The labour market in Italy has changed radically since the 1997 Treu Law, which set off the “wired network” of employment agencies and gave life to a previously non-existent temporary staffing market. Even if they are still often referred to as “temporary”, employment agencies have evolved from being simple intermediaries to becoming entities that can provide diverse services, create value and grant flexicurity — ensuring flexibility for companies and following workers in a way that enhances their employability.

World-Class System

The World Employment Confederation has ranked the regulatory system that disciplines the conduct of employment agencies in Italy among the best systems in the world, second only to that of the Dutch. Much of that is due to the Jobs Act, though recent Parliamentary action, still pending at press time, appears poised to reverse that legislation.

Regardless of which direction the regulatory landscape takes Italy, the true priority and potential for the country lies in training.

The Challenge

Both Industry 4.0 and digitalisation are opening up great opportunities in Italy, but they are also pointing out a basic problem: the skills shortage that is being felt around the world. The dearth or total lack of competencies required by client companies creates a mismatch between supply and demand. Tackling this problem with traditional means is no longer a viable option. It becomes virtually impossible to find profiles that simply do not exist, as they are not being addressed by current education and training methods.

Faced with a stalled system that is slow in responding to the changing needs of companies, the only solution is to generate these profiles anew. Adding specialised training to one’s services is the challenge the market poses and we ourselves, in order to boost workers’ employability, are trying to fill the void of the skills specifically asked for by companies.

Even as the staffing industry must create ways to develop clients’ needed skills, we also must acknowledge that the market has veritably become candidate- driven. This means that competition amongst employment agencies pivots more and more on their ability to attract the most sought-after candidates and to make them interesting offers, by giving them growth prospects and permanent employability. And chief among those ways we can make ourselves more attractive than our competitors is the same thing we’re doing for clients: supply training to provide them the hard skills clients need now.

In the face of their ever-more complex needs, companies seek intermediaries who can go deeper and provide tailormade, differentiated solutions. Firms are even willing to externalise parts of important internal processes, provided they find agencies with adequate professional experience and competencies.

The Added Value

Companies will continue to require flexibility to deal with the labour market’s abrupt changes, and employment agencies will have to keep acting as “clearing houses”, giving workers security and constant employability.

Specialisation in service competencies and continuous education will be essential levers for development: The market will reward only those who will be able to truly create value and address complex needs.

As opposed to many other fields in which disintermediation appears to be the new norm, the labour market actually needs to rely strongly on intermediaries.

There are indeed ample margins for improvement in the role of employment agencies, if you consider that in Italy only 1.5% of workers are handled by intermediaries, while the European average stands at around 2%.

No matter the outcome of the Parliament’s actions on Italy’s Jobs Act, staffing firms operating in Italy are not without options. They stand to benefit greatly by developing and embracing a training agenda.