Return on investment is one of the key metrics that companies rely on to measure their success and to chart their future paths, and calculations of ROI are based in part on quantitative analysis of outputs (products). But when your product is people, is it possible to quantify their quality? Yes!
The first step it to take a look at how the quality of non-people products is measured. For example, when you buy a computer, car, refrigerator, phone, television, or other high-cost product, you get a sense of its overall value by asking yourself certain questions about its makeup and function. Asking similar questions about the people you hire can help you assess their value as well.
What is it made of? An engine block machined from a solid chunk of aluminum is typically considered of higher quality (mainly because of significant weight savings) than one made of cast iron. Obviously, an engine block isn’t the same as a human employee. But asking a similar question about people helps you understand that the temps you provide are each the sum of his or her parts. Their value as employees is based in part on their prior work and life experiences, their personalities, and their dependability—all factors that can be measured and assigned a value.
Is its expected lifespan longer than that of the competitor’s product? Consider the longstanding “Mac versus PC” debate. I’m writing this on a MacBook Pro that I purchased new in 2009. Aside from some minor battery-life issues, it runs just as well today as it did on the day I bought it. I can’t say the same about a similar product from a competitor: in the past seven years I’ve had to replace my Windows-based computer three times. The up-front cost of one Mac is greater than the up-front cost of one PC, but the Mac’s longevity makes it a much better deal in the long term. You can do a similar examination of the duration of your employees’ “life” with your company by tracking not just the retention rates of your temporary employees but also the frequency at which your clients hire them as full-time, permanent employees.
What is its warranty? It’s standard practice these days for consumer products to come with warranties. You can offer similar guarantees for the work your employees do (though I don’t advise offering a lifetime warranty!). Compare your guarantee to what your competition offers, and be sure to highlight how yours adds to the overall value of your services.
How easy (or difficult) is it to get service from the manufacturer? Have you ever had a still-under-warranty appliance die and had to fight with the manufacturer to get it replaced? If the manufacturer was especially resistant to fixing the problem, you may have even told yourself, “That’s the last time I’ll buy anything from that company!” Staffing providers, too, need to be prepared to fix problems that involve their products—or risk alienating clients. Offering a warranty or a guarantee is fun, but unless you bend over backwards to right every wrong, clients will view your guarantee as an empty promise.
Does it come from a reputable source? In the minds of many consumers, the products from new companies often don’t stack up in terms of quality and value to products from companies that already have stellar reputations. Sometimes a reputation is based on how long a company has been in business; sometimes it’s based on the company’s demonstrated expertise. With staffing firms, referrals are key—and those are dependent on reputations. So think about how your employees contribute to (or detract from) your organization’s reputation among your clients, the talent pool, and even your competition.
These are just a few questions to get you started. Obviously, people aren’t objects or services. But subjecting your employees, their work, and their impact to close scrutiny can help you be sure that you’re providing the best people—the best product—to your clients.