NPS Blog

Taking the temperature of temps: Building relationships that last (even if they’re not meant to) at Elwood Staffing

Net Promoter System podcastWhen you decide to use temporary employees to fill a role in your company, you generally do it because you don’t want the burden or expense of bringing someone onto the payroll permanently, right? Temp jobs are typically transitory, often unpleasant and rarely central to the mission of the company. That’s why managers are willing to delegate the hiring of temporary workers to an agency.

So why would a staffing firm work hard to gather feedback from the temporary employees it places with temporary employers?

Alan Balmer and Fernando Cadena (pictured right) of Elwood Staffing provided some insight on this puzzle when I spoke to them recently on the Net Promoter System podcast. When you hear them talk about it, the whole thing starts to make perfect sense.

Elwood is a large temporary employment agency based in Indiana. It places temporary employees in many different jobs in a variety of industries—automobile manufacturing, oil and gas, warehousing and so on. Its temporary employees might stay on the job for a month or for many months. Similar to a lot of business-to-business companies, Elwood focuses on building long-term partnerships with its clients so that when a company needs extra help, the first vendor it calls will be Elwood.

Fernando CadenaBut customer loyalty in this business is complex, because human beings are involved. If employees don’t like their placements—or if it’s just a bad fit between an individual and the job to which he or she is assigned—the work will suffer, and turnover will be high. That’s costly both to Elwood and its clients. So it’s in everyone’s interest that the temporary employees feel fairly treated, appropriately paid and listened to when they have concerns.

Fernando, who is director of associate engagement, says that addressing this issue was challenging. The company had to “find a way to collect feedback from our [temporary] employees and then … provide that feedback to the clients where our employees were working and also to our internal teams so that we could make some changes to make it better for our folks and improve their experience.”

Enter Net Promoter. Fernando read The Ultimate Question 2.0 and liked the simplicity of the feedback methodology. Before long he was pulling Elwood associates off the line at clients’ workplaces and asking them how likely they would be to recommend this company to friends or colleagues. He also asked an important follow-up: If the company could make improvements, what would they be?

You can hear on the podcast some of the interesting issues and opportunities he uncovered. But more important than the specifics they raised might be the process: Temporary employees were grateful simply to have a voice. And the systematic feedback data enabled Elwood to have productive conversations with its clients about the workplace issues that temporary employees raised. Clients who acted on the concerns found that turnover decreased and the quality of work improved. Those that failed to act, not surprisingly, found the opposite. As a result, Elwood not only improved the quality of experience for its temps but forged closer relationships with its corporate clients.

This use of the Net Promoter System differentiates Elwood from its competitors, says Alan, who is vice president of workforce solutions at the firm. “From our perspective, it’s very important to retain [clients] and demonstrate to our existing client base that we are committed to you,” he says, and investing in Net Promoter “is a small cost in order to retain the clients that we have and keep them feeling happy.”

So there it is: A metric originally developed to help earn enduring loyalty is being used in a situation that everybody knows is temporary. Yet it’s completely logical. And it’s good for everyone—Elwood, its clients and its associates alike.

You can listen to my discussion with Alan and Fernando on iTunes or through the player below. Click here to browse more Net Promoter System podcasts.

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