September's Marketing Blog -- What do you do when the temporary person doesn't show up?

So here it is, we live and breathe our own rhetoric - we hire contingent labor!  We have a small marketing group at Staffing Industry Analysts - including me, the exalted Vice President, there are only four of us.  That means when we have conferences or new projects we hire contingent labor.  We have someone who helps us with our database and we have two people who help us with telemarketing.

But what does a manager of a small team do when the contingent labor, that you are counting to help you do your work, doesn't show up?  It is the most frustrating, annoying situation I face as a manager.  Do I fire the staffing company and bring on someone else?  Do I yell and scream, ask for concessions and keep on taking their people who have had a less than stellar attendance record?  Do I make a case to my manager and say hey, we just can't use contingent labor any longer because they are unreliable and we just need a regular employee? 

The Situation

In the last three weeks we have had one contingent person go out on medical leave.  We had another decide that he didn't have to work all the days of the project and a third decide to leave for a doctor's appointment in the middle of the day without prior warning.  I know that our experiences are not unique.  I have talked to many a buyer of contingent labor and know that we all have our challenges.

But frankly, as a small company, these ordinary hiccups are disasters.  Our programs become late, we just fall behind in our commitment to you our customers and to our company and the overall morale of the marketing team falls off due to frustration and over-load.

Fixing the Service Problem

Of course I called our vendor.  I told him about the problem we were having.  Of course he was conciliatory - after all, he doesn't want us to write bad things about their company.  He said he would give us a price concession, he is getting someone else in our office to help out and he understands our challenges.  He told me he would talk to the candidates and tell them how important attendance is and how much we need the candidate to work the entire project.  That is all good - but you know, I expect that level of service anyway.

In reality, in my opinion, the discussions with the candidate, etc. should have all happened before the person showed up at our door.  The account manager should have taken the time to really understand our needs and only delivered candidates who were willing to make a commitment.  If the candidate couldn't make a commitment, they shouldn't have taken the role.

Maybe these are unrealistic expectations.  I know I am not buying pencils or computers, I am buying people.  And the funny thing about people is they do the most unexpected things.  Like not show up for work, like decide they are done with a project, get sick, have children who get sick, etc.  That is what makes this job and your job so hard.

The bottom line is I really need you to understand the role and what my expectations are. I really need you to deliver candidates who can handle the job and who want to do the job.  Buying the company pizza - what the account manager wants to do, doesn't really help the situation.  It is a nice gesture, but really, I just need people here who I can count on.

My Recommendations

  1. Staffing companies should create a contract with candidates and provide them with expectations of the job to be taken on and a commitment from the candidate that they are willing and able to do the work
  2. Spend time with the buyer, understand his/her needs and anticipate the challenges of the assignment.  When the person we had went out on medical leave, the staffing company should have called me and said, 'Hinda, I know that Mary went out on leave, we will have John there tomorrow.  Do you want to talk to John before he arrives?'
  3. Set up pay for performance plans with buyers.  It is not just how the contingent person performs; it is how the staffing company performs.  I am paying for two types of services.  If the staffing company isn't servicing me in the way in which I need to be serviced, it doesn't matter how good the temporary person is, I want money back.
  4. Follow up with the candidates.  My account manager didn't know that the person who he installed left for a doctor's appointment.  Had he called her, he might have asked her if there was anything that might get in the way of her ability to perform the job.

In the End

We use more than one temporary staffing company.  We will continue to rotate the usage of labor with more than one agency because we don't like to play favorites.  Our role in the industry forces that behavior.  In the end, there are really great people out there who work contingent jobs.  We appreciate their hard work and the work of the staffing companies who provide their services to us.  My final word is just one - reliability - that is really what we want.

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