Think Inside the Box to Fill the Skills Gap

Last week I mentioned the skills gap and how it will continue to affect employers in 2014 (and very likely beyond). With widespread staffing shortages on the horizon, some companies may soon find themselves scrambling to find qualified workers to fill open positions. In order to meet their clients’ needs, companies will need to pursue multiple talent sourcing streams.

Social media is already one big player on the recruitment field: companies are increasingly turning to platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ to identify (and even assess) workers with in-demand skill sets. Referrals from current employees can also lead recruiters to strong candidates. And of course job posting sites, too, can lure job seekers to your doorstep (though such “post and pray” outlets often yield poor results).

But if you want to get a leg up on your competitors and snap up top talent before they do, take a look at your current staffing streams in a new light. For example, consider your contingent workers as a candidate pool for full-time positions at their current placement sites.

Think about it: these employees and the organizations they’re working for already have some familiarity with each other. An already-placed temp knows a bit about the company, and the company has had a chance to see (and evaluate) the temp’s performance firsthand. Also, many people who are working in temporary positions have skills and experience well above their current pay grades—and are very likely interested in opportunities for professional advancement.

But making an offer of permanent employment to a contingent worker isn’t as simple as asking him or her to sign a new contract. Even though your roster of temps may include several highly qualified workers, you and your client may not be aware of their existence. That is, you know they’re qualified for the jobs they’re currently placed in, but don’t necessarily know what they can do outside those parameters.

Because temps often don’t go through standard interviewing process and are generally assessed for and matched only to narrowly defined skill sets (e.g., the requirements for a particular open temp position), you may lack a complete and accurate picture of their knowledge and abilities. The contingent worker you placed in a particular position may be the perfect candidate for an open permanent position at the same organization—and yet it’s very possible for all the involved parties (staffing firms, employee, and client) to be completely unaware of this ideal match.

How can you avoid these problems? If the host organization considers the temp as a possible temp-to-hire candidate right from the beginning, it can move much quicker when a permanent hire becomes necessary. Instead of evaluating an individual’s fit only for one narrowly defined role, organizations can evaluate temps more broadly and even put their information into internal recruitment databases so they’re likely to turn up in a search for open positions. (If you pursue this path, though, tread carefully and seek legal counsel: it can lead to questions about who a candidate “belongs” to as it relates to the staffing company service agreement, so make sure all parties are on the same page regarding these issues.)

This takes a bit more time and effort up front, before the organization is certain it will even need to fill a particular position on a permanent basis. But companies that do this can enjoy a good return on investment if and when they find themselves in need to fill a position that requires a high-demand skill set. In that situation, they’ll be all set to go—and less likely to have to engage in expensive and time-consuming candidate searches.

Keep the big picture in mind. Instead of thinking only about how to meet your clients’ contingent staffing needs, also think about multiple ways your temps might contribute to an organization. The company may never have an opportunity to move that employee into a permanent position, but if it does … well, you’ll be all set!

The skills gap isn’t going away, and although the need for contingent staffing is as strong as ever, you want to be well positioned to assist your clients with all their staffing needs. Helping a company find qualified employees for positions with hard-to-fill skill sets gives you another opportunity to provide added value for your services and strengthen your relationships with your clients.


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