(This article first appeared on StaffingTalk.com.)
There are probably lots of more difficult, more stressful, and more thankless jobs, but one thing’s for sure – there’s no job on the planet quite like staffing. It’s hard enough to meet and exceed the expectations of one set of customers, something every for-profit company is required to do every day to stay in business, but imagine having to please TWO entirely opposite customer groups when the definition of ‘pleasing’ (and consequently, your job) is bringing them together in such a way that both are satisfied with the relationship.
And if either isn’t, they’re both looking right back at you…
Staffers are in a unique situation, in that both our clients and our associates play a balancing, very equal role. Our job is to bring them together, but every hiring decision we make risks offending one or the other, without either of which we’d be out of business. Make the perfect match, over and over again, and we please our bosses, owners and/or shareholders and make a profit for our company. Make too many bad matches, and we’re out of a job!
We’re MatchMaker.com without the romance, or even a rose and a cheap box of chocolates.
A typical staffer spends his or her days working on filling multiple open job orders from any of several dozen clients, all at the same time, everyone needed YESTERDAY even if they didn’t call until today! We constantly sift through files (what used to be drawers full of endless manila folders have, thankfully, changed to digital ones), conduct phone and in-person interviews, field client requests, make job offers, conduct background and reference checks, drug test candidates, process paperwork, all the while communicating back in forth with the labor-starved clients these folks will be working for.
We check in when they start. We then monitor their progress, discipline for attendance, counsel and discipline for the various other behavioral issues that arise from time to time, deal with their on-the-job injuries, and terminate them upon request, even to the point of, when necessary, occasionally coming to a plant to walk them off the job. We wear more hats than a circus clown – human resources, career coach, sales, recruiting, mediation, administration, and more. And each of those hats, like the matches we make, has to fit perfectly.
Every person we recruit, select, screen and send to work is an extension of ourselves. Send the wrong person and it’s our fault (even if it isn’t). Send the right person and, well, we’re just doing our jobs. In fact, they are already wondering where the next candidate is! We love and appreciate our clients, but there’s no doubt that many take ‘What have you done for me lately?’ to new and ever-increasing and always-astonishing heights.
As if clients aren’t demanding enough, candidates constantly call our office wanting work RIGHT NOW. After all, their lights are about to get turned off, their vehicle is getting repossessed, their home is getting foreclosed – you name it, Murphy’s Law has seemingly done it to a higher percentage of our applicants than you’d guess. And if we fail to put them to work right away, sometimes it can even get ugly.
If it were just a numbers game, most would have jobs as soon as they contacted us. Unfortunately for all involved, it’s not that easy. Their skills, education, knowledge, and experience have to match what the client is looking for. Candidates sometimes get angry with us for not finding them something right away, not understanding that while we would LOVE to send everybody who calls us to work immediately, sending the wrong person to our clients would eventually result in us not having clients at all.
Sometimes we even make that ‘perfect’ fit, only to watch in horror as it all falls apart. We’ll get that difficult (or sometimes not so difficult) job order, scan through dozens of files, call several qualified candidates, schedule a few interviews, pick the right person, schedule and send the candidate to interview with the client, bring the person (if selected) back for processing, background checks, drug testing, paperwork, orientation and safety training, give them timecards, badges, safety equipment, etc. and send them on their way with all the information they need to start at Company A first thing in the morning…
Then they call an hour later and tell us they decided to take another job, or their schedule suddenly changed and they can’t work the shift, or their grandmother suddenly got sick, or they lost their transportation… or sometimes they don’t even bother to call us at all.
Back to square one, except now we’re dealing with a client whose perspective of our efforts to this point consists of having done absolutely nothing at all! No wonder staffers sometimes feel like a caged hamster running in a wheel. No wonder the average turnover time in the staffing industry is less than a year! Of course, some staffing companies are able to circumvent the inherent job stresses by employing other means to be great places to work, but, overall, staffing can be a job with little thanks and even less compensation.
Were it not for our amazing clients (many of whom become friends along the way) and awesome associates who DO show up and do a wonderful job, none of us would be in business for very long. When I’m at a restaurant around town and a vaguely familiar face comes up to me and thanks me for helping him get through a rough patch in his life, then tells me that he is now a supervisor at the company I placed him at eight years ago, it really puts things into perspective. Sure, staffing can be hard, even frustrating, but the positive impact we make on the lives of others makes it all worthwhile.