Like all businesses, the staffing industry is a cyclical one. We depend on both employers and job seekers to make our business model work, but at any given time we need more of one than the other. For most of my 16+ year staffing career, it seems like we've always been desperate for qualified job seekers. There was a blip around 2009-2011 where that shifted to clients, but when it shifted back it shifted hard. Suddenly clients were hiring again, but they weren't paying much and the benefits upon hire weren't as good as they used to be. But they still expected us to deliver the people, and for the most part we did.
The big question is, could that be coming to an end, at least to some degree? Or is a major shift about to happen that none of us could predict?
Right now, it seems like it's harder to find people than ever before, and I do mean ever. The national unemployment rate for March was 5 percent, almost half of what it was at this point in 2010. Our offices have literally hundreds (and I do mean hundreds) of openings. As marketing director, I get overwhelmed with calls and emails from desperate offices asking if we can do more to bring people in, and to be completely honest sometimes it's all I can do not to curl up in a fetal position and suck my thumb!
CAN we do more? Although we can always up our game from a performance standpoint, from a cost standpoint I'm not completely sure, not without operating at a severe loss. We're already spending thousands to list our jobs on the biggest job boards in the country, and we're at a happy medium with our spend, the place where spending much more would bring significantly diminishing returns (we've tried, and that's exactly what happened).
We offer referral bonuses, often significant ones depending on the client. We're on the radio and even do remotes at certain locations. We invest time and money on social media like we're a national firm. We do targeted internet advertising, SEO, and Google AdWords. We are at high schools, job fairs, conventions, and the unemployment office. We hand out flyers, put up posters, and distribute business cards like nobody's business. We're involved in the community. For the first time ever, our small franchise is about to launch a regional cable television ad campaign.
Overall, we have a great reputation for integrity and service in all the areas we operate.
Honestly, what more can we do?
To be fair, most of our jobs are entry-level and many of our clients already have budgets that are stretched thin and they can't spend much more for people. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, this is the reality of today's economy. Most are using us to save money, but it's not so much money on paying employees (full-timers don't make much more than temps do) as it is money on recruiting and screening, because if they tried to do this at the level we are, economies of scale would eat them alive.
If it's rough for us, an industry that's literally built around the ability to recruit effectively, I can only imagine how rough it is for the average business trying to hire entry-level workers. That's why they use us, of course, and we certainly make their situation better than if they'd never picked up the phone to call us.
So yes, some of this could be the jobs we have to offer, but that doesn't mean we aren't going to try our dead-level best to recruit who our clients want at what they want to pay. Neither, however, does it mean we don't pressure them to increase wages to help our recruiting efforts. Somewhere in there, there's a happy medium right? Right?
Don't get me wrong - We never stop selling to employers, nor should we! Often it can be landing a great account that gets the word of mouth out and brings even more people in than before. And the people we can't use - for whatever reason - at that shiny new client, why there are plenty of other clients who would welcome them with open arms. That's yet another advantage clients get from using a staffing agency, the ability to pick up somebody who had no idea they existed before they walked through our doors to apply somewhere else.
Indeed, it looks like staffing agencies aren't going away anytime soon, especially in today's uncertain economy. We'll continue to bridge that gap, matching great employers with great job seekers to the best of our ability.
My question for others in our industry, however, is a simple one. What more can we do to attract qualified, entry-level workers? What am I missing? What are you missing? After all, if we can help each other do our jobs better everyone wins in in the long run.