‘All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts…’
As a manager of human resources, I would always wonder at the sagacity of Shakespeare, which enabled him to describe the state of affairs in acquiring and managing talent, when defining life itself.
Recruiters need to be as savvy as casting directors whose job is to fill every role with the right actor. It could be as the lead or as an extra who appears briefly to enact a part, ignorant of all the surrounding action and its true purpose. Most companies have fine-tuned their recruiting processes in order to avoid the potential for “bad hires”. Candidates are interviewed by multiple staff members, qualifications are carefully checked, behavioral testing is applied, extensive orientation is offered, and new employees may be subjected to a “probationary period” in which the worker can demonstrate fit for the job or be released.
What about bringing contingent workforces onboard for one assignment? Historically, temporary assignments were reserved for laborers and clerical personnel. They were engaged for very short periods of time – sometimes as little as a day. The effort to source and onboard these resources was viewed by Human Resources management as a time consuming distraction for their internal recruiters. Since the workers were seen as a commodity, responsibility to engaging them was given to the Procurement organization, who engaged the services of staffing agencies. The company’s goal was to fill the slot at the lowest possible price.
Of course, times have changed. Non-employees represent a growing portion of most companies’ workforces. The profile of the temporary worker has also changed. Today, companies depend on contingent workers to deliver specialized, high demand skills needed for a limited period of time. These individuals will work on projects critical to the company’s success. They will have access to confidential intellectual property. New approaches to sourcing and managing these contingent workers are required. Does it require superior instincts, superhuman powers or software programs? Let us find out.
When seeking the services of non-employees, companies are looking to all available talent sources, which could include staffing agencies, social media sites, training institutions, job boards, mobile networks and other talent pools which give them access to the required talent. Decisions must be made as to the type of worker to be engaged (agency contractor, independent consultant, freelancer, entity delivering SOW-based services, college interns, and more). Skills, experience, work style, and other factors must be clearly communicated. In response to these challenges, many companies now expect Procurement, Line Managers and Human Resources to share in the responsibility of finding and utilizing non-employees. To address the complexity of temporary worker engagement, and minimize the risks associated with “getting it wrong”, companies often outsource responsibility to Managed Services Providers (MSP) who use Vendor Management (VMS) technology to facilitate and manage the process. Staffing agencies are still viewed as an effective and safe way to access and use contingent workers, but agencies must be held to a higher standard.
What are the important considerations when engaging a staffing agency?
When hiring contingent workers through staffing firms, we encourage you to focus on three drivers of success.
Establish Goals: It is important to establish the goals of the recruitment effort, which could not be just limited to the engagement, retention and performance but extend to the compliance and cost savings aspects of the effort. These goals need to drive the strategy of the HR and procurement teams handling the matter.
Talent Management: Agency-supplied workers are employees of the staffing agency, and should be treated as such. In cases where a “perfect fit” candidate cannot be found, specify what requirements are essential on day one and the training program that you expect the staffing agency to provide to bring the worker up to the required level of competence. If performance issues occur, the staffing agency must address them. The agency must properly pay all workers, adhering to government requirements for deductions and benefits.
Expect What You Inspect: Whether sourcing temporary workers through a staffing agency, or directly sourcing independent consultants, freelancers and project teams, you must contractually establish an understanding of the work to be performed, levels of service, performance metrics, and methods of measurement. The surprises that come from poorly defined agreements can have enormous negative consequences.
Proactively Workforce Composition Planning: Organizations today are investing in tools which provide them with insights into the functioning of their businesses. Workforce planning, which is dependent on the insights derived from such programs, could help an organization gain visibility into the direct and intangible costs incurred on the different categories of workers, and steps to control those costs. They can also substantiate the strategies employed when designing an optimal mix of permanent and non-employee talent.
It makes sense for organizations to treat the recruitment of contingent workers as an important activity which requires oversight from responsible procurement and human resource personnel. Tap into this highly valuable talent, but do so in a way that protects your business and promotes your interests.
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