Quality – Creating a Management Process That Works

Introduction

The staffing industry is not growing like it used to. If staffing managers continue to do things the way they always did, they will continue to get the same results.

Those results in today’s market are just not satisfactory. Yet everybody resists change. In fact, that resistance can be so strong it can cause some companies (and industries) to die rather than change. Take a look at the airline and consumer electronics industries in the United States. The first is very sick and the second is essentially dead. For both, change has been slow to come or did not happen in time to save the industry.

It may be time to recognize and investigate a paradigm shift that is occurring in staffing.

In your market, is there a staffing company that seems to be doing better than most of the others? Do they have better people, more qualified temporaries, better service, more satisfied customers, lower prices, and seem to be making more money than everybody else?

If the answer is yes, you may be faced with a competitor who has already implemented this paradigm shift. It is time for action.

In order to do business differently, you must get your people thinking differently about the way your company needs to function.

Staffing services that command positions of competitive leadership are those that can deliver their services quickly and deliver them at consistently high levels of quality.

How do they do that? Well, they do not do it by simply demanding it of their employees. That is doing what you always did, which will get you what you always got. The staffing services that have become leaders are doing something different.

At the same time, the level of quality expected by your customers continues to rise. The standards may vary with each client but the bar keeps going up. Customers want more and they want to pay less. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is now the kiss of death. If it ain’t broke, break it yourself so you can fix it and make it better. You must shoot for continuous improvement.

This article will explore the kinds of paradigm shifts that you can initiate to build and manage a process of quality. It is a process that once instituted can insure your staffing service a leadership role in your market.

Benefits

When you are in the doldrums, one of the best cures is change. When your business is coasting and not growing at previously achieved levels, a sure-cure is to shake things up. The topic of this article strives to accomplish that goal.

Even if you disagree with its premise and conclusions, you can benefit. Forcing yourself to think differently, to review alternatives, to look “under the covers”, will prod you into examining new possibilities for change and improvement that can benefit you, your staff, and your company.

It is a new world out there and if you are going to continue to succeed, you must challenge your current method of operation and think about doing business differently. We can provide the tools and techniques, but only you can provide the impetus to make it happen.

Toolkit

Action Plan

  • Seven paradigms of quality
  • Creating a quality process in temporary
  • Using a team approach in direct hire
  • Developing an administrative support process

Implementation Plan

  • Steps to initiate and manage a practical quality process

Forms

  • Changing management attitudes
  • Changing employee attitudes

Action Plan

The following are the seven paradigms of quality. Each can offer you a subtle (or not so subtle) shift to your thinking that can change your company in profound and powerful ways.

Paradigm I – Standards of quality performance are defined by the customer and only by the customer.

Paradigm II – Your organizational strategy should be focused on quality improvement. If you are not paying attention to the total quality of your operation, you are failing in your job as manager. If you do not have some measures in place, ways of asking questions, and assuring that quality is part of your business strategy, you simply are not getting the job done.

Paradigm III – Your organizational structure and work processes should focus on process improvement not functional management. The traditional concept is that if each of your people knows their job and does it well, the sum total of everyone’s efforts will be a staffing service that runs the way it is supposed to run. This practice worked very well for a very long time. It does not work well anymore. It can also create a lot of “internal warfare” with everybody protecting their own turf. Staffing today can work better by processes rather than by function. A service rep owns a piece of the process, an outside sales rep another, a payroll clerk yet another. Your people all own a piece of the process but nobody owns the whole thing. Believing this can mean that you currently have no process management. Therefore, what really defines how the work gets done and the customer satisfied, never gets managed.

When you begin to change the flow of work through the processes, then you fundamentally change the way your company does business. When things go wrong, the traditional approach is to fix it. However, this traditional approach rarely looks at what caused the problem so it does not happen anymore. Paradigm number three goes back to the cause and fixes it. In time, after you have fixed a bunch of problems this way, you will find that you suddenly do not have a lot of those problems anymore. You can go on to more creative interests that will further enhance your business.

Paradigm IV – Develop a management attitude that establishes a new balance of control, coordination and collaboration. Traditional management is sometimes known as command and control management. As the manager, you tell your staff what to do and then make sure they do it. Using this paradigm allows your staff to not only do what is expected of them by the manager, but encourages them to add value to the service to help differentiate your efforts to the customer.

When a team that services your customer focuses on the entire process from sales approach, through order fulfillment to invoicing and payment, it is possible to define the process and insure that the customer’s requirements are met. It becomes the responsibility of the team to get together and talk to each other about what they need to be able to meet the client’s requirements at each step of the process. Control, coordination, and collaboration. It is really a very simple, but effective, concept.

Paradigm V – Create a climate that supports flexibility, problem-solving, and continuous improvement. Have your people think about the quality processes they have helped establish. Bring them together regularly to explore ways to do things better and faster. Your staff needs to concentrate on what the customer wants, not on what their manager is going to tell them to do. You may have a process that seems to work just fine, but if it does not meet the customer’s requirements, the process is broken and needs a change.

Paradigm VI – Decisions need to be based on fact, real data and analysis, not on opinion. When opinions are incorrect as they often can be, mistakes are made and customers can be lost. Check your facts before initiating actions.

Paradigm VII – Teach your people problem solving methods and tools. There are well-developed technologies for learning how to solve problems from a process perspective. They are not difficult to learn but they may be unknown to your staff. Teaching these methods can make a beneficial training session.

These seven paradigms are the foundation for creating and managing a quality process. Now it is time to apply them in a practical way to staffing.

  • Creating a quality process for temporary. To manage this goal you can start small by creating a team of people who are responsible for selling and servicing individual key accounts. Begin by selecting a customer where you are currently doing business but where you believe there is potential for more. Establish a meeting time and have each person attending prepare a list of those issues they believe are important to satisfying the requirements of this customer. The topics could deal with skill levels needed, background requirements, education, personality traits, reliability, flexibility, pricing issues, billing requirements, etc.s the manager, you can facilitate the meeting, explaining that its purpose is to explore creating a quality process using a team approach. As you begin to collect factual data about this customer and their needs, ask your people to prioritize the client’s expectations. Categorize the kind of business you are now doing with this client (clerical temp, contract engineering, direct hire placement, light industrial, etc.); the areas or departments where you are conducting business; what percentage of the business you believe you have; how much business is still available or being serviced by others; what you do well; what you do not do well and why. If you do not have answers that are factual, create a list of questions that your sales/service team members can ask to get the information you need. If there are discrepancies in your information, get the customer to give you their input. Only when you have the facts, can you create a process that will service the account well.Prepare an action plan for recruiting so you will have qualified personnel in sufficient numbers to satisfy the customer’s requirements. Share your recruitment plan with the client so he can suggest changes or adjustments based on his anticipated needs. Review your testing program to meet the client’s expectations. Discuss your current service process for this account. How does the client want arrival calls, performance calls, and assignment reviews handled? Does the client want electronic billing and payment options? If so, what do you need to do to set this up? If you are faced with a particularly difficult assignment to fill or a direct hire job order and no qualified candidates, have a process to handle these contingencies. Whether you employ a “gang recruiting” session with everyone in your office or use affiliates to get outside referrals, have a plan that clearly defines when you contact your client with progress reports and what you do when you are unable to fill the client’s order within a pre-established time frame. If you want a quality process to work, you cannot leave the customer hanging. Define and initiate a process the gives this key account a high level of quality expectation throughout. Keep reviewing and refining each piece of the process to make it better… and to make your customer want to continue to do business with your staffing service and not with your competitors. You may not be able to “bat 1,000” in staffing, but you can certainly create and maintain a quality process superior to anyone else’s. Repeat this action plan for every key account your company services.
  • Using a team approach in direct hire. A quality process is a lot more difficult to introduce in direct hire placement. Business here is conducted on a one-to-one basis and is very transaction oriented. As the expression goes in direct hire: “You are only as good as your last placement.” If that is the way your customers view your service, there are steps you can take to introduce better quality management in this area as well. For example:
    • Distribute via e-mail or hard copy every new direct hire order to every sales/service person in your company even when each person works in a different area of specialization. Your never know when they might know a person who could be a viable candidate.
    • Establish a firm rule that necessitates each new order be written and distributed within 30 minutes of receipt. Failure to do so might result in a “house placement”.
    • Initiate a process for giving a client progress reports on direct hire orders so the client is not left in the dark, not knowing what you are doing to service his need.
    • Set-up specialty teams of two to three recruiters so that your people can “talk the talk” in more than one specialty and handle a recruiting blitz if one is called for. For example, you may have someone who specializes in accounting and finance. If you spend a little time in teaching some fundamentals and computer “lingo”, that same recruiter can be part of an IT or banking team, lending their recruiting help when required. Thus providing better, faster service to the client.
    • Collect e-mail addresses from every candidate you interview. Market open orders to these candidates soliciting referrals for orders you are having difficulty filling. In very little time you can create a substantial database of people who can help you find people. It is much less expensive than most candidate advertising and it is a great way to identify applicants who may not be registered elsewhere or who have difficult-to-find skills. Have an office support person responsible for creating and sending these e-mailings on a regular basis.
    • Hold a weekly get together of your counselors/recruiters to discuss ideas for identifying clients that may be interested in candidates not suited for existing orders. Meetings like this are also a great place to brainstorm ideas on where or how to find candidates with hard-to-locate skills or work experience. Again, your customers will benefit.
  • Developing an administrative support process. If you believe (and you should) that your receptionist can drive away your best customer, then you can easily recognize the importance of your support personnel in a quality program. Whether temporary or direct hire staffing, representatives from the support staff, front and back office, should be key participants in creating and implementing a quality process. Practically speaking the way you answer your phones can set the whole tone for an interaction with your company.

How you move a candidate from an initial contact with your office to the person with whom that candidate needs to have a conversation or set an appointment, can be a seamless operation or a disaster if the candidate-or client-is kept on hold too long. Your phone procedures, your interviewing and testing processes are all areas where a system that centers on quality will help differentiate your staffing service. Without the input of your support staff a process that should work, will not work. Pay processes and billing processes also fall into this category and require that office support personnel be an integral part of developing quality procedures.

Implementation Plan

Before implementing any process for quality, it is critical to understand that management must support and endorse this concept. They must have active involvement and participation up front. You and other management personnel will need to act as coaches and facilitators to guide your staff through creating these processes and to teach methods for problem solving. To set up a process each team will need to:

Step 1 – Define the issue/problem for which a quality process should be developed and implemented.

Step 2 – Define the customer(s) and requirements that each client has.

Step 3 – Review the way that customer/issue/problem is currently handled.

Step 4 – Determine how accurate your data on this customer/issue/problem is and correct any opinions with factual data.

Step 5 – Use the team to design alternative solutions and process suggestions for discussion and review.

Step 6 – Subdivide the team if necessary to break the problem into pieces with each sub-team offering proposals for solutions.

Step 7 – Put the pieces together into a quality process that will more effectively service the client and demonstrate consistent service from your company.

Step 8 – Initiate the process. After initiation, have each team member note any areas that need change or further refinement.

Step 9 – After a reasonable period, (one to three months), reconvene the team to discuss the results and to suggest any alterations to the process. Initiate any changes agreed upon.

Step 10 – Repeat the implementation plan with other teams and other customers/issues/problems that need a quality process.

Creating a quality process builds as time passes. In no time at all you get people coaching each other and learning from each other. Your staff is getting trained while they are implementing the process. It is however, imperative that management stay involved. You cannot delegate quality systems and then forget about monitoring those systems. Quality must remain a core component in your company’s basic organization.

Change is difficult. When it comes to resistance to change, there is a “rule of thirds”. The rule says that one third of your staff will be positive and enthusiastic about a change like this. Another third will be resistant and non-receptive. The final third will be in the middle and will swing with the group they feel has the most power and the best chance of “winning”. When implementing change, take your third who are positive and enthusiastic and give them lots of time, energy, support, and resources. Give them all you have got! Run with their victories. When the middle third sees who is getting all that time and effort, they will swing to the side of change. The resistant third will either eventually join you or will leave the organization. Wave good-bye and continue to keep your winners moving ahead.

Forms

Changing Management Attitudes

Managers change from those who direct and control to those who serve their employees and meet the needs of their customers.

From To
Directing Others Supporting Others
Telling Others Listening to Others
Making Decisions Facilitating Decisions
Managing Employees Coaching Employees
Getting Tasks Done Managing Process Planning and Implementaion
Preserving the Status Quo Sponsoring Continuous Improvement Through Ongoing Change
Solving Every Problem Driving Problems Down to the Level Where the Problem can be Fixed

Changing Employee Attitudes

Your staff members need to change from those who keep quiet and do as they are told to those who are anxious to initiate continuous improvement within your company.

From To
Saying Little or Nothing Unless Asked Offering Suggestions for Improvement
Doing as They are Told Taking the Initiative to Serve the Customer
Minding Their Own Business Helping Improve All Areas That Impact Your Company’s Growth and Success
Treating Any New Ideas With Suspicion Being Open to New Ideas; Being a “Cheerleader” for Your Company
Taking No Risk Offering Suggestions
Resisting Change Advocating Continuous Improvement