Staffing firms are finding creative ways to cut costs. The key, say those who have done it, is to make sure the cuts help the firm do business better, not just spend less money.

“You cannot cut your way to profitability and still remain effective and viable in the marketplace,” says Scott Wintrip, founder and president of StaffingU and the Wintrip Consulting Group.

Here are some savings measures to consider, from those who have been through the process:

Cut travel costs with videoconferencing.

In 2008, global marketing, creative and digital staffing firm Aquent was spending a lot of money and time flying people to interviews.

“We didn’t have a great way of interviewing people face to face,” says Ann Webster, president of Boston-based Aquent. The company added high-definition videoconferencing at all its offices, a move that cut costs and also allowed it to move faster on hiring.

“It created a very high-quality experience, as close as it can feel to being real,” Webster says.

There are many different options to choose from, with an obvious one being Skype. It may have less features, but it's free. Google Chat is another one.

Move to the cloud.

Aquent moved from Microsoft Office to Google Apps, saving money and offering employees new ways to collaborate.

Aquent then moved its phone systems to the cloud, setting up a Voice Over IP system. “It not only saved us huge amounts money” but it also created a more efficient work environment, with direct dial lines for everyone and phone numbers that they could transfer to wherever they were working, Webster says. For more on VoIP, check out our article on how one staffing company saved over $100,000 by switching to VoIP.

The company also moved its proprietary database to the cloud, cutting its costs in half.

Aquent is not the only company to have found cost savings this way. Celarity, a Minneapolis area staffing firm, was able to save over $50,000 annually by moving from an internal applicant tracking system to a cloud-based one, says John Arnold, Celarity’s marketing manager.

Have fewer, smaller offices.

Wintrip says he sees staffing firms cutting overhead by closing offices or reducing their size. “There is less of an emphasis on bricks and mortar,” he says. Companies are finding they don’t need as many branch offices with more work done online.

Centralize support staff.

For Aquent, one set of efficiencies led to another. For example, once most calls were going to employees’ direct-dial numbers, the support staff at each office had fewer calls to answer and more time for other work. In addition, the collaboration tools made it possible to for these employees to work together remotely.

Teams of support staff members were organized to handle payroll, compliance for the company’s largest contracts, and other projects. “They had all these pent-up capabilities that we were able to tap into,” Webster says.

All these new technologies and processes require employees to learn new skills and new ways of working. At Aquent, “we change at an insane rate – it’s kind of the culture,” Webster says.

But just because employees expect change doesn’t mean it’s always easy. When Aquent changed email systems, for example, the way the new system handled threaded conversations was different from what employees were used to. The transition took some handholding, Webster says.

But Webster says the ability to change and become more efficient is essential. “We want to stay relevant,” she says. “The only way that happens is if you continue to adapt, if you continue to add value for your customers. In order for us to do that, we can’t stand still.”

Build an intranet.

This one requires some investment, but will pay off tenfold in the long run. Many administrative tasks are either repetitive or are inefficiently executed. Having an intranet gives your employees a place to share files, receive updates, store the latest paper forms and more. An intranet also works for internal use such as a Call-Off form or a Workers' Comp code request form.

"At iforce® we grew from 14 offices to 35 offices in a little over a year. Our administrative staff barely increased because the intranet made every internal task a breeze. Everyone knew where everything was and request forms contained all of the pertinent information the first time. We also had all of our training materials on the intranet so new employees could help themselves whenever there was a problem." said former IT Manager, Paul Phipps.

What about you? What are some things your staffing company has done to save money without sacrificing quality or service? Tell your story below!

Tags: Advice, Scott Wintrip, Tips, Celarity, Ann Webster, Aquent, Cost reduction, John Arnold, Paul Phipps, Staffing U, VoIP