For organizations to remain productive, their workforce must be flexible enough to handle the seasonal ebb and flow and the occasional work stoppage from union strikes. Those who manage staffing needs are constantly challenged with a revolving employee cycle that brings a host of training, legal, public relations, and other considerations that must be continually addressed. Often, staffing needs must be met in large quantities with skilled workers, making local help wanted ads and ZipRecruiter listings inefficient in fulfilling large employee counts. When skilled staffing needs meet volume and urgency, there is only one area to turn to—professional staffing agencies.
Holiday seasons bring expanding waistlines and the need for broadening staff counts to process more work. According to Bloomberg, in 2022, Amazon sought to hire 150,000 additional holiday workers. The temporary staff helps to make, pick, pack, and ship orders nationwide. Along with speed and efficiency to fulfill these open positions, staffing agencies offer workers with specialized knowledge and training; case-in-point, commercial drivers, or CDL drivers.
Qualified CDL drivers are in demand nationwide, and staffing agencies typically offer a database of experienced drivers ready to deploy within a week. However, only a few staffing agencies can offer hundreds of professional drivers operating various types of vehicles, including double trailers and large trucks.
It’s essential for any organization seeking to augment their staff with CDL drivers to ask staffing agencies if their candidates have a minimum of one year of experience and have undergone rigorous screening for compliance. In addition, staffing agencies also need to monitor each driver's CDL and medical card status, conduct drug testing as required, pull yearly motor vehicle records for each individual, and ensure compliance with record-keeping requirements. These background checks ensure that organizations receive professional-quality help and require little orientation to achieve productivity.
Along with CDL drivers, skilled warehouse workers are in high demand during the holiday season to operate forklifts, a.k.a. pallet trucks or powered industrial trucks. Organizations must seek only trained and certified workers because powered industrial truck accidents cause approximately 100 fatalities and 36,340 serious injuries annually. It is estimated that 10-15% of the accidents are, at least in part, caused by inadequate training.
Many warehouses have converted from just-in-time shipping methods during the COVID pandemic to stockpiling products in packed, narrow corridor facilities. Drexel-type forklifts are desired in the narrow corridor facilities because they include various four-wheel and three-wheel options, all with (VNA) very narrow aisle side-loading Swingmast® options. Any organization seeking seasonal warehouse help must ask staffing agencies if they provide Drexel-certified assistance or risk the possibility of receiving standard forklift drivers who can’t effectively operate in confined areas.
Contract negotiations with union leaders are typical and often bring many challenges for organizations that need to maintain services. However, the negotiation process gets more complicated when new union presidents take over. Case-in-point: On March 22, 2022, Sean M. O’Brien was sworn in as the new General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. According to Teamster.org, he “will bring a more militant, grassroots approach to taking on employers and will prioritize mobilizing rank-and-file members to get involved in the union.”
O'Brien demonstrated his value by setting sights on UPS to eliminate a two-tier wage system for part-time and full-time workers, establish better overall pay, and air conditioning in every vehicle. He found himself firmly established on higher ground, knowing that UPS handles approximately a quarter of the U.S. parcel deliveries. A work stoppage would have resulted in company losses in the billions of dollars—hedging against more than $1 billion in lost wages for 340,000 UPS employees. ABC News states, "The value of the goods it [UPS] delivers annually has been estimated at 6% of the U.S. economy.”
In addition to UPS, the United Auto Workers are preparing to strike. According to a July 2023 Reuters article, “The head of the United Auto Workers, which represents 150,000 U.S. hourly workers at General Motors, Ford Motor, and Chrysler-parent Stellantis, said the union is not afraid to strike any of the automakers without a fair contract.” During these negotiations, auto manufacturers exercise contingency plans and contact staffing agencies to secure skilled, unskilled workers and security personnel to ensure employee and temporary worker safety.
Many staffing agencies can offer a dozen temporary workers, but only a select few are equipped to fulfill the employee quantity requirements of a large, nationwide strike. For this type of fulfillment need, organizations need to seek agencies that have demonstrated coordination, communication, and labor management capabilities required to ensure productivity and safety continue.
For seasonal workers and potential strike needs, a reactionary response to these circumstances will bring frustration, yielding desperation. Organizations must establish a well-thought-out plan to keep business operating during challenging times, such as natural seasonal peaks, work stoppages, and even national disasters. Staffing agencies are prepared to analyze current processes, document the physical attributes, and identify primary goals to develop a customized plan and test it thoroughly to ensure its effectiveness. Organizations should seek staffing agencies that offer customized contingency plans with the following:
- Plan development to suggest a structure, detailed strategies, and tactics while offering recommendations based on best practices and experience.
- Plan facilitation to meet with an organization’s management team or individual members to answer questions or address specific problems.
- Gap analysis to identify areas that still need to be addressed and suggest alternative tactics that can be more readily executed.
Once the contingency plan is in place, tabletop exercises should be conducted. A tabletop exercise is an effective way to engage your team in testing a business contingency plan. These informal, discussion-based sessions unite team members to discuss their responses to hypothetical emergency scenarios. With quarterly to annual testing, tabletop exercises are an excellent tool to bring individuals from all departments into a single location to discuss how to handle and react to specific scenarios and determine if employees know the following:
- Who to call in an emergency.
- Evacuation procedures.
- Equipment shutdown sequences and procedures.
- Individual roles and responsibilities.
In many businesses, labor costs (including salaries, benefits, and payroll taxes) often represent the most significant single expense. This expense is particularly true in industries requiring highly skilled labor or where human interaction is a core part of the service. This primary expense climbs when seasonal help is needed, and temporary workers are required for union strikes. The tension surrounding these circumstances can be lessened if organizations align themselves with the proper staffing agency that has the experience, skilled workers, and a deep talent pool to fulfill requirements.
Organizations must look for a staffing agency offering a dedicated, onsite manager responsible for every detail from housing and transportation to security and protection. These individuals are paramount to the success of the engagement via constant communication and decisive local decision-making.
Stress is a byproduct of recruitment, but it can be decreased with careful planning and establishing a relationship with a qualified staffing agency. Staffing agencies often bring experience beyond typical human resources because they have helped some of the nation’s largest organizations through the most challenging circumstances. Select your staffing agency partner wisely and avoid exacerbating stress with agency incompetency.
Trevor Fandale is President of Huffmaster. He joined the company in 2016 as Vice President of Finance, bringing with him a strong background in financial analysis and strategic planning. Trevor has provided executive assistance to develop short and long-term company goals, plans, and development strategies. Trevor's expertise and vision have been invaluable to the company’s success.