The Staffing Industry Engagement Struggle is Real: A Recap of the 2016 Staffing Industry Analysts Executive Forum

ThinkstockPhotos-502642537Last month I had the pleasure of attending Staffing Industry Analysts’ 25th annual Staffing Industry Executive Forum in delightfully warm and sunny Phoenix. During my long tenure at Fieldglass, I’ve been to many of SIA conferences that catered to corporate buyers of staffing and consulting services, but this was my first in-depth look at the staffing side of the equation. We attended the Executive Forum because we had a strong suspicion that improving employee, worker and customer engagement could be a very compelling value proposition to staffing firms, MSPs and RPO providers. We were dead on.

In the first day alone, my colleague and I joined three sessions where engagement was the focal point. The first concurrent session I attended — “Motivate to Invigorate and Accelerate” — was a lively talk titled, led by Kevin Sheridan, an expert on employee engagement, virtual work and virtual worker management. He shared a great deal of research and humor-fueled visual aids to outline the business problems staffing firms face when internal staff engagement is low. Your staff represents your primary cost of doing business and serves as your primary differentiator. The only thing I felt was missing from this session was a clear and modern approach to solving that problem.

My colleague, Chris Dede, vice president of customer success at HighGround, sat in on the discussion, “What Motivates and Demotivates Your Clients?” moderated by SIA’s Dawn McCartney. Panelists from Kaiser Permanente, T. Rowe Price Associates Inc. and U.S. Cellular talked about their expectations of suppliers. One takeaway from this session was that for many corporations (especially those with accountability to shareholders), their top concern is to protect the brand. How does this translate into the partnership between the business and its staffing firm partners? Quality is critical. HighGround believes there is a strong correlation between the health and productivity of the staffing firm’s internal employees and the quality of the workers they place at their client sites.

The last session I attended that day was “The Power of Love: How to Treat Your Temporary Workers,” and it was by far my favorite concurrent session. The panelists included leaders from Hire Dynamics LLC, Pridestaff and Akraya. I walked away from this discussion with a better understanding of the link between employee engagement, worker satisfaction and client loyalty. All of the panelists are using employee and worker experiences to build their brands, helping to attract talent and lessen recruitment costs. They talked about leveraging net promoter surveys to gauge the satisfaction levels of employees and temp workers. Another way to measure worker engagement is to identify those who merely finish their assignments and those who take on multiple assignments. The panelists identified that these key factors are most important to contractors: trust, honesty, politeness and respect.

Wednesday morning’s keynote session, “Strong Teams, Accelerated Performance” was artfully delivered, weaving in the right amount of humor and charm to wake up the crowd. The premise was that employee engagement and performance are the result of teamwork, and the primary factor in helping the business succeed is to equip leaders to guide those teams. The old ways of managing employee performance are not only wildly disliked and ineffective, but they also produce bad data.

Overall, the concurrent and keynote sessions at the Executive Forum confirmed that better engaging employees is top of mind for staffing firms. Stay tuned for part two of this series, where I’ll discuss how the staffing industry can use employee engagement technology to motivate their workforce and create a vibrant company culture.

Anna Burke
Anna Burke is VP of marketing and communications for HighGround, an employee engagement software solution.

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