SI Review: March 2012


Straight Talk from the Customer

Where Are the Metrics?

Suppliers need to address temp quality concerns

By John Heigl

When Staffing Industry Analysts released the results of its 2011 Contingent Buyer Survey, one response jumped out at me. Contingent workforce program managers were asked “What is most important when considering temporary staffing services?” Overwhelmingly, respondents said quality is valued more than speed and cost. In fact, 76 percent of respondents noted the quality of the worker is most important, while price and time to fill each only garnered 12 percent of responses.

This is not surprising. In a prior survey a few years ago, respondents were asked to name their top three criteria for determining the value of their staffing supplier, and almost 80 percent of companies included worker quality as one of their top three. So quality has been a concern for a while.

If quality is the top priority, though, one would expect it to be the area with the most robust metrics and benchmarks. Unfortunately, our industry’s good work around retention, speed and cost metrics has not translated to worker quality.

Medieval Mindset

Consider the 2011 movie Moneyball, which is about the unique quantitative system of evaluating players developed by Oakland A’s general manager, Billy Beane. In the movie, the statistician who assisted Beane called the traditional mindset of baseball “medieval.” In the contingent world, focusing on retention, cost and speed while ignoring the customer’s top priority of worker quality is medieval.

I would like to see suppliers adopt a handful of common metrics and survey questions that would enable programs and suppliers to compare themselves. Recruiting Roundtable and provide this type of framework  or measuring the quality of new employee hires.

Above and Beyond

Staffing Industry Analysts recommends a small number of metrics as a best practice for understanding quality. The suggested metrics include engagement manager satisfaction with the contingent worker program and contingent worker satisfaction with the program as measured by a Net Promoter score. One measure addresses both retention and worker quality, which is the percentage of assignments that engagement managers terminated prior to the scheduled end date due to performance. The key worker quality metric is the percentage of assignments that engagement managers would rehire the contingent worker as a contingent worker if able. At a minimum, suppliers should strongly recommend to their clients that they begin to use this last metric.

Unfortunately, most CW programs don’t measure quality at all, let alone a common set of metrics. Most often, poor survey response rates from the engagement managers are blamed. Suppliers and buyers should insist that VMS technologies step in to solve this issue. It should be as simple as putting a few survey questions in front of the time card approval process in the VMS a few times a year. Requiring the survey to be filled out before approving a timecard would result in a 100 percent survey response rate.

Measuring quality with Staffing Industry Analysts’ suggested quality metrics would be a great start. But to truly delight their customers, suppliers should go a step further by understanding three things: First, worker quality incorporates how long it takes a worker to get up to speed. Second, an exceptional worker is much more valuable than a worker who is just meeting expectations. Third, recommend and use a quality metric that allows for comparisons between employees and contingent workers. This will help to address the often unfounded perception that contingent workers are of lower quality.

If worker quality is most important to customers, staffing suppliers must be able to identify more workers who are quick to get up to speed and who are exceptional performers. Finally, they must be able to use credible metrics to demonstrate that they are providing quickly productive and high performing workers while dispelling the myth that contingent worker quality is less than that of the buyer’s employees.

John Heigl is consultant, Global Flexible Staffing Services at Eli Lilly and Co.


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Alison Citti03/13/2012 06:08 pm

Great points here, John. Time-to-fill metrics are important, but they very rarely tell the whole story. The activity that occurs between the time a candidate is submitted and when the company finally extends an offer contributes greatly to the overall time-to-fill process. Companies need to understand that any partnership (be it RPO, contingent, or otherwise) is just that: a partnership. Most often, service-level agreements need to reside on both sides of the staffing playing field. In this case, both providers and clients must take responsibility for ensuring a quality process for candidates, recruiters, and hiring managers.


Russ Hearl03/07/2012 05:22 pm

Excellent article John. As a former VMS vendor and now the largest platform for hiring contractors on-demand online, we understand the importance of not only supplier scorecards, but also quality ratings for each and every contractor. Our reputation system provides actionable data on quality and outcomes for every Elancer. Each worker is given a score that is derived from a proprietary ranking algorithm that takes into account employer feedback on previous jobs and even systematic data elements such as response times to employer messages through our site. When taken together with the feedback provided by the employer on each job, employers can ascertain the quality of the workers and begin to predict which Elancers could be a good fit for their job.


Steve Sullivan03/07/2012 02:17 pm

Our company has been measuring this systematically since 2003. We also tie our contract employees compensation to quality measures. Through a system of metrics, compensation and setting expectation; Cambridge has a 97% satisfaction rating on our contract workforce as rated by our clients. Our system also tracks these quality scores and we are probably the only staffing company in the country that truely knows what percent of the time their workforce is on time, properly skilled, performs good work and measures client satisfaction.

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