How to Identify and Communicate Your Differentiators in the Staffing Industry

Temporary and contract staffing sales totaled $138.5 billion in 2018, an increase of 3.4% over 2017, according to data from the American Staffing Association. With an increase of sophisticated PEOs and EORs available to the industry, there are fewer barriers to entry and therefore it’s easier to start a staffing firm now than it was just five years ago. Today, there are an estimated 20,000 staffing firms in the U.S. which all together operate more than 39,000 branch offices.

With this increased competition and a labor pool that continues to shrink, staffing firms must know their differentiators and how to stay ahead of the competition. Strong brands hinge on a clear understanding of what sets them apart from their competition. Their differentiators are easy to understand, target a defined audience and are relevant to that audience.

As the CEO of my own staffing firm from 2007 to 2017, I witnessed many changes in the industry as we grew into multiple states. It wasn’t until 2013 that I began to focus heavily on differentiators and brand recognition. By doing so, we began to grow at a faster pace and made the Inc. 5000 list in 2016.

As a team, we began asking ourselves: What separates our company? Why do our clients do business with us? Why do our employees work for us? Are we a purpose driven company? Do our employees understand our short-term and long-term goals? What is our “Power Niche”?

To help you answer these questions for your company and properly define your differentiators, start by focusing on these three areas:

1. Employee engagement. All human beings have one major commonality: our dignity. Through our labor and work we find the source of our dignity and contribution to society. We’re able to earn an income to provide for ourselves and our families and follow our passions. As employees we feel best when we’re serving a purpose and making a difference in the lives of others and an impact within our company.

Various surveys have shown that most employees want recognition and growth opportunities over higher pay. Companies that engage with their employees and recognize their great work help increase and support their dignity which results in positive employee engagement.

Your employees are your visible experts and a big part of communicating your brand. And not just your internal employees but your external employees too. Your clients see your external employees a lot more than your internal staff. Bring these employees into your company culture. Take care of them and engage with them so they can be better ambassadors of your brand and help with client satisfaction. Emphasize work-life balance to ensure both are receiving adequate attention and update your offices to create spacious open areas of collaboration and engagement.

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2. Great candidate experience. Staffing firms are investing a lot of money in recruiting, from job board subscriptions to radio advertisements. It’s critical to capture each candidate’s response and make it clear why they should trust you. From the moment a candidate calls or comes into your office, their experience must be quick and easy. Don’t let candidates sit in your lobby wondering what’s going on. Communicate a clear path and checklist so they stay fully engaged in the process. Lastly, remember the best communication is not about speaking, it’s about listening.

Candidates want to serve a purpose and feel dignified, and they’ve turned to your company to help them fulfill this mission. As brand ambassadors your internal staff are helping to improve the lives of the candidates that come through your doors. A strong differentiator is creating a way to portray this sincerely so that it flows through to all aspects of your company.

3. Embrace technology. It used to be that we could place a “Now Hiring” A-frame sign on the sidewalk and have walk-in candidates all day long. Now, the majority of your candidate pool own smart phones and live in a hyper-connected world where instant gratification has become the norm. Staffing firms are embracing technology and working toward ways to communicate through texting and video applications. These new digital strategies create opportunity for firms to differentiate themselves faster and more effectively.

Technology can be used to create a strong brand and properly communicate your firm’s differentiators all while improving your candidate experience. For example, simplify the application process by skipping forms that aren’t required for the position the candidate is applying for.

Keep in mind this is a focused strategy and you are narrowing your appeal to a defined target audience. By doing so, you will begin to enjoy the advantages of standing out from your competitors instead of competing on mark-up alone.

MORE: What successful staffing leaders do differently


Scott Fleckenstein

Scott Fleckenstein
Scott Fleckenstein is a VP at Assurance who specializes in creating employee benefit programs for the staffing industry.

Scott Fleckenstein

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