I happened to be going through some of our survey data from 2009, and noticed an interesting coincidence.
When buyers were asked what advice they would give to staffing firms, their number one response was that staffing firms should be "more of a real business partner." Strangely enough, in a separate survey, when we asked staffing firms what advice they would give to buyers, their number one response was exactly the same--buyers should be "more of a real business partner."
So if everyone wants the other side to be a real business partner, why do both sides feel the other doesn't want it and isn't doing it? Reading the details of their comments reveals the answer--the two sides are worlds apart in terms of expectations and priorities.
Staffing buyers want a lot--quality, speed, cost control, shared knowledge, creativity and ever-improving performance. Staffing firms, presumably doing at least some of that, feel their profits are excessively squeezed and that buyers should be helping them stay in business instead of treating them as a commodity.
Is there a common ground between all those needs? Yes, and the reality is that staffing firms and buyers are already finding it on a regular basis to the tune of nearly $100 billion in U.S. sales annually.
But that common ground doesn't lend itself to terribly serious partnership; it's less like marriage and more like high school, because ultimately everyone is still open to a better deal. That instability can be tough at times, but in business it makes for progress.
A more marriage-like partnership might seem attractive, but my recommendation for the contingent world is--be happy with just going steady.