Employees are the most valuable and expensive investment a business will make. Planning around a stable core workforce leads to more predictable budgets and forecasts. However, an ideal workforce plan will also consider different types of labor when adapting to changing market demands. Premium costs such as overtime, incentives, and contract labor can have a positive return if used intentionally. Staffing agencies let businesses creatively troubleshoot their challenges through fixed-term contracts, sourcing services, or even temp-to-hire agreements. Therefore, involving a staffing agency could help address a number of common workforce challenges that are difficult to resolve alone.

Acquire Expertise for Non-Recurring Projects

In a perfectly efficient world, a business could devote all of its staff toward generating revenue. More practically, business leaders also need to consider shorter-term projects like software installations or tool upgrades. When planning for these projects, it is important to know if the current staff has the skills required to complete the work successfully. Even if the right skills are available, the impact of taking staff away from their normal duties must be considered. Critical evaluation of direct costs, like overtime or premium pay, and indirect costs such as reduced customer satisfaction or worker burnout, will reveal whether outside assistance is needed or not.

At times, when the current workforce cannot reasonably complete a temporary project due to lack of expertise or time, contract workers provided by staffing agencies can help balance the day-to-day tasks while employees focus on the temporary project. A staffing agency may also improve access to pools of experienced candidates that would not normally be attracted to the organization (e.g. software specialists). Some veteran contract workers may bring additional breadth of experience from across the industry to identify risks or opportunities that might otherwise be missed.

"Staffing agencies let businesses creatively troubleshoot their challenges through fixed-term contracts, sourcing services, or even temp-to-hire agreements"

Address Volatile Work Volume

Riding a wave of increased work volume can be profitable or costly depending on the approach. This wave might be anticipated, like patient visits during flu season, or it can be unexpected, like a product “going viral” on social media. A comprehensive staffing plan will have contingencies for these high tides while also remaining affordable during slower periods. Flexing up the work hours of permanent employees can be a conservative but effective strategy for dealing with this volatility because it may drop back down quickly. In some cases, the increased volume far exceeds the available flextime of employees and the risk of lost revenue may greatly outweigh the cost of bringing on temporary help in these situations. Consider starting conversations with agencies early if seasonality impacts competitors as well; contract prices can soar if there are multiple bidders.

Combat High Churn

Churn (total employee turnover) is expensive. Organizational knowledge, relationships, and training must be reacquired by the incoming hire. Simultaneously, the remaining team must take on additional work to keep up with daily demands. Teams experiencing high churn may be especially prone to voluntary exits due to the instability. Focusing on candidate quality and longevity can lead to long-term reductions in churn. Finding ways to support shorthanded teams in the interim can also minimize near-term losses.

Staffing agencies may be able to quickly fill a team vacancy while a more thorough candidate search is conducted. This can be especially useful when the talent search is expected to be long or difficult. Even in cases of high churn among more readily available talent, temp-to-hire agreements may be beneficial. A business can evaluate the work of a potential employee with less administrative and legal overhead. These arrangements, although sometimes attached to additional fees, may still result in substantial savings to the organization compared to lost work and team morale.

Pivot to New Business Strategy

Shifting long-term strategy can have next-day impacts on operations. The workforce plan may need to address employees that are improperly skilled, numbered, or geographically positioned. Plans should review how the work is anticipated to change. Which parts of the workforce can be retrained or relocated? Where are more permanent employees needed? Are there certain roles required only during the transition? Connecting the future state with the present will reveal the gap that must be bridged.

Agencies may provide some of the flexibility and speed needed to change course quickly. If training schedules cause work backlogs, contracting extra help can keep operations running smoothly. Similarly, a business may expand into a new territory or service line before a full roster of employees is available. Local agencies can assist these outposts via sourcing or temporary placements until the business stabilizes.

Employees are the hammer, staffing agencies are the scalpel. Consider using these services in situations that require surgical precision and speed. Careful attention should be paid to the value of each unique arrangement. Fees and contract language will play a major part in whether an agreement comes in at the right price and legal exposure (especially in co-employer situations). Hopefully, discussions lead to both the business and agency finding a mutually beneficial partnership.