Saying They Want to Modernize Staffing, Three Companies Try New Models

Feb 9, 2011
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

You may have heard about companies like CloudCrowd and concepts like microwork that involve new ways to staff; now, there are several more companies trying to shake up the field. They’d like to revolutionize the already-strong contingent staffing industry and in some cases the whole staffing field, making it more Internet-based, more cell phone-based, and just more sophisticated. Even 63-year-old Manpower’s getting into the act.

Three of the newer players, all based in California, include:

Readyforce: It says it is “leapfrogging ‘old school’ staffing agencies and making transformational changes to a $300 billion industry that has not seen meaningful business practice and infrastructure change in decades.” Ouch.

The omnipresent Craig Silverman is the VP of Sales for Readyforce, which has been quietly doing a private beta test in San Francisco. It launched the private beta January 17, but had been operating last year even more quietly, and under a different name. “We’ve raised a raised a ton of capital,” Silverman says. About $14.5 million, actually, and the company is hiring.

Silverman describes Readyforce in a number of superlatives: it is the “staffing agency of the future” and “there’s no other staffing agency like us anywhere.”

Readyforce will talk to an employer about the jobs it has open. Then, it’ll go out and find people through social media and other means, and screen them to figure out who’s best. The screening includes a video interview; Silverman says they’ve interviewed 500 people for inside sales jobs, for example, over the last 90 days. Readyforce presents employers with the top three to five people, showing employers a profile of the person, a 20-minute interview, and a highlight reel.

A typical recruiting agency, Silverman says, might get 1,000 applicants, not totally know how to winnow them down, and not do nearly the presentation to customers.

Last year, almost all the company’s money was coming from contingent employee staffing. Now, it’s closer to 50-50 contingent employees and placement. “We’ve been doing a lot of experimenting,” he says, “figuring out what we want to be when we grow up.” It’s hoping to roll out more publicly soon, and then to other geographies beyond Northern California.

WorkersNow. Founded by Stanford alums, it’s focusing on the construction industry. I suppose you could call it a cloud-based temp company. “No need to wait at a store every morning,” it tells job candidates. “Everything is done through text messages & e-mails.”

Employees apply mainly online, and WorkersNow runs a background check. Employees can build up a profile to showcase their work, which the employers view, showing such information as whether past employers would hire them again. They check in and out of the job using a cell phone.

Employers pay a rate that includes the person’s wages, as well as taxes, workers’ comp, and a fee.

The company (formerly called WorkerExpress, wrapping up a name change due to trademark issues) was selected as the winner of a technology startup contest in northern California last year, whose judging panel included TiVo recruiting director William Uranga. While other companies in the contingent staffing industry are also moving to higher-tech processes, COO and co-founder Joe Mellin says this one’s different because it’s most concerned about a “great fit between employer and worker.” Revenue is doubling every two months, and Mellin says he’s about ready to expand throughout California, not just the north.

Emergent. Unlike WorkersNow, it’s not a temp agency. It doesn’t recruit. It acts as an employer for contingent employees for other companies. This is what a Manpower or an Adecco can do themselves — they put people on their payrolls, with the employees of course spending their work days at a client’s location. But Emergent hopes to do for small staffing companies what’s not so easy for them without the infrastructure and knowledge to handle all of what’s involved in employing someone. Emergent handles (well, hopes to handle; it’s only now getting started, and will launch an expanded website any day) things like onboarding and workers’ comp for contingent employees.

The company’s president, Bill Inman, lives in Manhattan Beach, California, and is part of a team giving birth to Emergent while working for an unrelated show-biz-related company called Entertainment Partners, in Burbank.

Inman has previously been involved with companies you may know — CareerLifeTV and Ensemble Chimes Global, for example — and around 1999-2000 was involved in launching Hiring Link, an applicant tracking system where companies would share pools of candidates.

Inman thinks recruiting someone and employing someone should be separate activities in contingent staffing. “The industry,” he says, “is ready to go through a dynamic change.”

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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