Every staffing professional has asked this very question and will likely continue to do so. The fact is we have made some headway. Companies are looking more and more to the flexible workforce to help with their needs. As providers of this flexible workforce, young workers turn to us to help them gain some experience, older workers for the flexibility, and companies for the variable workforce they desire. Our value is being appreciated in some quarters, but there is a lot of room to grow.

Value Yourself. We are valuable partners to our clients, and we need to help them understand how important we are to their success. I think we start to elevate our industry by not being our own worst enemies! We are not just vendors, and we really shouldn’t think of ourselves as such. That’s easier said than done for some providers.

For example, some staffing firms sell their services solely on cost. This approach devalues the critical impact we have on our clients’ bottom line as well as their associates — and ultimately devalues our industry as a whole. In fact, it results in commoditizing our industry, and what we do is just too specialized to do that to ourselves. This brings me to one of my very favorites quotes:

“If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.” — Red Adair

Code of Ethics. Next, it is imperative that we always adhere to the highest of standards and maintain ethical practices. Start by following a code of ethics. At the firms I run, we follow the code developed by the American Staffing Association. Adhering to ethical practices is one of the most important things we can do to elevate our companies and our industry as a whole. And these high standards must be followed at every level of our businesses, from the CEO and other C-suite executives all the way down the chain of command.

Best practices of all types are also critical. For example: When did we agree to start signing our client’s contracts and not to have them sign ours? Such a practice is a little crazy to me. Consider it this way: When you go to buy a car, the dealer would never sign your contract. You sign theirs, with their protectionary and specialty language, because they are providing the goods or services.

Balanced Deal. But too many staffing services providers sign contracts that their clients whip up with overly reaching indemnity language that is terribly damaging to the provider. Part of following best practices like these would logically include having equal and balanced agreements with our clients. Because we do provide such a valuable service and deliver such high return on investment, I’m confident our clients will see our side of the issues — as long as we value ourselves.

This brings me to the second of one of my favorite quotes of all time and not just because it’s from a special Pennsylvanian, but because he is so very right:

“The more moral the people are in their business dealings, the less paperwork you need, the more handshakes you can have, the more the wheels of capitalism work better because there’s trust in the marketplace. Business ethics is not a joke. And, in fact, I think most businesses that I’ve dealt with encourage exactly that type of behavior.” — Rick Santorum

Promote. Finally, we must promote the profession of recruiting to everyone who comes into our world. The successful education of current and future business leaders, community leaders and those who will enter our industry someday are all critical factors in how much we will be able to elevate this industry and our businesses alike.

Every day we touch so many lives — Numbers show that more than 3 million temporary and contract employees work for America’s staffing companies during an average week. We know with certainty that make a difference to the nation’s job seekers, businesses and the economy — let’s start making a real difference to ourselves.