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Staffing As Corporate Slavery? Really?

Written by David Gee

Staffing is a parasite on the American employee. Why the hell should you be making your living off the work of someone else?Staffing As Corporate Slavery? Really?

And so goes the comment left recently from a Staffing Talk reader about this story I wrote a month or so ago.

From time to time in this space we do pieces that have to do with the reputation of the staffing industry in general, and also how staffing pros feel about the business they work in.

The genesis of the story came in the form of an email I received from a Staffing Talk reader – and veteran staffing professional – who wanted to vent about the less than positive treatment she had been receiving from job candidates crossing her path.

The original story generated some really good comments and conversation, mostly from other staffing professionals, commiserating with the emailer.

But in the last couple of days we received two comments from candidates that I think underscore the reason for the original post to begin with, and are worthy of some specific discussion.

“I get paid when I match up a candidate with a client and they bill hoursPeriod.”

Let’s go back to the email for a moment. My staffing pro friend said to me in an obvious rebuttal and reaction to things she hears from candidates, “I do not get paid for registering people. I do not get paid for collecting resumes. I do not make money off everyone we have listed as ‘active.’ I get paid when I match up a candidate with a client and they bill hoursPeriod.”

She also devoted a paragraph to broadly breaking down the bill rate, that I think succinctly refutes the notion that staffing companies are getting rich on the efforts of people they place.

And then the emailer finally cautions candidates to not make a staffing company their only resource for finding a job, and asks they not get mad at her if/when they ignore the advice.

You can go back to the piece to see some of the other comments and discussion topics. There are some good ones.

“Staffing companies provide lousy health insurance, no job security and are making the US into a third world country. They should be illegal.”

But this past weekend “James” weighed in with a different take, taking exception to the piece, with the line, “What a bunch of ________.” He said staffing companies provide lousy health insurance, no job security and are making the US “into a third world country. They should be illegal. In fact, every ‘recruiter’ should have a rotten tomato thrown at their face by every worker they ripped off.”

It seems often one comment gets someone thinking along a certain line and ultimately begets another similar comment.

And so it goes with “Vexone,” who details how “these parasites are currently affecting me,” taking a portion of their hourly pay, charging too much for insurance, while providing no sick, personal, holiday, or vacation pay, reduced benefits, little respect and so on. The comment ends with the question, rhetorical or otherwise, “Who wants to be a part of Corporate Slavery???”

“Who wants to be a part of Corporate Slavery???”

Slavery is not a word to be used lightly or loosely, but even ignoring that particular word, what about the gist of these two comments? Why, after someone calmly and coolly explains how the staffing business works, do people respond with cries of BS, and labels such as “parasites” and calls for the industry to be outlawed?

Here’s kind of an interesting thing. I thought maybe a staffing industry spokesperson or thought leader had weighed in on this topic before. So I went to Google and typed “why staffing companies don’t get any respect.” The first story that came up was a CBS News report on the rights of temp workers. The second hit was “What Drives Me Nuts About Staffing Agencies.” The third thing that came back on the subject of why staffing companies don’t get respect? A Socialist Labor Party piece called “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow: The Plight of America’s Temporary Workers.” Yikes!

What gives here? In a country where too many able-bodied people are out of work, why does an industry that matches millions of people to jobs get so little respect?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }
  1. john

    these comments are most likely coming from individuals that don’t understand the business and the risks taken by staffing companies. most companies hate sorting through individuals to find out that special person was not a good fit and then start all over again with the cost of securing another fit. our industry takes that headache and eliminates it or minimizes it. sometimes the placements don’t like the candidates. it works both ways. and yes nothing in life is free, somebody pays or paid for it, some need to be reminded of that from time to time.

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  2. Chris

    The candidates that make these comments obviously have no idea how this business works. We are not taking part of your salary, if you got the job on your own the pay would be the same as you are making as a temp. If we have lousy insurance go get Obamacare; our jobs provide no job security, find yourself a perm position and see how much security you have, at least with a temp job you have a pretty good idea of when it will end unlike a perm job that can lay you off with no notice. Last but not least, corporate slavery, give me a break, if you don’t want the job because you have deemed temp agencies as parasites then find the job on your own, you are not obligated to submit your resume to us, to take our phone calls, give us permission to present your resume or accept the job offer that we got for you. Oh yeah, sometimes companies will only hire a temp due to business conditions and without the temp opportunity there would be no opportunity at all.

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  3. Mike Lejeune

    I don’t believe the random comments represent the majority in my opinion, but a vocal minority that must be listened to. Yes, there is much unfairness in the accusations made of the perception of unfair treatment by staffing services. The question we have to ask ourselves is “does my employee (yes if we want them to think of us as their employer we have to interact with those working for us as employees) look at me as only providing a paycheck?” When was the last time I showed up on site to discuss their work, called or sent a note on their birthday, checked on them at home if they called in sick?”

    The advent of Electronic Deposit has increased efficiency and taken away a great business and relationship building opportunity, dropping off pay checks. Our face to face interaction with people who represent our companies is reducing. The outrage expressed by the veteran recruiter is understandable but somewhat off target in the mind of the employee on assignment. We are paid by the client for aiding in selecting the right talent. The employee will have little understanding for the business need for our margin or spread, only what’s in it for them. As an industry we have to continue to look for ways to show how much we care, a definite challenge with what we can offer given the margin squeeze we fight daily. Our responsibility to the employee does not end on start date, so we have to ask ourselves “how am I interacting with my field team”? We are a transactional business that technology can bring an increase efficiency (IE text and email connections, online application and testing) but be counter productive at time to the “personal” involvement that is required for maximum effectiveness. My takeaway from the comments are “what did I do today to show I care”.

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    • Kevin

      I disagree with the vocal minority that has to be listened to line, because I believe it is those voices that are leading this country incorrectly. Show people that you care and your business will boom. We paid everyone a holiday bonus this year and sent them a holiday card just to be “PC”. It was not the size of the gift, but the fact that we care. I agree with most everything you stated about how services need to get back to having a relationship with the employees.

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  4. Lisa

    Sorry, I have to disagree with Mike. We can listen to that vocal minority but, I don’t believe we ought to be revolving any policy or procedures around them.

    Why do I say this? With their rants, these 2 individuals have given us a very real view of who they are and what they believe. It’s all about them. Both of those negative responses came into the conversation after many others from those in the industry trying to explain how we operate.

    Did either of those folks read any of those responses? It’s obvious that in this instance neither one of those individuals felt there was any need to pause and listen to anyone describe the truths about this industry and see if, perhaps there was a possibility that they have been incorrect in their previous beliefs about it all.

    For them, it’s all about them and what they believe. In their mind, what they believe is true because they are typing it and they are unwilling to hear anything to the contrary. They are not interested in a relationship or understanding. In my opinion, trying to find some way to ensure people who approach things in that matter know that we care is rewarding bad behavior. It tells them this isn’t a two way street and they don’t have to ever bring anything to the table.

    I don’t know of any business who would want people with that kind of an attitude working for them. I can only imagine how they would behave on the job where communication is essential.

    Maybe if we stop kowtowing to that kind if attitude, it will go away. I can only hope.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  5. David Gee Post author

    I don’t think Mike was necessarily saying a couple of naysayers or knobs have to be pandered – or kowtowed – to. The two commenters to our story, James and Vexone, aren’t too sharp on the uptake and as you point out Lisa have very poor attitudes.

    I do however think that the two commenters share some similarities with the general public when it comes to their views of the staffing industry. So I didn’t think Mike’s comments were directed directly at them per se, but rather at a larger group that still doesn’t understand the business model of staffing even when it is adequately explained.

    I also do like Mike’s take that being deliberate about touchpoints with your workers and employees can go a long ways towards making them feel valued. Perhaps it doesn’t give them any better understanding of the business, but maybe they can be made to feel the business is more than a paycheck.

    Thanks for the comments and the good discussion.

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  6. Lisa

    Thank you, David. I think overall, we have a problem in this country with too many folks believing that it’s all up to someone else to shape their world. If we explain, over and over about how our industry works and it falls on deaf ears, how responsible are we for their understanding. Too many seem to think that the only thing they have to do is breathe and someone else is going to do the rest of it. They don’t have to try to understand anything- all they need to do is complain about how the world is all messed up. That group brings little to the table these days.

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  7. DR Greaves

    DR Greaves 01/14/2014

    Greetings People, People, People,
    I start out by saying I have been involved with Placement Services since 1978 when I believe Man Power Placements was one of the first to hit the scene and they were more of an involvement with the Employment Office- Career Link: back then.
    They found me my first full time job, sure I had to walk/hitchhike to get back and forth to work; a short 15 mile one way obligation and the pay rate back then was around $1.65 – $2.00 an hour. But it was an honest source of income.
    I am sorry to have quit that job tho I couldn’t afford to support myself on that kind of money even then. Since then Placement Services have be popping up like bad weeds: but still one must look at the corporate side of the concept.
    They the placement services are merely the Human Resources of the companies they represent, as their company namesakes exhibit in full view. They go as follows; Placement Services or Recruiters, and others I’m sure. No guarantee that they can get people employment since in actually they are also and most importantly they are in the business of recruiting, screening, and if possible placing a person with a suitable company for which they are qualified to work for. it has been explained many times over that this process saves the company money and useless effort to do this effort on their own. It is to say : on the accomplishment of the individual to show the company what you have to offer, then the company has the option to hire you on as a company employee, likewise if the individual doesn’t feel suitable to a particular company then the placement services can continue to assist the individual with temporary placements until they find the company they may like to stay with.
    Fairly simple concept if one has a mind to riddle it out.
    Only draw back as I have experienced is I tried the patience of more than one placement service whether it had to do with more than one chain of events that caused the placement services to blackball me as a client.
    They can place people these days without some form of qualification, then transportation problems, proper work equipment that some individuals may not afford to start a job, most importantly I have found is regular company employees accepting the role of working with temps and likewise.
    And lets face facts on the bitch session regarding fringe benefits between Placement Services and the Client, which not all placement services can afford to offer especially if a client is only with the Placement Services for a short time. Certainly would be a waste of time and money if placement offered benefits upon sign up and the client didn’t last long enough for the paperwork to be processed.
    At least one placement service I worked with had a benefit package and an option for free training education after a year of successful compliance.
    One individual stayed as a temp and moved from one company to another as sole means of employment, thought I liked that concept, no worries about getting bored with any one setting and still getting the benefits to go with it.
    Obligations remain the same regardless of who signs your paycheck, you have to get the job, work the job, then collect your money. No Freebies.
    It is still up to the company to accept the placement services referral of a potential temporary employee.
    I still have to state that like anyone else you will find that some placement staff employees have attitude toward some potential clients at times.
    Placement Services don’t come with a written guarantee of work for everyone, they may be considered merely as a source of possible employment without all the effort on behalf of the company and the client.
    Thank You Too Much.

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