Blast from the Past – Trust and Personal Dealings in Staffing

In the early decades of the temporary help business (when the terms “staffing” and “contingent” hadn’t yet been invented), most placements were done on a the equivalent of a handshake. There wasn’t a 20-page contract. If there was any contract at all, it was a few sentences on the back of each timecard, and even that wasn’t signed until the end of the first work week. Providers offered satisfaction guarantees that were unconditional and unlimited, and customers didn’t abuse the breadth of that promise.

Some provider-customer relationships are still like that. But increasingly, and for understandable reasons, purchasing officials, risk managers, VMS/MSP services, and my fellow lawyers have built distance between staffing providers and their customers. The service of staffing is openly called a “commodity,” provided by “vendors.” Recruiting is increasingly done remotely. And the contracting process is laborious and adversarial, including manifestly unfair provisions like “stale invoice” billing forfeitures.

Trends on the provider side have also affected the environment. I have worked with staffing firms of all sizes. They all have fairly separate functions for sales, service, risk management, finance, IT, and others. Top managers should integrate and balance these functions, but they sometimes favor one of them, often the one through which they rose in the business. If that favored function is not customer or employee facing, the business can lose its people-orientation. To combat this effect, one company that I represented conducted an “In Your Branch” program, whereby all of the headquarters people had to spend a week in the field doing the work of the branch where they were sent. Everyone came back from that week much wiser about the nature of the business.

No one can go back to the “good old days.” But we can remember some of the best things about them and try to replicate their effects in the new world.

George M. Reardon

George M. Reardon
George M. Reardon is an attorney whose practice is focused on the staffing industry. He can be reached at georgemreardon (at) aol (dot) com.

George M. Reardon

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