By Jeremy Bilsky
When an offshore drilling rig erupted, spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico, a local staffing firm sprang into action.
The New Orleans-based company had been placing highly skilled labor for marine and shipyard repair along the Gulf coast for five years, so when reports about the seriousness of the disaster began trickling in, the firm’s VP of Operations began sourcing workers almost immediately:
“Within a very short time, we placed over 1,600 employees across four states. We went from $200,000 in weekly billings to $2-3 million in a week. Never had we come across a project like this.”
Are you prepared?
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2023 has set a record for natural disasters in the United States. Eighteen severe weather events, two major floods, Hurricane Idalia, the Maui wildfires and more have wreaked havoc and cost lives across the country.
Disasters of this magnitude can have a significant impact on the construction industry, causing delays with existing projects and increased demand for additional projects to rebuild and repair. But, few construction companies are prepared with available staff to start working at a moment’s notice.
In fact, even those tasked with coordinating response efforts lack adequate personnel. A report by the US Government Accountability Office found that labor shortages at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are causing burnout and other challenges for relief and repair efforts.
That’s why, as part of a robust preparedness plan, construction firms should invest in partnerships with reputable staffing firms before they find themselves in dire need of additional workers to take on new projects or execute existing contracts.
Choosing the right partner
Once you start searching Google for staffing firms in your area, you may find the results a bit overwhelming. There are more than 20,000 staffing firms in the United States, so knowing how to select one aligned to your business goals is essential to building a long-lasting partnership.
Do they have the skills you’re looking for?
Some staffing firms specialize in a specific industry, like healthcare or construction, while others will place just about any job they can find, so it’s important to know exactly which type you’re working with. If they specialize in a specific industry, you may assume that they’d be better equipped to find the best talent for that job—but that’s not always the case. Staffing firms that place positions across multiple verticals will often hire expert recruiters for each of those jobs, making them equally adept at finding excellent workers. It’s important to sit down with the staffing firms and recruiters, make sure you explain clearly what you’re looking for, and see some of the candidates for yourself before they get hired.
Does the firm have proper funding?
Because contracts for temporary labor run anywhere from 30 to 60, or even 90 days, staffing firms have an inherent cash flow shortage caused by needing to pay their employees after a week or every two weeks. As a result, every staffing firm needs a consistent and revolving source of working capital in order to operate. But when the need arises for huge numbers of temporary workers, like after a natural disaster, you’ll want to make sure the staffing firm can acquire the additional funding.
There are many options for staffing firms to fund their operations, from bank loans to invoice factoring, to leveraging their own revenue, and each have pros and cons. The important thing is that the staffing firm knows exactly how to get as much money as they need whenever they need it.
Do they have the internal expertise?
When it comes to disaster response, there’s often a lot of red tape to navigate. Every day, staffing firms have hundreds of pages of documentation to complete and process. Software integration, payroll, invoicing and tax functions are all administrative functions the staffing firm will need to be very good at. Sometimes the funding source will supply these functions as part of their partnership, but if not, make sure the staffing firm is equipped with necessary experts to remain compliant while working quickly.
But don’t stop there!
Finding staffing firms that can supplement your crews is a great start, but if you really want to be the go-to construction company for local, state, and federal agencies to call upon, then knowing where to source talent outside the construction space can make you a real asset.
Everything from operations support, IT, and healthcare are needed after a natural disaster, so being able to provide a variety of services only makes your business stronger. Once you build a foundation of firms specializing in verticals like light industrial and general labor, begin expanding your focus until you have access to labor from every discipline.
Finding a reliable staffing partner can help your construction business, especially in times of uncertainty and increased natural disasters. When you find a staffing partner, you will be prepared to take on any project no matter what the future holds.
Jeremy Bilsky is Senior Director and General Manager for Advance Partners. Advance Partners champions next-level staffing firm growth through back-office solutions and strategic business coaching. A company 100% dedicated to the talent acquisition industry, Advance Partners supports businesses that put millions of people to work every day.