Staffing Industry Analysis held its annual Executive Forum during the week of March 7, 2005 in Dallas, Texas, attracting an impressive 500 plus attendees. The forum presented speakers ranging from CEOs of leading staffing companies to Neil Rackham, well-known author of Spin Selling and his more recent book, Rethinking the Sales Force.

Several CEOs delivered articulate messages on internal struggles, but as the end neared, I found myself growing weary of hearing the same message about margin pressures, commoditization and worker comp costs. I could be mistaken, but not one of the speakers spent much time talking about internal staff motivation. It would seem logical that staffing industry execs would place more emphasis on the one thing their competitors can't copy - their own staff. High turnover of internal staff prevents the quality matching needed for higher margins. One speaker got it right: margins have eroded because staffing companies have let themselves be treated as commodities by their customers.

Mr. Rackham, on the other hand, managed to keep his packed audience on their toes with aphorisms on managing sales; for example, he delivered a convincing case that only the top sales people in your organization were worth keeping, since coming in second place gets you nowhere.

A stunning change in this year’s forum was the lack of lines for PC set-up to allow executives to retrieve their email. Instead, these same executives were found sequestered in corners with their PDA/phone devices. It seems everyone has jumped on the PocketPC bandwagon, including TempWorks and myself. With each passing month, TempWorks is devoting increasing amounts of development resources for what I see to be a spectacular opportunity for aggressive staffing companies, conducting just-in-time recruiting for their clients by taking advantage mobile technologies.

Mobile technology is playing a big role in recent TempWorks releases, and even the tech-skeptic manager has to be happy with a device that gets staff out in the field conducting business face-to-face. Most importantly, it keeps employees from hiding behind their desktop PCs; Neil Rackham should be delighted. The mobile revolution offers far more to a staffing company than just personal convenience for internal staff. It is quickly becoming the most efficient way to do just-in-time staffing. If you do not believe that mobile technology has had an impact on society yet, just ask a teenager.

These teenagers are always one step ahead. I had my revelation on the impact of mobile technology on young people when I took my 17-year-old daughter out on a dinner date. As the naïve father of a teenager, I was under the impression we would be spending some quality one-on-one time together. Wrong! Between bites of sashimi (at Sakura’s in St Paul –excellent, by the way), I noticed my daughter fiddling with something in her lap. There she was text-messaging with her boyfriend (not really her boyfriend, she claims). Anyway, I have been stood up before, but never virtually.

If this not-really-a-boyfriend could summon her while out to dinner, why couldn't a staffing company use it to dispatch nurses to an upcoming shift or alert 200 assembly workers of an upcoming assignment. Some of this can be accomplished with the integrated email features already in our products, but there is a lot to do in this area. Stay tuned.

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