Working with Staffing Firms: A Q&A with Richard Wahlquist

The president and CEO of the American Staffing Association talks about how temporary staffing firms can help execute your company’s talent strategy.

By Roy Maurer Sep 1, 2015
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9QA.jpg0915cover.jpgThe rise of temporary employment reflects what seems to be a lasting change to the workplace. Contingent workers make up 32 percent of the global workforce today, and that number is expected to grow to more than 45 percent by the end of 2017, according to a study by Ardent Partners, a research and consulting company. In the U.S., temporary positions accounted for nearly 11 percent of all new jobs since 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, staffing firms employ an average of 3 million workers daily across all industries nationwide.

Richard Wahlquist, president and CEO of the American Staffing Association, talked with HR Magazine about the role staffing firms can play in providing companies with workforce flexibility and access to a larger pool of candidates.

How can HR best use the resources staffing firms provide?

For most companies, talent is their single biggest expense. Finding a strategy to maintain a committed, core group of employees around which to create a flexible workforce is wise. A new breed of employee—flexible workers, known as contract professionals—is assigned as the need arises within a given company. When that need no longer exists, they can be redeployed to another company.

How can HR professionals optimize their relationship with staffing agency employees?

When you bring temporary employees on board—whether it is one or 100—put in the time to think about an onboarding strategy that parallels the one you give to your regular employees. Make sure they’re given the tools to be efficient on the first day and make the workplace welcoming, so they don’t call up the staffing firm and say, “This isn’t a good fit for me.”

How can host employers and staffing firms best manage co-employment risk?

The staffing firm and the client both have responsibilities and potential liabilities, and in most cases there is some overlap. A classic example is workers’ compensation. This type of insurance is typically carried by the staffing firm, and the client is protected from further damages in a lawsuit because workers’ comp was designed to be the exclusive remedy when people are injured on the job.

Safety training is another important area. Historically, some clients have taken the position “They’re not our workers; they belong to the staffing firm.” The Occupational Safety and Health Administration doesn’t agree. The agency will find that the staffing firm and the client are both liable. And in most cases, a higher degree of liability will be found against the client employer, because it’s their workplace.

Regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), employers should sleep well at night knowing that the staffing firm is the employer of record. Staffing firms have spent years developing ACA compliance programs.

What are some myths about temporary workers?

One is that temporary and contract employees are mostly blue-collar or low-level office administrative workers. Today, there are staffing firms that specialize in creative work, accounting and finance. Others offer workforce consultative solutions that compete with the big professional services firms.

The second myth is that wages and benefits are not competitive for temporary workers. Staffing companies are recruiting from the same pool as all other employers. If you’re a nurse or IT specialist from a staffing firm, you’ll be paid at least the market wage.

Then there is a perception that people work for staffing firms because they can’t find traditional work. The reason people often choose to work at staffing firms is that they are hoping for a chance to make a better, more-informed decision around the next place they attach themselves to.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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