In July, 1998, a national electronics retailer approached Spherion Corporation, an Atlanta-based outsourcing provider that offers high-volume sourcing, screening and selecting employees. The retailer was facing its busy Christmas season and habitually couldn't find enough people to man its stores to handle the crush.
Spherion, which calls itself a "workforce architect," screened 40,000 people to hire 9,000 for locations throughout the U.S. Spherion was able to have the company fully staffed by September. The retailing CEO told the supplier that was the first time in its history that it was fully staffed for the holiday season.
"We have the ability to take a vast pool of applications and select the right candidates," says Trey Campbell, Spherion group vice president. Campbell says companies outsource their recruiting needs to the provider because they have found it difficult to find talent in today's tight labor market. "We take a time consuming and capital intensive process off the table," he explains.
Outsourcing work force selection to Spherion can compress cycles times by as much as 60 percent, says Ken Kunda, managing director of Spherion Assessment. This time saving can translate into corporate cash "because every day you have an empty seat you lose revenue," observes Kunda.
Outsourcing can save money, too. Campbell says that in many cases, a well-formed workforce selection program can provide dramatic savings over in-house recruiting or search-related programs; savings as much as 40-50 percent.
40% Use the Web for E-sourcing
Spherion utilizes e-sourcing by posting positions on its Web site, the client's Web site, and other major job sites on the Internet. It also has a spider that can search job boards for the key words its clients say best define their candidates. Campbell says about 40 percent of Spherion's candidates use the Web.
Once candidates see an appropriate ad, they can click to a Web-based form or call a toll free number and go through an interactive voice response system over the phone.
The company used Spherion's Pre-employment Screening and Assessment tool. Spherion has divided the questions in the screening tool into two segments, each with a specific purpose. The first grouping of questions is designed to ensure the applicant meets all the job prerequisites. If someone wants a programmer with both C++ experience and two years in the insurance industry, the tool will weed out someone with experience in Web development.
The second set of queries describes the key characteristics of a job and the specific culture of the company. These questions determine if the match is a good one. Kunda says getting a good job fit can save companies money because the employees tend to stay longer, cutting turnover.
Kunda says potential candidates can contact Spherion 24/7, making the process convenient for people who are currently employed. Candidates eager to switch jobs typically spend their free time on week-ends scouring employment ads either in their daily newspapers or on the Web. The executive says a recent survey of its clients found 69 percent of their respondents called Spherion outside the nine to five work day.
If they find a job they like, they can go through the interview process right then and there. The software advises them immediately if they are a match. Prospects like the idea of completing the interview process at their convenience; they are not forced "to sneak out of work," says Kunda. If they are a good fit, they will have to meet a interviewer before winning the position.
The screening questions are both professionally written and politically correct. Each state has different work rules which are reflected in the questionnaire. Since every candidate has to complete the same questionnaire, there is no unintended bias in the selection process. Kunda says humans have preconceived notions about things like weight or facial hair - things that have nothing to do with the candidate's job qualifications -- and this can taint the selection process.
Attracting a Large Pool of Candidates
Spherion is able to attract a large pool of applicants. This allows employers to cherry pick their candidates. "Candidates have to do more than just have to put on a suit to become an employee," says Kunda.
Matching the right employee with the right employer reduces turnover. A Spherion survey discovered its placements reduced employee turnover 30 percent, an average across all its clients. Kunda says turnover costs an employer $1,500 for a non-exempt employee and as much as $6,000 for a professional. In addition, employers receive a larger return on their training investments.
Spherion charges each new employer a one-time customization fee. Then the buyer only pays Spherion on a per interview basis. That makes recruiting and screening a variable expense, a big benefit for seasonal businesses whose workload is cyclical.
For these reason, companies are turning to Spherion for their tough jobs. Kunda says one of Spherion's biggest challenges was to staff the U.S. Census in two locations: San Antonio, Texas and Boynton Beach, Florida. The outsourcing provider had to hire six different crews who would work for only 90 days. "That's a huge task in a tight labor market," reports the executive.
Searching for Census Takers
In addition, at that time the Census was the center of a controversy because of some questions on its census form, making it even harder to attract candidates. Spherion, however, was able to staff all positions with quality workers by the end of the first week.
Lessons from the Outsourcing Primer:
- In tight labor markets, corporations can save time and money outsourcing their sourcing, screening and selection of employees.
- E-sourcing allows employees to answer ads at their own convenience at night and on week-ends. They don't have to miss a minute of work unless they are serious candidates.
- Finding good candidates cuts turnover, which can be costly.
- E-sourcing removes unintended bias from the screening process and ensures that all state and federal work rules are met.