Since the staffing industry began, the local office has always been the fulcrum of the staffing transaction. The place where your staff can meet face-to-face with job candidates in what many believe is, and always will be, an essentially human interaction. A hub where the office is embedded in, and sympathetic to, the demands, issues and trends of the local business community. But, now more so than ever, staffing executives are having to give serious consideration to the benefits and risks of splashing out on bricks and mortar, even if business is growing at a healthy pace. The convergence of a number of factors is now calling into question the merits of maintaining expensive office networks:

  • Growing acceptance of the advantages of flexible/remote working as a general business practice. In an industry with notoriously low retention rates, offering employees the opportunity to work from home on a more frequent basis is a concept being considered by more and more staffing firms.
  • Advances in technology providing new ways to interact with both candidates and clients — allowing staff to work remotely, by taking advantage of video interviewing and Skype calls for instance.
  • The outsourcing of certain activities, perhaps to offshore locations, meaning that many traditional functions (such as sourcing, matching, data entry, résumé/CV cleansing, etc) that used to take place in the office can now be conducted more cost-effectively on a remote basis.
  • The growth of new, innovative and low-cost competitors such as those operating in the online staffing platform space proving that reliable, high-caliber workers can be sourced and supplied with little, if no, human intervention.
  • Property prices in many cities rising at rates higher than inflation. The combination of these factors might not just deter new office openings but, in some cases, lead to proactive closures. When the next downturn eventually hits, as it inevitably will, the perception of the office as an asset can very quickly take on the appearance of a liability. But such decisions are by no means straightforward.

New Hub, Old Business

Business owners will be challenged to balance the opportunity to run their staffing firms more cheaply (and without the risk and headache of a long-term property portfolio commitment) with the advantages of continuing to offer a high-touch candidate and client experience in a global industry where skills shortages are predicted to get worse and worse. A decision that is really at the heart of what makes a good staffing company.

Those with the balance sheet and confidence to leave their army on the field of battle may actually find their office network a more precious commodity as their competitors start to retreat from the fray