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October 7, 1999 Washington, D.C. Vol. 10, No.20


     As a sign of the difficulty item processors are having recruiting and retaining clerical staff, temporary staffing agencies specializing in item processing are springing up across the nation.


     Staffing Services, a Dallas-based temporary agency, is conducting 90 percent of its business providing staff trained in item processing techniques to processors in the region.  Staffing Services partnered with the Rock Hill, S.C.-based training software provider Abby Inc. a little over a year ago to begin a training program for temps in TenKey, remittance and proof.  


     In its first year of offering trained temps, revenues for Staffing Services were $6 million.  This year, it may close at nearly $10 million with plans to expand its services to other parts of the country.  


     The idea is catching on.  Abby recently signed a second agreement with an agency in Oregon which plans to train temps for processing facilities in that state and Washington.  


     The success of Staffing Services is a function of the economy, says Ken Evans, president of Abby.  “These companies are having a difficult time recruiting so they turn it over to someone like [Staffing Services], who does it very well.  As long as the economy stays strong, this kind of product will be in demand.”

Honing In On Skills  


    Staffing Services uses Abby’s computer-based training software and runs applicants through a 40-hour training session, spread out over two weeks. “We can take somebody that has average, basic TenKey skills and get them up to speed on proof within that time frame,” says Brad Stevens, president of Staffing Services.  “The feedback we have gotten from our clients is that the new employee can go on and key anywhere from 1,200 to 1,500 items per hour, with a high [degree of accuracy].”  


     The Abby training module for temps is very generic, so the employee will still need to learn some of the nuances of the specific equipment their employer is deploying.  But the system does give workers a basic introduction to the industry by teaching them such critical skills as how to use a computer and a mouse, check scanning principles and ergonomics.  


     The advantages of using a trained temp are clear:  The resources of trained, full-time staff do not have to be spent conducting on-the-job training for temps, the company can save money by not having to bring a trainer in-house; and some new, trained full-time workers can be gleaned from the temporary crop.  


     However, getting a trained worker comes with a price tag.  Staffing Services charges 45 percent to 50 percent of the base salary of the worker.  


     “Overall the concept makes sense, but it's just a matter of whether your margins can handle it,” says Pat Adams, who recently retired from her post as director of remittance operations for Piano, Texas-based EDS [Electronic Data Services]. The extra money would be worth it, Adams says, if the temps end up staying on as full-time employees.  


     Out of the 450 to 500 employees Stevens farms out to processors every week, about  50 percent end up going temp-to-perm in remittance.  “But in proof they tend to be more temporary or part-time,” Stevens says.

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