Subadhra Sriram's Blog

Not Really the Big Bad Wolf

It used to be that the staffing industry at best was considered a middleman. At worst a necessary evil. Popular media love the image of the staffing industry as the big bad wolf screwing the little guy out of his rightful wages and benefits. There are some in the media who have found it convenient to fit the industry into a narrative that goes back to Charles Dickens.

Times have changed. The Staffing Industry Analysts’ 2010 Buyer Survey indicates a new era. In 2010 buyers of staffing services were solidly positive about engaging temporary workers as opposed to 2004, when the very organizational culture of most companies was opposed to the use of temps. And buyers have warmed up to staffing agencies as well, rating them very favorably in our 2012 survey.

The recession has definitely helped erase some of negativity around the use of temporary workers. It reiterated the fact that using temporary workers during periods of volatility — either when there is rapid growth or a downturn requiring more or less workers — made the most sense. Or when firms can’t find a full-time worker and a temp-to-perm solution seems the best option. In addition, the downturn showed us that temporary workers with a professional skill earn more as a temp that they would as a full time worker. This did help ease some off the stigma around staffing.

Unfortunately, it’s not just the media that perpetrates the negative image. Anecdotal evidence reveals that there some in the industry believe the industry deserves its bad reputation — because of unprofessional behavior: sucking up to the customer, over-selling outrageous mark-ups, poor business processes, onerous onboarding procedures, lack of strategic insight, etc. etc. The list of negative behaviors the industry indulges in is long.

On the bright side, the staffing industry is on a good wicket. Access to quality talent has never been more critical. At the same time, talent acquisition folks at medium and large corporations openly admit that they don’t have the time, competency or the resources required to source talent. So it’s the right chapter to shake of the vestiges of the negative persona.

Stephen Graziani says it best in The Staffing Stream when he urges both the end user and the staffing agency to work together strategically for the best possible results. Establishing real value will change the industry’s image.

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