SI Review: June 2012


The Other Side

Treat Your Contingents Well

Or you risk not satisfying your clients

By Ursula Hughes

The economic decline in recent years has shifted the focus of many staffing firms to the task of procuring more customers or clients. This is understandable — it has often been necessary in order to sustain business. But in their pursuit of customers, staffing firms have often ignored their contingent workers. In fact, in many cases, efforts to cultivate and maintain relationships with the candidate pool have been non-existent. But it is those contingent worker relationships, that will be key in navigating the curve, as the labor market continues on the upswing, and year-over-year projections point to an increased use of contract and temporary labor.

Insightful staffing firms know they can’t lose sight of the other side of the staffing equation. They know they must strike a balance between customer relationships as well as the labor pool. To be able to satisfy the customer would require that staffing firms have access to quality talent and those that want to be successful in the current era need to adopt strategic initiatives that go beyond “putting a body in the seat.”

Staffing firms need to redefine and adjust their cultural mindset to one that views its labor pool as its client. In some cases, this will require a major paradigm shift in the collective behaviors and attitudes in the culture of the staffing firm.

This collective cultural shift may be a huge undertaking indeed. The awarding of the contract to a staffing firm is just the start. Whether it’s able to meet — and exceed — those demands in the long haul, in order to keep their standing with the customer, depends on its relationship with its talent pool.

On the other hand, human capital, by its nature, is often not valued for its quality, and collectively is treated as an expendable commodity. This is a huge mistake that staffing firms often make. Top quality workers recognize their value, and see little benefit in contributing to the staffing firm’s brand, while being treated as just another asset. Incentives that place value on the human side of human capital can go a long way in procuring the coveted corporate contract, and ultimately increase the staffing firm’s bottom line.

Whether it’s a staffing firm that specializes in contingent labor, or a managed services provider that supplies workers or administers a contingent workforce program, there are some key components that these firms can adopt when attempting to create and retain a loyal labor pool.

Staffing firms can create loyalty from their labor pool by:

  • Identifying the top-tier talent within their labor pool and designing recognition programs and incentives for them.
  • Soliciting the contingents’ feedback, through surveys and assessments, on the quality of their assignments.
  • Communicating with potential candidates during the search process, after they’ve been submitted for a potential job assignment. Even during competitive climates, employee confidence can be built, with the long-term goal of building a pool of tier-1 candidates.
  • Working not only to meet the objective of a company’s labor fulfillment, but also striving to exceed the goal by attempting a close fit for the customer, as well as the employee.
  • Creating sustainable business models that lessen redundancy. Establish two distinct teams — one focused on sourcing labor, while another functions in a sales capacity, with the goal of securing contracts from potential customers.

Creating value for both its clients — the contingent workers and the hiring companies — should be the goal of the staffing company. It’s the astute staffing firm that has in place customer service metrics that measure the satisfaction from the corporate side as well as the human capital side — the individual worker.

Ursula Hughes is a freelance writer and channel sales executive. She has previously held positions at Hewlett-Packard, NetSuite and Sun Microsystems. She can be reached at


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Staffing Industry Analysts

Andrew Karpie25/05/2012 4:09 pm

Ursula, you make a very important point. So often the model is to deliver the "goods" and get paid for the goods delivered. But the "goods" (really a bundle of human services)are actually (talented/skilled)people, many of whom will be valuable in "repeat performances." CRM as "contingent relationship management" (not customer or even candidate relationship management) is a discipline that has not yet been defined (with all its hard and soft variables), but one that perhaps should be. Interesting too that "talent management" (often thought not to figure much into the process and operating models of contingent staffing firms) probably really does in more critical ways than in corp perm hire organizations.

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