Pros & cons of using a staffing agency

At one point or another, many businesses — regardless of size and industry — reach a point at which they can no longer handle all of their recruiting needs in house. For companies in this position, working with a staffing agency might seem like a perfect solution. But while staffing agencies promise the ability to save clients time, money, and effort, the truth is that they often fail to deliver on those promises (a fact that you can see reflected in staffing agencies’ dismal net promoter score of 28%). That’s why it’s so important to consider both the pros and cons of using a staffing agency before you sign on with one.

In this article, we’ll go over some of the key advantages and disadvantages of using staffing agencies, as well as a better alternative — read on to learn more.

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Pros of using a staffing agency

For the first half of our analysis on the pros and cons of using a staffing agency, we’ll look at some of the benefits that staffing agencies regularly tout and whether they’re actually as good as they seem:

  • Offload your recruiting efforts

Whether you’re a small business owner, general manager, or operations leader, odds are you have quite a bit on your plate — and recruiting is just one small part of that. Realistically, you probably don’t have enough time in the day to meet all of your company’s staffing needs, let alone all of your other responsibilities. Working with a staffing agency means that they’ll take over much of the heavy lifting when it comes to sourcing, vetting, and interviewing candidates, and connect you with a group of finalists that they think are fit for the job. In theory, this should give you more time to take care of the other items on your to-do list, but if staffing agencies aren’t able to provide you with the high-quality staffers you need, you may spend even more time going back and forth with them than you would if you were recruiting on your own.

  • Less commitment than hiring

Businesses that need more hands on deck, but aren’t looking for permanent hires right away, often turn to temp staffing agencies. There are a number of benefits to hiring temp workers over traditional full- or part-time employees. For one, temp workers are technically employed by the agencies that place them, so you’re not on the hook for benefits like unemployment or paid time off, which can be time-consuming to administer and costly. And if you are ultimately hoping to bring in regular employees, temp arrangements offer you the ability to “try before you buy” — that is, to verify that a worker is actually a high-performer before hiring them. However, staffing agencies can also be rigid in their operations, leaving little room for flexibility in how you work with them and subjecting you to red tape.

  • Adjust your workforce based on need

At most companies, business isn’t completely consistent over the course of a year — consumer goods companies are typically slammed during the holiday gift-purchasing season, for example, while catering companies may be booked solid during the peak wedding season from May to October. Some businesses turn to staffing agencies during these busy periods to find temporary workers who can pitch in until things slow back down, rather than hire full- or part-time employees for just a few months, which can be costly and inefficient. Unfortunately, staffing agencies don’t always have the best reputation when it comes to selecting reliable workers. If they find 20 workers to help you out during a rush, but only half of them show up, you aren’t likely to hit your productivity goals.

Cons of using a staffing agency

While there are some benefits of working with staffing agencies on paper, when you weigh out the pros and cons of using a staffing agency, you’ll find they fall short of expectations far too often. Fortunately, there’s an alternative. Instawork offers all the stated benefits of using a staffing agency with none of their common shortcomings, like:

  • Reliability issues

As we touched on previously, reliability is often the single biggest issue that businesses face when working with staffing agencies. A 2017 article from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) shared that about 37 percent of staffing agency clients have experienced a “ghost booking,” or a confirmation that a given role would be filled before a qualified worker was actually found. If you don’t know whether workers will even show up — let alone their whereabouts before, during, or after the shift — you risk missing deadlines, quotas, and ultimately, revenue.

Instawork, on the other hand, has technology in place that promotes reliability and accountability. When an Instawork Pro signs up for a shift, they’ll receive a confirmation and consistent reminders leading up to it. GPS capabilities, meanwhile, show Instawork Pros’ real-time locations, so you can ensure that they’re right where they need to be. Add to that the fact that feedback and ratings from previous employers are clearly visible in Instawork profiles, and that cancellations and no-shows result in significant consequences like decreased ratings and even removal from the platform, and you can see why Instawork’s no-show rate is less than 3% — so you can feel confident that the workers you book are the workers you’ll get.

  • Inconsistent quality

While it might seem helpful to let a staffing agency take the reins when it comes to sourcing, vetting, and interviewing candidates, the lack of transparency into their process can also make it a big gamble. With multiple clients and scores of roles to fill on tight deadlines, staffing agencies are often in such a rush to place candidates that they don’t take the time to dig deep into a candidate’s background, skill level, and reputation.

But Instawork takes a multi-pronged approach to ensure worker quality. Candidates are vetted right off the bat to make sure that they’re a good fit for the platform in terms of their work history, skill set, and past performance — and critically, all of this information is available to view on their profiles. Businesses can even set custom screening or training requirements, like certifications and tests, to make sure Pros are up to the task. And of course, Instawork Pros are rated after each shift, so you can make sure they have a track record of success. When you do find an all-star employee (or employees), you can favorite them to create a pool of reliable, high-performing workers you can call on at any time.

  • Lack of client support/customer service

Many companies that work with staffing agencies become frustrated by the transactional nature of their working relationship: after an agency places a worker with a client, they often lose touch — so if any issues arise, it can be a challenge to get ahold of them.

At Instawork, we take pride in the support we provide our customers, which includes everything from a central support team available almost 24 hours a day seven days a week; a dedicated account manager to help you achieve your staffing goals, answer questions, and relay feedback; and for large or complex staffing needs, an onsite shift lead to ensure everything goes smoothly. With this team, Instawork is by your side to help you succeed at every stage.

  • Limited flexibility

If you’re looking for a flexible staffing solution, working with an agency is probably not the right fit for you. Agencies tend to be slower-moving and less nimble, requiring several days' notice (at least) for requests for new or additional staffing. On Instawork, by contrast, you can book a shift anywhere from the next day to months in advance. With more than 50,000 new Instawork Pros signing up each month, and incentives for last-minute shifts, the odds of finding the right person or people for the job is in your favor.

And while agencies typically offer a rigid pricing model, with service fees costing anywhere from 40-100% of markup, Instawork sets pricing to a market hourly rate that attracts reliable professionals, with custom pricing plans available for those with recurring/large number of shifts.

When you look at the pros and cons of using a staff agency, you don’t have to look long before realizing that the negatives outweigh the positives. Luckily, Instawork was built with all of this in mind. Our high-tech, high-touch approach provides companies with the high-quality workers they need to power their business, because we know that a company is only as strong as the people behind it — contact us below to learn how we can help you fill your flexible staffing needs.