CSP Study Suggests Employers Find Distinct Value in Meeting Labor Needs through Alternative Staffing
December 11, 2012
Françoise Carré, Center for Social Policy
With temporary employment services continuing to play an important role in the U.S. labor market, a new paper suggests that an alternative model of such services—one that provides employers and low-income workers with careful job matching and support services—offers distinct value to many customer businesses.
"Why Use the Services of Alternative Staffing Organizations: Perspectives from Customer Businesses," published by the Center for Social Policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston's McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, reports findings from two three-year studies of the alternative staffing model. The paper was authored by Françoise Carré, Brandynn Holgate, Risa Takenaka, and Helen Levine, and the studies were part of the national Alternative Staffing Demonstration, funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.
Alternative Staffing Organizations (ASOs) are community-based, fee-for-service temporary staffing programs that place job seekers in temporary and temp-to-perm jobs that meet the needs of customer businesses, and also help ensure access to supportive services that overcome barriers to employment. Many low-income workers in this country face barriers to work, such as homelessness, access to affordable childcare and transportation, and limited educational attainment that are outside the service scope of most mainstream temporary staffing agencies.
The center’s new paper highlights how businesses use temporary staffing and for what purposes they employ ASOs over conventional staffing agencies.
Among the findings:
- Customer businesses reported engaging with ASOs because the alternative staffing approach to job brokering services is distinctive; adds value to the performance of the customer businesses; and connects to the improvement of economic conditions in the communities where the employers are located.
- Customer businesses identified the quality of the temporary workers and the ASO’s capacity to meet the employer’s needs as being primary decision points for contracting with an ASO.
- Next, customer businesses gave high priority to the distinctive way in which ASOs provide services, that is, efforts of ASO staff to customize staffing services as well as their knowledge of the work setting and their responsiveness. In turn, these practices help solve the difficulties these businesses face with entry-level hiring such as proper screening for their needs and not obtaining customized services from other vendors.
- Customer businesses also reported being motivated by the social mission of the ASOs, which emphasizes labor market engagement and success for low-income workers. Many customers draw the connection between the motivation to have the worker succeed in the job assignment with the quality of the job match provided by the ASO.
For the workforce development field in particular, the findings provide important insight into employer decisions regarding temporary employment services, as well as their interests in engaging with organizations driven by social mission. The findings also give additional weight to the importance and value of creating alternative paths to work experience and employment for job seekers who face labor market barriers.
The paper is the last in a series on findings from the center regarding the Alternative Staffing Demonstration. Two earlier papers are:
"Finding the Right Fit: How Alternative Staffing Affects Worker Outcomes" is the center’s final report on the demonstration.
Three ASOs participated in both of the demonstration studies: Emerge Staffing of Minneapolis, Minnesota; First Source Staffing of Brooklyn, New York; and Goodwill Staffing Services of Austin, Texas.
Goodwill Staffing Services of Boise and Nampa, Idaho participated in the first demonstration study, and Goodwill Temporary Staffing of St. Petersburg, Florida participated in the second.