But before I get into that, let's talk about why it's been important to maintain a local presence. Personally, I blame it all on 7-Eleven convenience stores. Let me explain.
The idea of "convenience" stores started around 1927 when 7-Eleven was born out of the Southland Ice Company in Dallas. Offering a limited selection of items to the local area made it easier for customers to get basic items without traveling long distances.
As the idea took root, it seemed like 7-Elevens popped up on every corner in America. We were hooked. Even though we paid more, and the selection became more and more limited as the years went on, the instant gratification and convenience was too much to resist. Not to mention the microwave burritos.
But how many times have you gone to a convenience store expecting to find something, only to be disappointed? Or, remember when you needed a larger quantity of an item, only to find a smaller, more expensive package?
Collectively, I think we automatically equate local with better, only because of the perceived convenience. I'm not saying that local can't, in fact, be better, but what I am saying is that there will always be limitations to a local model.
Like our affection for 7-Elevens, I think many buyers of staffing and workforce services have simply become accustomed to a local presence without understanding the benefits and limitations of a local office. But more importantly, I think the business climate has changed substantially.
The reality of the world today is that companies are constantly struggling to keep up with the ebb and flow of business, especially post-recession. This, in turn, creates a real dilemma for those in human resources and recruiting. It's harder than ever to predict what types of skills will be needed, when they will be required, and how many will get the job done.
And that's where the idea of the local recruiting office needs to be rethought. It's great to be able to run down to 7-Eleven for milk, but what happens when you want certified organic, 1%, grass-fed cow's milk?
Business today, and more to the point, recruiting today, requires an overall strategy that encompasses both local and national resources to provide flexibility and scalability. Changing worker demographics, the recession, and trends in education have made national recruiting a necessity, not just an option.
Your workforce strategy should take into consideration how national recruiting resources in the form of partners and/or outsourced engagements can provide the following:
- Flexibility. Whether a position is long- or short-term, remote or local, use national resources to ensure you can quickly respond to changes in your business.
- Scalability. Prepare for quick ramp-ups (or ramp-downs) and ensure you have the resources in place should you need to hire in volume in both remote and metropolitan locations.
- Availability of skills. Local markets will always be limited by the local industries, schools, etc. Establish relationships in multiple geographic areas to ensure you can pull from several resources for key skills (or perhaps those you don't yet know you need).
- Range of skills. As with availability, the types of skills you need will change over time. A national approach allows you to increase the breadth of skills available to you as your business grows and expands.
Along with thinking nationally, it's important to pull all of your resources, local and national, into a cohesive workforce strategy. Establish meaningful metrics and tracking that provides visibility into the effectiveness of both local and national efforts.
Having "close" staffing partners doesn't always mean that they need to be literally right up the street from you. However, like many other things, companies today need to align all resources, local and national, to remain agile and responsive to their marketplace.
And don't get me wrong, local is still convenient and necessary. While the business conditions that spawned the 7-Elevens of the world may have changed, every once in a while we all need to get a 32-ounce Slurpee® or a microwave burrito. You just can't (and shouldn't) rely on it for every meal.