Your 3 biggest growth challenges related to human capital

Recruiting and managing human capital is the bread and butter of staffing agencies. Unfortunately, when it comes to finding and retaining qualified, vetted workers, the staffing industry is facing several obstacles that could affect your growth this year – and beyond.


Challenge No. 1: Shortage of highly skilled workers

According to consulting firm G. Palmer and Associates, the number of workers with STEM skills is not meeting current demand, particularly in the health care industry.

American students have not had sufficient interest in pursuing STEM careers for a while. According to a 2017 survey of 1,000 11- to 17-year-old students conducted by Randstad North America, young people are not making strong connections between their interests – fun things they like to do – and STEM professions. Common STEM vocations such as engineering had little appeal or were intimidating to almost half of the respondents.

What your agency can do: Building a top-of-mind social media presence and improving outreach to educational institutions and STEM advocacy groups will help ensure your talent pipeline does not run low. Agencies that specialize in supplying healthcare workers should also implement consistent recruitment campaigns that include a pervasive online and social media presence, and personalized mail and collateral.


Challenge No. 2: High rates of failed drug screenings

American workers are testing positive for drug use at the highest rate since 2004, according to the annual Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index.

A Society for Human Resource Management article reports the failure rate for pre-employment drug screening is at a 12-year-high, largely because of increased marijuana and amphetamine detection. Opioid use is also a factor in the inability to find qualified workers, as some have either dropped out of the workforce because of acute drug dependency or inability to pass a drug screen.

As more states legalize medical and recreational marijuana use, staffing agencies will be further challenged by a smaller talent pool.

What agencies can do: Temporary agencies screen for drug use because they strive to provide the best talent possible and because their clients require it. This is unlikely to change, so your agency may find it beneficial to add sobriety promotion to its branding (showing employers your commitment to drug-free policies). Sending a strong message that spells out the requirements of a sober workplace will also reinforce a zero-tolerance policy to would-be applicants.


Challenge No. 3: Internal and external cybersecurity threats

The high-profile case of arrested NSA contractor Edward Snowden is just one notable example of the increasing internal cyber threat from activists, corporate spies, thieves and others with threatening agendas.

According to Haystax Technology’s most recent cybersecurity survey, conducted in partnership with the 300,000+ member Information Security Community on LinkedIn and Crowd Research Partners, 67 percent of respondents said that insiders have credentials to access the company’s network. Among these, 60 percent cited managers as the biggest threats. Contractors, anecdotally blamed as the traditional source of attacks, constitute a slightly lower number – 57 percent, compared with regular employees (51 percent). Researchers noted that the real problem may be that organizations are not properly detecting insider threats, not that they are not happening.

Cybersecurity threats from external sources also continue to threaten businesses. The staffing industry has suffered its own spate of costly cyberattacks – from $75,000 for credit monitoring in a security breach where hundreds of W2s were mistakenly emailed to a recipient outside the agency – to more than $750,000 in losses when one IT placement firm’s business was disabled for 48 hours after its computer system was hacked.

What agencies can do: Investing in regular risk assessment and training is key to protecting against cyberattacks occurring at both individual agencies and client companies. Taking steps to improve security, thoroughly vet permanent and temp employees, and train staff in common cyber threats  – among other measures – can help your agency prevent these costly attacks on multiple fronts.