A new year is upon us, and, in three weeks, a new era in America will dawn. Change is coming, most of it (hopefully) good, but none of it truly anything any of us can affect to any significant degree. So, whether your candidate takes the oath of office on January 20th or takes another hike in the Chappaqua woods, the only thing you can truly affect is yourself and your business.
To that end, here are a few ways those of us in the staffing industry can resolve to use the new year to advance our business interests in light of the very real changes coming our way.
1.) Resolve to educate your clients on pay
The Carrier deal is just the tip of the iceberg. Thanks to Trump and his America-first agenda, jobs are coming back. When you combine that with the likelihood of at least somewhat decreased immigration, particularly from low-skilled workers, you have a recipe for increased labor demand. This demand will, in turn, lead to a rise in the cost of labor.
It might have been possible for some companies on the low end of the pay scale to offer a nickel above minimum wage and still be selective among a multitude of applicants in 2009-2010, but those days are as gone as President Obama is about to be. If your low-paying clients aren’t aware of comparable wages in their industry and area, it’s your job to be sure that happens. After all, you can recruit until the cows come home, but if the price isn’t right they simply aren’t going to come (the people OR the cows!). Show them the data, show them what you’re doing to recruit qualified candidates for them, and explain where they need to be on pay in order to attract what they’re looking for. After all, you get what you pay for!
2.) Resolve to hold the line on bill rates
These days, everyone seems to be under pressure to decrease their margins. Maybe a new HR or Purchasing Manager wants to make his or her mark by saving their company money, or maybe your competition wants a foot in the door and is willing to essentially work for free to get it. Regardless, you need to have a firm sense of what it costs to provide what you provide, including maintaining an office and keeping your staff happy. (After all, your experienced, dedicated staff are absolutely integral to keeping your clients happy in the long run, right?) It’s one thing to remain competitive, but it’s quite another to work for free or a penny above. Your clients wouldn’t do it, and neither should you.
Odds are, you’re going to need every extra penny you can get to recruit qualified candidates, so as much as humanly possible, resolve to hold the line on bill rates. And, when necessary, be willing to walk away.
3.) Resolve to treat your associates as you would like to be treated
Without the candidates we recruit and place on assignment, it goes without saying that we wouldn’t exist. However, facing a plethora of job orders combined with a percentage of candidates who can be annoying, demanding, and outright frustrating, its easy for staffers who do this stuff every day to get jaded. In 2017, resist the urge to get cynical and instead focus on the successful candidates you have placed before and are going to place this year, people who will be doing meaningful work and feeding their families in part because of your efforts.
Treat your candidates and associates with respect and appreciation and they will often, in turn, reward you by referring their friends who need work to you. After all, when you get great service somewhere don’t you tell YOUR friends about it?
4.) Resolve to go the extra mile
Going the extra mile doesn’t have to involve significant expense or often any expense at all. From standout customer service to free advice, an employee pizza lunch, or a free safety inspection, the extra things you do for our clients for the cost they are already paying will give them a sense of value that will, in turn, translate into loyalty and even, quite possibly, referrals.
Whether it’s doughnuts in the lobby for your applicants or an off-hours trip to your client to deal with a pressing HR issue, resolve to go the extra mile in 2017. It will pay off!
5) Resolve to defend our industry
We all know it. In certain sectors, the staffing industry gets a bad rap. Sure, the American Staffing Association has worked tirelessly to counter this perception, but its also up to each of us to explain and defend our industry to the doubters and those who disparage it. In truth, in an increasingly complicated labor market, the service we provide by bringing job seekers and employers together in countless mutually beneficial relationships is more needed today than it was when our industry first began.
Resolve to become educated on the many reasons why, and resolve to share them in 2017 in situations where it’s mutually beneficial. We do important work, and its time more people knew about it!
Here’s to a happy, healthy and prosperous 2017!
Update: appears that as of this evening the website Leadpages shutdown is back up after negative reaction
Leadpages is local to me here in the Twin Cities. I subscribe to their services and have people I count on as friends who work there. I feel compelled to call them out on news that they took down a client website because, according to Leadpages, the site’s views were ‘intolerant’.
I believe Leadpages disrespected its cient and violated a fundamental value of our society, pluralism, that calls us to be tolerant of one another despite our differences in opinion. I had an exchange about that with a defender of Leadpages on Twitter:
He hasn’t even taken the oath of office yet, but Donald Trump is already hard at work saving American manufacturing and promising to keep and bring even more. That’s a good thing for America and Americans, but it does present a question only those of us who struggle to recruit and hire people for a living can really adequately understand – Where the heck are the people going to come from?
We’re told everyone is supposed to have a 4-year college education to succeed in today’s economy, and yet 44 percent of college graduates are unemployed and a vast chasm STILL exists between willing workers and the jobs we NEED to fill in this country.
Sure, welfare needs to be reformed and wages need to go up, and they likely will, but there is still a massive skills gap in our country that can’t be addressed with breathing bodies on the line. No, what America really needs is a true revival of vocational education, starting at the high school level.
Appearing on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” earlier this month, former “Dirty Jobs” host Mike Rowe lent a healthy dose of common sense to America’s current skills gap and our sad post-high school education predicament. Turns out, our soon-to-be burgeoning economy needs far more carpenters, plumbers, and HVAC techs than we do liberal arts flag burners, PC-police, and safe-space snowflakes.
And yet, everyone seems to think the only post-high school success comes from a 4-year college degree. In pointing out the prevailing view in America, Carlson stated out the shock-to-no-one fact that the students out there burning flags didn’t exactly attend HVAC trade schools.
So, does EVERYONE really need a 4-year college education? Even those who are interested in other things? Even those who, for whatever reasons, can’t adequately do the coursework?
In an October article for The Atlantic entitled “The Need To Validate Vocational Interests,” teaching veteran Ashley Lamb-Sinclair laments students with vocational interests who are essentially herded by societal expectations into 4-year degree colleges, emerging with little more than broken dreams and crushing student loan debt.
“A couple of years ago, a mother broke down crying during a parent-teacher conference when we were speaking about her son because she was frustrated that all he wanted to do was fish. He didn’t care about school. He had no desire to go to college. She said she just kept telling him if he went to college and got a good job, then he could fish all he wanted on the weekends. I had taught the student for two years and knew him well. I saw his face in my mind as the mother spoke; I saw him with his head down in the back of class. I imagined what it must feel like to walk around all the time in a world that views your greatest passion, the one thing you truly love and are good at, as a weekend hobby. I said to the mother, ‘What if you change the conversation? What would happen if you start talking to him about what a career as a fisherman would look like and what it would take to accomplish it?’ And she must have seen his face in her mind, too, because she said, ‘Yeah, you’re right.’ She went home that day and, she later told me, had that conversation. His grades didn’t go up, nor did he suddenly love school, but he did engage more in class and seemed happier overall. And he told me proudly when the year ended that he was going to be a fisherman.”
It could be a fisherman, or a plumber, or a carpenter, or an HVAC tech – but we need them all and the fact is we aren’t getting enough of them. College may be all the rage, but a Gallup poll suggests that only 14 percent of Americans, and 11 percent of business leaders, actually believe that college prepares students for workplace success. Contrast this with the 96 percent of college chief academics officers who are absolutely sure they are adequately preparing students for life in the big bad world, and you’ll begin to see the problem.
Rowe explains that the 40 year repetition of this mantra, particularly by politicians, eventually caused everyone to believe it.
“We start to believe that the best path for the most people happens to be the most expensive path,” Rowe said. “And it also happens to be the path that has led to a skills gap of about 5.8 million positions and student loans of about 1.3 trillion and sooner or later somebody’s got to throw the flag, so to speak, and say, maybe there’s another way.”
Sure, many may truly want to learn a particular trade, but what of those who don’t, but still aren’t a good fit for college?
In response to Carlson’s question about attitudes that prevent young people from finding success and happiness, Rowe said, “I think its this idea that there’s a dream job out there. We’re told from the very beginning that if you want to be happy then you have to do the thing that will make you happy. And so we embark on this quest for happiness that has everything to with attaining that which we’ve previously determined will cause bliss, right? It’s sort of like looking for your soul mate instead of trying to find happiness in your zip code. We just make it so hard.”
The lesson Rowe learned was one that would greatly benefit every teen and twenty-something that has yet to find their way. “If you chase the opportunities that are there and then figure out a way to be good at them, and then figure out a way to love them, you’ll be amazed at how stuff lines up.”
It may seem like drudgery, but “meaningful work is very different from drudgery,” and countless people have prospered by becoming good at providing a service to others that happens to be of ever-increasing value.
These days, when countless employers are literally begging for applicants with the right skills, Rowes words of wisdom are just the reality check young people needs these days.
As for that 4-year degree?
“It’s either worth it or its not,” Rowe said. “You either can afford it or you cant. And we’re either helping to subsidize it or we aren’t. Well we are. I feel like we ought to have a conversation about – forgive me, I know this rankles people – but its a return on our investment. That 1.3 trillion dollars is not falling out of the air.”
But hey, at least these kids are getting a good, sound dose of liberal, Marxist indoctrination!
Lamb-Sinclair concludes her article with what would be a call for reviving vocational education in America’s high schools:
“And why should students drag their feet through traditional school before they get the chance to do what they love? Integrating validating experiences into high school rather than hoping that universities will provide them down the road gives opportunities for students who feel ignored, disengaged, and disregarded to recognize the virtue of their talents and pursue them happily and with pride.”
Often the hard part is coming up with the right question. Saw this on Michael Kellerman’s Recruiter’s Online:
ASK FOR PROOF OF SALARY
RECRUITER: What salary are you at now?
Most people will stretch the truth in response to this question. Even if its just by a few thousand dollars, candidates will always inflate their current salary.
There is a way to prevent this. Ask for proof.
If a bank is allowed to ask to see a pay slip to approve a credit card for $2,000, why cant you ask to see a pay slip when discussing a salary of $70,000?
Another way to phrase the question might be, If I were to ask for a payslip, what salary will it indicate you are currently on?.
While it might cause the candidate to become fidgety for a minute, or to break eye contact for a second, you are more likely to get a straight answer.
As a somewhat frugal father of four little ones, there’s a big joke among my friends and co-workers that I’m somehow, well… cheap. Not thrifty, or frugal, mind you, but a penny-pick’er-uppin’ skinflint. I have no idea where this slander comes from! Just because my wife and I know every kids-eat-free restaurant within an hour radius of our house along with the days they offer the discounts, and just because, when we aren’t cooking at home, we happen to plan our meal outings around said discounts, doesn’t necessarily prove their point.
As proof, we don’t ALWAYS drink water. (Yeah, sometimes the free kid’s meal depends on a drink purchase.)
Places that offer two free meals per adult meal purchase are the absolute best. There’s a Tex-Mex place in our area, Barbaritos, that offers such a deal on Tuesday nights. For just over $20, we can buy a spread that would make a medieval king blush. Unbelievable! Sometimes I feel guilty that we’re contributing to their financial demise, but then again I guess they wouldn’t be offering it if they didn’t make SOME money, right?
At any rate, one of the things that binds us all as humans is the fact that everyone, no matter how much or how little money they have, absolutely loves a good deal. Different kinds of good deals, for sure, but good deals nonetheless. Not everyone is in heaven over free kids meals and restaurant coupons, but then again not everyone enjoys eating as much as I do. But the fact remains that when you walk out of a transaction with more cash or more value than you originally expected, it’s a good feeling.
Sure, the service has to be there, and quality is a definite must, but when you come out with those two things AND value too, well, that’s a recipe for a special kind of loyalty. For the purposes of my point, let’s call it the ‘free meal’ feeling, because whatever that ‘free meal’ is, whether its an actual free meal or something else entirely, if the business that give you one are already offering great quality and service, you’ll do business with them again and again.
And you’ll tell your friends. (Heck, maybe you’ll even write an article about it!)
In our business, the staffing industry, adding value is what can differentiate your firm from the dozens of others that are all competing with you on price and even service. Sure, if you are competitive on price and have superior service, you may stay in business and even be successful, but if you can also give your clients a taste of that ‘free meal’ feeling by adding value somewhere they didn’t expect, you’ll create more than just a client/vendor relationship – you’ll create loyalty.
Here are a few easy ways we staffing agencies can do just that:
Food – Why not start a conversation about ‘free meals’ with an actual, well, free meal? Take your client reps to lunch every so often. You’ll get to know them better as well as their expectations for your service. If you have several temps working at a plant, ask your contact if it would be OK to bring in pizza for each shift. It’s a minimal expense, plus you get to meet your associates as well as the regular employees. You might get some referrals out of the deal, but you will definitely get goodwill and appreciation. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a free meal once in a while, and who doesn’t feel good, at least for a little while, about the company, or staffing agency, that made it happen?
Promotional items – Everyone uses calendars, pens, notepads, and the like, especially your clients. If they don’t have all of the above plus several other items (the possibilities here are truly endless) with your logo and contact information on them, you aren’t doing your job!
Safety walk-throughs – Even if you don’t have an in-house safety manager, chances are your branch managers and even your staffers have lots of experience walking through various plants and assessing risk to your company, especially before bringing a client on. Why not offer a safety walk-through to your clients as a value-added service? It’ll help you learn even more about the companies you do business with, and it’ll help your clients create a safer work environment for not only their folks, but yours as well. It’s a win-win!
HR advice – If your staff are Certified Staffing Professionals through the American Staffing Association’s certification and continuing education program, they already have a fantastic working knowledge of current legal regulations and potential pitfalls that can happen to any business that employs people. And chances are, especially if they have multiple years of experience, they’ve seen it all, or at least most of it, in a variety of different industries. As such, staffing suppliers are in a unique situation to be able to advise our clients, not in any official legal capacity of course, but in a knowledgeable, consultative capacity.
Continuing education – Just as your people are Certified Staffing Professionals, your customer reps are likely members of SHRM or some other certified entity that requires continuing education. Hosting breakfast briefings or lunch & learns, and bringing in qualified speakers on a variety of topics, are a great way to provide not just a free meal, but knowledge and continuing education credits that will help your clients stay informed and certified. Plus, as host, you can hand out plenty of those promo items at your table in the back!
Those are just a few of the many ways to add value for our clients. The possibilities are as limitless as your imagination, and your budget.
Oh, and the law, of course. Be sure to check with your attorney and make sure you don’t cross any lines, especially depending on the type of industry your client is in. For example, certain federal contractors may not even be allowed to let you take them to lunch.