regular full-time employees if they perform well. The advantage is that companies can “try before you buy,” she says.
But agencies usually either require that the workers maintain
their temp status for three to six months, ensuring that the
agencies receive an ongoing markup, or charge the company a fee.
Those fees rankle Naftal. In one case, he also had to pay a
signing bonus because the worker was shocked that his compensation as a regular full-time employee was lower than
what the agency paid him. Since he hadn’t gone through
the regular hiring process, salary expectations hadn’t been
Staffing billing rates rose 1.2 percent between 2015 and
2016, according to SIA. U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data
show that labor costs also have gone up, as average hourly
rates of employees at temporary agencies (including headquarters staff) rose from $14.66 in May 2007 to $17.44 in
In addition, the volume of workers a company is assigned
from the agency can affect pricing. That means two companies could pay different rates for the same type of labor.
With advance planning, HR can help avoid potential problems and build strong relationships with trusted staffing
agencies. Here’s some advice:
Ensure that HR is involved. When Naftal’s IT hiring
managers are anxious to fill a vacancy, they sometimes deal
directly with the staffing agency. That’s a mistake because
HR professionals are more experienced with hiring and better at spotting red flags, Naftal says. HR interviews three
candidates for each temporary position and helps weed out
those lacking people skills, he says.
Communicate clearly. To ensure a good match, talk to
the staffing agency recruiter about your top priorities for a
particular opening, advises Paul McDonald, senior executive director for Robert Half International Inc., one of the
largest U.S. staffing agencies. For higher-level jobs, a short
phone conversation with HR, the staffing recruiter and the
line manager can save time in the long run, he says.
The more you share about your company’s culture and
vision, the more successful your relationship with the staffing agency will be, says Linda Meeks, business development manager with Kelly Services Inc., another large staffing agency. A pet peeve of hers is when HR doesn’t respond
to e-mails or other requests for information. “If they don’t
give us responses, we sometimes don’t know how to move
forward,” she says.
Give agencies plenty of advance notice so they have more
time to search for good workers, Taylor recommends. She
tells them she’s willing to wait a few extra days, if needed,
to get the right people.
Providing feedback about individual workers can also
help them and the agency improve, Machir says.
Provide detailed job descriptions. Make sure the contract specifies when you need someone who is proficient
at a particular skill and not merely competent. You might
specify a minimum score that workers must earn on tests in
their field, Ivey says.
Recognize that not all staffing agencies are equal. Ask
for recommendations. Focus on agencies that specialize in
the jobs you want to fill. If you cultivate strong relationships with agency representatives, they will call you when
qualified workers are freed up from other assignments,
To avoid no-shows, review agencies’ job satisfaction
metrics, since workers who are engaged and satisfied are
more likely to show up, suggests Kat Kocurek, vice president of marketing at Inavero Inc. in Portland, Ore., which
conducts satisfaction surveys of clients and temps for staffing agencies.
Conduct spot checks. After Ivey’s experience with the temporary driver who caused a car accident, she added a provision to her next contract requiring the staffing agency to provide a copy of workers’ driving records or background checks
within five minutes of her request.
Focus on safety. Ask the staffing agency representative to
tour your facility and meet with the safety manager. Staffing agencies and the companies that contract them share
responsibility for safety. So, good communication is needed
to ensure both understand any hazardous work conditions
that may exist and what training each will provide to ensure
that temp workers have safe work environments, according
to OSHA’s website.
These steps might take extra time and effort. But with
a little patience, HR professionals can address their temporary workforce needs and avoid unpleasant bumps along
Tamara Lytle is a freelance writer in the Washington, D. C., area.
This article relates to Critical Evaluation, one
of the nine competencies on which SHRM
has based its certification. To learn more, visit
Companies can still be considered ‘dual’ or ‘joint’ employers
when they direct the day-to-day activities of temporary
workers or even tell them when to take a break.