quality staffingHappy New Year readers and welcome to 2012!

Whether you stay up and celebrate or turn in early, make resolutions or not, a new year can’t help feeling like a clean slate, a new beginning and an opportunity to evaluate things and plan for the coming year – personally, professionally or both. As I look back at 2011 and ahead to 2012 and think about the staffing industry and my own company ATR, I feel optimistic. To be sure there are still economic and political challenges that lie ahead but overall I agree with many who cautiously predict we’ve passed the worst of it and that the staffing industry is poised for increased growth.

The January 2012 issue of Staffing Industry Review has many interesting articles to start the new year off (and a new look!) but three in particular caught my attention. The first, “Quality Matters – A recent survey reveals what’s most important to buyers” highlights something I’ve used as an operating principle and written about before. SIA’s survey of buyers shows that 77% consider the quality of the worker a top concern while placement speed and price rated as a top concern with only 12% each. As the article notes, quality has been cited by buyers as important in the past and these new ranked results reemphasize that Quality should be the #1 concern, without it, nothing else matters; a contingent worker who can’t perform the job isn’t a bargain at any price. But finding and keeping quality contractors isn’t as easy as one might think it should be in an uncertain job market, particularly for in demand skills and experience. This is reflected in the results as well, where “the survey [also] found that staffing buyers have a fair to middling view of the quality of workers they are receiving from their temporary staffing providers.” I am not surprised to hear this.

The IT sector aptly demonstrates how supply and demand affect quality and price. The TechServe Alliance reports that IT employment continued its pattern of month-over-month growth in November, again outperforming the general labor market. This means that competition, and rates, for the most talented IT contractors will be higher than in the past, news that buyers may not want to hear. Leslie Steven Huffman’s article “Short-Term Hiccups, Long-Term Growth: Four macro trends that will reshape the staffing industry” covers just this topic. One of the trends is Client Expectations, where a common understanding about current workforce and labor market trends can help set realistic expectations. At the same time the article also discusses the need for suppliers to find innovative and practical solutions to meet the demand for skilled workers who can quickly assimilate into a client’s business and deliver value from the start. All four trends are thought provoking and it’s an interesting read, after which you will appreciate the advice given in the final article I recommend.

SIA VP of contingent workforce strategy and research Brian Pena’s, “With this Ring, I thee wed…An inside look into building strong, committed relationships with your clients,” looks at business relationship development. The title may seem a little corny but the advice is spot on – particularly in his emphasis on the importance of frequent communication (Call Me Often) and being a true business partner to your clients, understanding their concerns and working together to find solutions (Bill Rate and Goals). As the competition for talent continues to heat up, delivering quality candidates will require a combined effort between buyer and supplier. Developing strong relationships and good communication practices is advice you’ve almost certainly heard before but it’s more important than ever. Delivering not only quality candidates but quality client service will depend on it.

It seems 2012 may bring many of the same challenges but also provide solutions to those willing to pay attention and work hard. We’re ready at ATR – are you?

Jerry Brenholz
President and CEO

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