Two staffing firms. One mission.
This is the story of two Atlanta, Ga. staffing agencies that joined forces to help hundreds of formerly homeless citizens transition back into the workforce.
The first is Hire Dynamics, an award-winning professional recruiting and staffing firm that’s been around for 10 years. They specialize in staffing for call centers, high-end administrative work, warehouse and manufacturing jobs, and professional services.
The second is First Step Staffing, a small, nonprofit agency that focuses its efforts on formerly homeless individuals.
Its employees are in transition, getting back on their feet and returning to the working world after being on the streets.
First Step helps them find these jobs. They have a reputation for successful job placement of 1,400 homeless men and women, but only have one office.
Hire Dynamics, on the other hand, has six Atlanta offices and the desire to reach out to its community members.
Hire Dynamics CEO Dan Campbell met First Step’s founder, Greg Block, about three years ago when they were in the Young President’s Organization together. Campbell told me he “thought highly of Greg,” and wanted to help his company build momentum in Atlanta.
First Step’s general manager, Vince Lipe, said that Campbell has “always been supportive of our mission. The only way we’re going to end homelessness is with a transition of some sort.”
Lipe told me that since his firm opened in 2007, they have partnered with community organizations that give the staffing firm referrals.
All the referred employees are in transitional programs, and “have housing of some sort,” Lipe said.
In a team effort, First Step and its community partners coach the employees on soft skills like money management and resume writing.
What made it harder with First Step in particular was that companies were “wary of the mission.”
Lipe said many don’t understand homelessness. There is still a stigma attached to it — they’re drug addicts, criminals, etc.
What employers don’t realize, Lipe said, is that First Step’s workers often have high school diplomas, GEDs and even master’s degrees. They simply happened to fall on hard times, but the ones in transition have a good work ethic and the drive to get their lives back.
“They’re not the everyday people that you see on the streets,” he said. “The face of homelessness over the years has really changed.”
This was where the benefit of Hire Dynamics’ partnership with First Step came into play.
Hire Dynamics has a reputation for putting 2,000 people to work every day, making their name widely recognized in Atlanta.
Having a sizable company linking itself to your firm gives you more legitimacy, Lipe said.
“Hire Dynamics brings that name recognition that we needed,” Lipe told me.
Since the partnership has gotten under way, Lipe said, “We’ve had a couple of projects together already that were very successful.”
Many of these job placements are in manufacturing and distribution, he added.
People coming in expecting a permanent job right away might be disappointed. Lipe said it’s hard to sell direct hire to human resources departments, as the employees have to, in a way, prove their worth.
“At first, we give them that temporary option,” he said.
The system operates on a temp-to-hire basis, giving the employee time to showcase his or her abilities. However, there is no time limit on how long the employee has to be on the books at First Step before a company can permanently hire them. The employee could be there for a week or 90 days; it doesn’t matter.
Hire Dynamics’ partnership with First Step is “going to be ongoing,” Lipe said.
In his two years with First Step, Lipe has learned more than he ever knew about homelessness, as well as the nonprofit sector of staffing. The partnership has benefited both companies in growth and success stories.
“It’s really great to see someone … get their life back on track,” Lipe said.