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Getting the Most Value from your Staffing Firm

Posted by Aaron Green  October 21, 2009 05:30 PM

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I've been writing lately about how staffing firms can help your business in this economic climate. I've also written on Finding and Selecting a Staffing Agency. This article provides tips for maximizing the value you get from your staffing firm.

Understand all the services offered
You probably know that your staffing agency can do more than provide you with temporary employees, but the range of services can vary by firm and among differently sized firms. In addition to providing temporary employees and conducting contingency searches, staffing agencies provide an outsourced solution for an entire department or function (e.g. a call center, marketing function, etc.). Staffing firms can perform retained searches, contract recruiting or even handle all hiring and on boarding for a particular function, this is known as recruitment process outsourcing (RPO). And in addition to staffing, firms may offer outplacement and payrolling services. Knowing the menu of services offered and selecting the right item off the menu will allow you to get more value.

Get the best fit for your open position
The more information you provide to your staffing partner, the higher the likelihood they will provide an employee who fits your need.

Start by giving a thorough job order: find out all you can about the work that needs to be done and the type of employee best suited to the task. Be sure to check in with the project's supervisor and/or appropriate managers and ask questions. How urgent is the need and how soon is a temp (or new employee) required? How long will the assignment last? How long is the workday? What skills/experience is required? What skills/experience aren't required but would be nice to have? The more information you gather and provide to your agency the better job they can do for you.

To ensure you get a temp who is a good fit for your needs, try to be as specific as possible. Rather than telling your contact at the staffing agency that you need someone for administrative work, try to spell out the specific type of administrative work the employee will be doing, e.g. answering phones, taking transcription, conducting research on the internet.

Also, consider the skill set and culture around your office. Are most of your employees young and computer literate? Do they communicate primarily by email or IM? Is there an expectation that the temp will be familiar with certain software packages to do the job? Also, never assume that a new employee will know or automatically pick up on unwritten office rules, e.g. whom to report to and how often, the dress code.

Agree on price ahead of time
You want to avoid surprises and you want to get the best price possible without sacrificing quality. The best way to accomplish these goals is to agree on price ahead of time. If you find yourself in an emergency situation where you need staff immediately your ability to negotiate price or even to react to a price that you feel is too high is diminished.

Consider on-site management and/or on-site duties
If you have a high volume of recurring staffing needs, need help coordinating interviews with company hiring managers, and/or want assistance with on-boarding, consider bringing the staffing firm on-site and having one or more of the staffing firm's internal employees work from your office. Such arrangements are typically win-win. You get the extra help typically at no charge, while staffing firms benefit from the efficiencies gained by having more face-to-face interactions with their temporary employees/candidates interviewing for positions/hiring managers.

Conduct performance/satisfaction reviews
It's important to give your staffing firm feedback on their service. Judge their service based on speed, quality of staffing, their ability to understand and anticipate your business needs and the manner in which they handle your account.

Some issues to review with your staffing partner:
* How responsive is the agency to your requests?
* Does the staffing firm have experience in your industry and/or experience serving businesses of your size and organization type?
* How many qualified candidates do you meet for each job opening? How quickly is the firm able to identify quality candidates? If it's appropriate to your needs, does the firm maintain a dedicated temp pool for your business?
* Does the staffing firm show potential to accommodate your changing needs by offering personnel with skills that may be useful to you down the line or personnel in regional areas that may be of interest to you in the future?

Temp to perm
One of the best ways to get value from a staffing firm is through temp-to-perm hiring. Temp-to-perm is a short-hand term that staffing and recruiting professionals use when talking about filling a job with a temporary employee with the option of offering it to that employee on a permanent basis after a trial period. This approach can reduce guesswork and risk and raise the odds of finding a candidate who fits well within your organization. It can be a win-win situation for employers and candidates who get to do a test run before committing permanently. To read more about this subject see article titled Hiring Temp-to-perm: Is it for you?.

Following the above advice will allow you to get more value from your staffing firm.

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Aaron Green is founder and president of Boston-based Professional Staffing Group and PSG Global Solutions . He is also the Treasurer of the American Staffing Association. He can be reached at or (617) 250-1000.

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About HR Columns

Featuring human resources advice and columns from The Boston Globe's On Staffing and Hire Authority writers.