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The staffing industry is a huge contributor to our economy, supplying the most important asset for any company ... talent! Whether it is the new CEO placed through an executive search firm, the contract auditor for your new line of business, a team of experts brought in for an IT project or the extra labour needed on the shop floor at peak times, the staffing industry give our clients access to the people they need, when they need them.
Given the importance of our role in the economy and our ability to bring real value to our clients it is very possible for us to establish a "trusted business partner" relationship with our clients. The only way to do that is by stepping up your game in these four areas: (a) Delivery; (b) Relationships; (c) Customer Service; and (d) Brand.
1. Delivery. Being able to find the easier candidates is not enough ... in a world where skills and labour shortages will return soon, we need to have a well oiled delivery machine. Our clients need to know that we will deliver for them ... and we can only get to that point by proving it, again and again. A well oiled machine will know where the talent is, will have relationships with the type of people our client will need, will have partnerships with niche players who can step in when needed, will be using the latest tools, the latest processes and will be constantly training their people to be the best in the business.
2. Relationships. Our discussions with our clients cannot be centred on "orders". We need to bring value to the table ... we need to be able to provide market intelligence; we need to be at the forefront of, and involved in, industry issues around professionalism, ethics and regulatory matters; we need to be involved in the political issues affecting our industry ... immigration, education & training of the future workforce; we need to be knowledgeable about the changing demographics and future workplaces. We need to bring intelligence to our clients to help them plan their future talent strategies.
Sidebar: There is a strange trend in our industry where some people suggests suppliers should not talk to their clients ... that is the true path to commodity staffing. How can we bring value if we can't understand our clients' business needs? How can we supply the right people if we don't know the nuances of the role? How can we educate our clients about the big picture if we can't talk to them? It is impossible to get a decent (never mind great) job order through a tool!
3. Customer Service. We need to set client expectations correctly ... even when the messages are tough! We need to keep them informed through the process. We need to be responsive. We need to always remember the bigger picture. We need to be cognisant of their pressures and solve their business issues as much as we can. We need to constantly be looking to bring value ... not just fill orders (and especially not just the "low hanging fruit").
4. Brand. This will be a strange one to many in our industry ... but I firmly believe that good companies want to deal with good companies. I define a good company as one that is obviously good at its core business ... but there are many more qualities to a good company. They are a good corporate citizen, giving back to their communities; they treat their people well; are active in industry associations; are a recognised "thought leader" in their field; are committed to quality; strive for excellence; innovate and grow; are Customer focused; professional and a leader. In order to build a strong relationship with a client like that, and differentiate from your competition you need to build a brand like that!
As the boomer generation retire, the economy picks up and the demand for knowledge workers creates significant skills (and labour) shortages the staffing industry has the opportunity to be a big part of the solution ... if we can realise our potential, the sky is the limit!
Above are four areas that every staffing company needs to address in their future strategic planning ... get it right and we increase our importance to our clients and even more importantly to the economies in which we operate.
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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