It’s almost that time of year when those dreaded words will be uttered from backseats everywhere: Are we there yet? I remember enduring my family’s 17-hour drive from Texas to Pennsylvania — with no technology to entertain me. Kids nowadays have no idea how easy they actually have it. My daughter has deemed any trip longer than four hours too long and of course she prefers to fly. But the question of “are we there yet?” has much to do with where “there” is: How close are we, when do we stop again, I’m hungry, and what’s that smell?

As frustrating as it is to hear, I have the same question for the staffing industry. Are we there yet? And for me, “there” is the image of the industry and how this space is thought of in the mainstream. A lot goes into how a company is perceived from outside the organization and, of course, outside the industry. I’ll touch on a couple ways staffing firms can enhance (or sabotage) their own brand.

The people. While we are seeing a lot of progress in the tools we use, freelancers, and analytics that support our business, there are three key areas that just haven’t evolved much — and they are of utmost importance to me. It all boils down to how you treat your contractors, your employees and your customers, both new and existing.

All of these areas matter to clients of the staffing industry, not just the last one. In fact, for me, if you aren’t doing the first two really well, I have zero interest in even speaking with you, much less adding you to my supplier pool. There are just too many suppliers that place someone and then never speak to them again. Their staffing firms only care about them again when I want to convert them or they want to stay on site, but switch to a new supplier. No, that’s not how we work. Both contractors and employees have a significant effect on my bottom line and need tending through their tenure.

You may be thinking you’ve got nothing to worry about. Of course you care about all of your employees and consider them your No. 1 asset and priority. But do they feel that way? Have you noticed how much turnover there is in this industry? Why is that? Are your people proud to work for you, or is it just a good paycheck? As for your contractors, how many would switch to a new vendor at the same client for less than $1.00 more per hour?

Staffing Industry Review recently featured those companies whose own staff consider them a best place to work. Within those stories were discussions of how clients and assigned employees reap the rewards of a happy workforce. Those companies also enjoy the benefits of low turnover. These workers aren’t wooed by free sodas, meals and other perks. Rather, they noted respect, professional development, teamwork and other intangibles as factors to their job satisfaction. How would your own workers rate your firm?

Filter yourself. Nobody likes spam or junk mail. In fact, I sometimes feel so beaten down by the spam approach some salespeople take. Sadly, that has not progressed in 20 years — in fact, it has just gotten worse. It is truly embarrassing the number of calls or emails I get from account managers who want my business but can’t justify to me why I should even consider them. The failure points are many: all of the information is about their company, my name is wrong, they are pests, they send e-mails to a bulk list of contacts at my company. Wow, what a personal touch.

Luckily, we have some really great suppliers that support us at Southwest Airlines and I know there are more out there. What I ask is that you help police your industry. Stand up for what is right and improve the perception of the industry.

When you take care of your contractors, employees and customers, you all will reap the rewards. Then you won’t need to ask the dreaded question, as you will already have arrived.