For most businesses hiring, it’s a tough time to find quality employees. But what if hiring people was your business? We spoke with two owners of local staffing agencies to find out how to navigate the ever-changing waters of the local labor market.
By Ren Bishop
From hotels to hospitals, organizations large and small are struggling to find quality employees in 417-land. Most recognize this reality when positions are posted. But for staffing companies, it’s a daily struggle to find quality applicants, says Erinn Johnson, president/owner of Staffing Plus of Springfield.
“It’s a lot better now than it was in 2009 when I purchased the business,” she says. “But it’s difficult to find the right people. I work mostly with hospitality, so there are always jobs. But finding the right people who are the right fit is a challenge.” It’s only one of many challenges staffing agencies face. When an industry is hit hard by a change in the economy, staffing agencies feel the pain.
Paula Adams, president of Penmac Staffing Services, Inc. navigates the changing waters of the labor market daily. “Ups and downs are simply a part of our business, so we try to minimize the effects of economic fluctuations by staffing for a variety of industries and keeping our operating expenses in check,” she says. “As a private, employee-owned company, we have the agility to grow quickly with the market, or contract if necessary.”
Both staffing companies defend their margins against a labor shortfall with one strategy: diversification. Staffing Plus offers payroll services for clients, in addition to serving a number of industries. Penmac also serves multiple businesses and recently expanded its operations to serve more. “While a majority of our staffing business is in the industrial and manufacturing realms, we also have a large clerical staffing division and have recently expanded into professional and education staffing,” Adams says. “With this diversification, we aren’t as vulnerable to shifts in just one industry.”
But when times are good and jobs are flush, staffing companies must adapt again. Johnson steps up her efforts to promote and advertise jobs in a variety of ways when she has a number of open positions. But she’s always working ahead. “We’re constantly interviewing people and work to build up a really good pool to pull from,” Johnson says. “Even if we don’t have a position for them today, we have a good pool to draw from when a job does pop up.”
But regardless of the position, Johnson has one tip for business owners: Hire the right people, and work to keep them. Don’t hurry to hire just to get someone in a job. “If you really want a good employee for the long run, take the time to find someone and not just have a quick fix,” Johnson says.
Adams emphasizes the need for businesses to be aware whether the wages they offer are competitive to attract skilled workers. “Retaining skilled workers goes beyond wages, though,” she says. “Paid time off that allows workers to keep a work-life balance is extremely valuable to employees at every skill level.”
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