling staffing services are hired because they look and sound good, but it’s the people doing the actual service delivery that will matter most to partnership success. Are they 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?

2. Assess their ability and willingness to customize. How easy will it be to adjust your vendor’s services to compliment your staffing process? How broad is their scope of staffing expertise and resources? Are they able and willing to make changes to accommodate your needs? Will you have access to the company’s management/decision makers so that changes can be orchestrated quickly? How good are they at listening to your needs and bringing fresh new ideas to the table?

3. Understand how they organize their client teams to deliver service. How many service personnel would be assigned to your account? In what roles?

We believe that even the smallest employer needs at least two points of service contact:

  a. Someone to manage the placement process—how orders are taken and filled. In our company we call these people “order managers or service coordinators.” They take your requests, making sure that the worker you are requesting actually exists and will work for the pay you are offering. They also do the recruiting themselves or make sure our recruiting team is focused on the right candidates. They act as our client’s primary “point of contact.”

  b. A second person you can go to when there are issues or concerns about the service process or need to expand the type of services you are requesting. In our company we call them Service or Solutions Managers. They provide general oversight to your account, making sure your service program is what you need.

The more complex your staffing needs, the more roles that need to be assigned to service your needs. Make sure your vendor has the recruiting resources it takes to fill the quality and quantity of staffing needs you anticipate.

4. Understand their pricing philosophy. A rate sheet is not enough. You need to know what factors are considered when your vendor establishes their bill rates or service fees. How comfortable are they talking about their costs and how those impact their bill rate? In our judgment, the more transparent your staffing partner is in terms of revealing their “costs of doing business” the more likely you are to have a partner that will pass the test of time, most able to work with you on making adjustments when budgets change.

5. Ask about their staffing metrics.  Staffing companies, who are good managers of performance, regularly measure their performance against industry benchmarks. They should have data on their:

  a. Placement Ratios – the % of staffing requests that they fill.

  b. Cycle time – how long it takes to fill requests.

  c. Placement Outcomes – the % of placements that result in either a hire or a successful completion.

  d. Customer Satisfaction.

6. Understand how they recruit and evaluate potential employees/job candidates. Do they have a flow chart that describes the steps in their recruiting and candidate evaluation processes? If not, ask them to walk you through each step in their recruiting and evaluation processes. Make sure these processes are a good fit for your standards and that they are either currently doing or are capable of meeting your compliance requirements AND can provide you with audit ready records of their compliance administration. What testing do they administer? How do they evaluate the “soft” skills important to placement success?

7. Check out their technology – what they will be doing 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.

  a. Can you place an order online?

  b. Can you check on the status of an order online?

  c. How will you receive candidate submittals? What documentation will accompany those submittals?

  d. How will you approve hours of work?

  e. How will you receive invoices? Can invoices be broken down in accordance with your accounting needs?

  f. 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.

8. Assess their track record of success as a service partner. Learn more about their current and past client relationships. Ask for the names of 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 tend to respond when issues arise. How quickly and creatively do they solve problems? How have they adjusted to their client’s changes? Brought new service ideas to the table? Been a real partner when things got tough

9. Identify differentiators that will make a difference to you. Although most staffing companies look and sound alike, there are actually fairly significant differences in how they approach their service delivery and develop their relationships with customers. Ask potential partners about how they differentiate themselves from others, use your reference conversations to verify that what they say is what they deliver, and select a staffing partner whose “sweet spot” best matches your needs.

10. Understand what it takes to build a true service partnership. Expecting a new staffing provider to achieve performance perfection out of the gate, oftentimes without client involvement, is all too common and presents unique challenges to the staffing community. A vendor who promises to deliver immediate success should be suspect, as building a true staffing partnership requires a long term commitment from you and your vendor. Your vendor must do the homework, solve the problems, and work thoughtfully through issues to earn their partnership stripes.

Auditions, where staffing companies compete for your business by filling open orders, can be helpful IF used to reveal eachNancy unique approach to long term placement success. Filling orders is less important to the audition than is experiencing the vendor’s approach to profiling worker requirements and gathering information important to long term placement success. How does the vendor develop relationships with its clients? With HR? With your hiring managers?

What processes do they use to continuously improve their staffing performance and your service results? What are their expectations of you as their staffing partner?

If you are looking for a new staffing partner or wondering if your current staffing partnership is still meeting your needs, contact our Vice President of Partnership Development, Nancy Swanson-Marschall, for information-focused consultation to help you with your real needs.  You can reach Nancy at

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