The recent history of remote work has been about as chaotic as recent work generally. Whether we are looking for a culprit or catalyst in this development the major actor by far has been the pandemic.
But, like other major changes there has also been significant technical advancements that have enabled remote work and powerful cultural factors that have supported and embraced it – with enthusiasm.
It has been a “rocky road”. Not all businesses, for obvious reasons, were able to support remote work (construction, manufacturing etc.) and businesses who were possibly able to support it did not believe it was a good idea. Yet many of these later settled upon what is now called the “Hybrid solution”, i.e., where on-site and remote work are divided during the work week by varying schedules of one or more days of remote work.
The Hybrid solution advocates argued that this solution retained most of the “face to face” creative synergy by knowing their coworkers and workplace environment on a more personal basis.
The primary remote work philosophy believed that although this may be true for some types of work much of the same benefits could be accomplished my other means,i.e., technology coupled by periodic face to face meetings even when most work is done remotely.
The Staffing Company
The issue we want to explore in this article is where the majority of workers are working remotely, and the question, is it possible to maintain a spirit of excellence and productivity and how that may be happening now by using an example of the staffing company and/or the staffing industry in general.
It has been reported recently by Staffing Industry Analysts that in their survey of internal staff at staffing companies,“As of late 2022, three quarters of staff were working remotely at least part of the time”. And,“at least a third of the internal staff said they would take a pay cut in exchange for being allowed to work remotely entirely”.
The specific figures given in the main body of the report (see text link at bottom of page cited above) were that “47% were working remotely entirely”, and another “26% were working remotely some of the time”. Only 27% were working in the office all of the time. (The survey questioned 23,238 internal staff from 291 Staffing firms)
The first thing the data suggests is that staffing companies are probably well suited to remote work (or they would not have invested so many workers in it) . The number of firms cited, and the number of employees surveyed gives a good indication of the survey’s validity even in terms of the industry as a whole.
It also indicates that the firms have, on average, about 80 employees. Although an “average” is less telling than a “median” number, we should be able to guess that the 291 companies are probably large enough to be generally considered successful.
This, together with the information on the large percentage of full-time remote internal staff (47%), tells me, at least, that remote work is probably doing just fine in the staffing industry.
(Note: I should pause here to compliment Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) for this survey and other research that is useful to the industry as a whole. Even though less than 30 percent of the 22,000 staffing companies in the US alone maintain a membership in SIA, their research is often available and is very useful to all staffing companies).
When a staffing company gets input on remote work from their own, let’s say, 50 or 100 internal staff, that is fine, but because of SIA’s research, they now have more than 23,000 other internal staffing company employees to compare their numbers. So, they know when their company is in the mainstream and when it is not.
In this general regard I also noted the survey questions on what employees needed to do their remote work effectively, like types of computers, larger and/or double monitors, desks, ergonomic chairs, high-speed internet, work phones, a better computer camera for zoom meetings, printer-copier-scanner, headphones, screen sharing software, etc.
Also, lots of information was solicited on problems some employees were having with remote work like distractions from small children, difficulties in coordinating with key staff, isolation at home, etc.
Lots of good data for an employer/manager to know if they are setting up and managing a remote team for 50-100 employees. This is a huge problem avoider as well as a great time saver.
Staffing Sales& Service
To see why remote work is not only a natural for the staffing company, but how it might better enable them to accomplish their mission with excellence, it is good to see what the different employees do.
More than other businesses the staffing company’s sales people need to not only be present to their client’s management to sell contracts but they also need to know their client’s work site in detail. Details like spelling out in the contract what specific training is required, who is responsible for it, how it will be documented, noting the danger areas (if any) at the job site, their client’s house rules, make notes for their agency’s own in-house training. These notes, as well as other important information on the actual workplace are critical.
Since the federal and state governments have, in recent years, established the firm legal principle of “Joint Employers”, the staffing company is now responsible for the protection of their contract workers at that work site jointly with their clients.
The salesperson will also often be a primary contact for the staffing company with their contract workers to the client’s business. This can be for the purpose of routine “touching base” as well as for the more difficult and sensitive problem solving like facilitating staff changes “for cause”.
So, a staffing company salesperson wears a lot of hats, and it is easy to see why his or her work is, by definition, much more critical than simply making sales.
(Note: other salespersons working with medical device manufacturers who routinely sit-in on live medical procedures to train the doctor in the use of a new device may object to my characterization of “simply making sales”. I agree there are exceptions, and quite probably many).
My point is that the staffing industry “salespeople” today are held to a standard of professionalism and legal responsibility that makes their more appropriate title “Account Executive” and/or “Account Manager”. And the reality of what the job entails contributes to the overall excellence of the modern staffing company.
The flexibility of remote working given to these executives makes for a happier and more productive work force since that flexibility is one of the most desired worker benefits. (See below)
Equal in importance to the account executives are the staffing company’s recruiters. You may have a contract, but you cannot fulfill it, and do so “as promised”, without the professionalism of great recruiters.
A professional recruiter’s job today requires organizational, computer, and social media skills, job discrimination training and basic labor law understanding, interviewing skills, background checking and validating, onboarding (hopefully automated), then finally selling the account executives, or the ultimate client.
In any case, 85-90% can be done remotely. This gives greater flexibility to the employee which can even make the job more effective while helping to create a better work/life balance for what otherwise can be a hectic office job.
Software searches of job boards can be done at any hour of the day, online applications with attached resumes can be collected at any time of day or night automatically, initial zoom interviews can be scheduled for mutual convenience, onboarding can be automated and provided by applicant with a phone App.
The point here is that staffing companies are hiring recruiters with the right set of skills, providing the right software and equipment, so that, if desired by an excellent applicant this key job can be done remotely with great efficiency, effectiveness, and professionalism.
And because working remotely and having more flexible hours are ranked #2 and #4 of 17 “most valued benefits”in a 2017 survey by the Harvard Business Review those benefits may well translate into more productive, happier, and more stable recruiters for the staffing company. This certainly contributes to their being better able to achieve high performance in a remote working environment.
When it comes to hiring in a tight labor market being able to offer a remote work opportunity is a very real plus.
Other Key Staffing Company Roles
Today’s staffing software is quite comprehensive and enables lots of things that can be accomplished remotely with excellence. In the modern staffing office employees are trained on comprehensive staffing software and those who do it well are promoted and become more and more valuable to themselves, to the company’s owners, to clients,core employees, and contract workers.
It does not take a college degree to become a very professional staff person, proficient in a comprehensive software system.
Software should always have good support from the developer who should also provide software upgrades in a timely manner as situations change.
Staffing software modules like “Single Entry Payroll/Billing can be a big time saver with email time cards coming in that provide not only the payroll info but the billing info as well.
If worker payroll is being made via debit cards, each card can be loaded instantly, and, as each card is loaded the worker has their pay in seconds.
So the more a company can be managed with its staffing software the more likely much of its work can be done remotely. And because many employees really like this arrangement (but not all) recruiting for the staffing company should have a real advantage in hiring well qualified staff.
They should also have an advantage in retaining good professional people. Although there are certain people who will try to take advantage of a good deal, it is management’s job to discover this and have a replacement ready to go.
But it is never enough to be the type of company that can thrive on using remote workers. That is simply a precondition that makes it possible. And, even the best in staffing software and related hardware are simply other necessary preconditions for success.
To make remote working “achieve high performance” takes both of these preconditions, i.e., Structurally suited to remote work, & Great software and related hardware,then most importantly, great management! Sorry, but without all three, no company can thrive is a remote working environment.
Like Always, Stay Safe and Pray for Ukraine.