Staffing companies provide extra service in times of need

December 17, 2008
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It doesn't matter what color a worker's collar is, employment service companies are seeing them walk through their doors. And many of the job applicants are making use of services offered to upgrade their skills.

"There really isn't a typical person — and I guess that's what's happening in the market right now," said Lisa Corder, branch manager at Adecco Staffing.

"We're seeing entire chunks of sales forces being eliminated. We're seeing pieces of companies being downsized that have not been downsized in a long time. We're seeing much more middle management coming in."

Adecco Staffing is an employment agency that serves many industries and skill levels. Corder explained that out of the wide variety of applicants Adecco sees, those with specific skills and experience are the ones companies are hiring.

"They are looking at people who are highly skilled," she said. "You're looking at, potentially, CNC technicians — things that are really specific. We are seeing companies trying to get by on some of the other positions. Medical is always a safe place to be."

Yes, the demand for health care workers is strong, Corder said, and yes, manufacturing has been hit the hardest. Financial jobs have seen an overall dip; however, jobs in some finance sectors have started to rise.

Corder said she has seen a large decrease in the number of companies hiring.

"You see that reflected in the Grand Rapids Press when you look at the want ads," she said. "I remember times when it was page after page after page. Now it's just not that way."

Hiring temporary workers in hard times can be a good idea. Corder stressed how a flexible work force can help companies increase or decrease their employee base depending on demand — a thought that was echoed by Grand Rapids-based Otterbase, a supplemental staffing company that also serves a broad range of industries.

"A lot of companies should and are hiring staff on a temporary basis," said Keith Langbo, vice president of Otterbase. "(There's) flexibility in payroll and they can still get the work done, still be competitive. A big piece of what we're seeing is contract to hire."

Training programs for job applicants are becoming increasingly essential and Adecco has seen an increase in the number of applicants who use its company software for training.

"It's an area where we've seen an additional need for the candidates coming in, because of these times," Corder said. "There are hard skills like computer, Microsoft Office, Word, Excel, PowerPoint — any of those things, but it's also soft skills. For people who may have been in the manufacturing environment and are moving into different areas, it gives them some additional training and knowledge on environmental behavior."

Otterbase also helps its client companies when they need to let staff go, by helping those employees make the transition to new jobs. Otterbase will help with things like updating resumes, showing employees how to get their resumes out to the right places, supplying information on social networks, and, when possible, placing the former employees in new jobs.

"The majority of the clients we're calling nowadays in West Michigan — and to some extent, across the U.S. in all our offices — are saying now is not the time they want to talk about staffing because they're having to either freeze their budgets or do cutbacks," said Langbo.

"Part of what I believe a good service provider partner does in the staffing industry is they provide services in the times of need and in the times of trouble. I consider this economy a time of trouble, and so we've been spending a lot of time with our clients working on outplacement services for those people they are having to cut, freeze, hold, or whatever it might be."

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