My last article (Are People a Commodity?) addressed the dreadful commoditization of contingent workers (people) and staffing companies (people services). Now, I want to address the fact that the staffing industry, of which I’m a proud member, is culpable in this reality. With more than 30 years of experience in the industry, I’ve watched as companies I’ve worked for and competed against gradually prostituted their services (before everyone one gets all up in arms and unduly offended, by prostitute I mean they have sold something of intrinsic value in exchange for a pittance of remuneration).

In other words, while companies sought the lowest bidder, far too many people services willingly acquiesced. And in the process, they sacrificed their company’s services, and to a certain degree the industry at large, on the altar of a “more hours/more revenue” mindset.

A Greater Purpose

To be clear, our greater purpose as people services, individually and collectively, is to find good jobs for good people and to help good companies find good people. But our all too frequent low-ball tactics have actually sabotaged this goal while financially wounding our shareholders and owners. And, per my previous article, we’ve done the contingent workforce (people) and companies bidding on our services no real favors. The collateral damage of a lost-leader mentality negatively impacts everyone in the equation. The law of diminishing returns is still in effect.

Is It Worth It?

Yes, I do think that the prime suspects here are in the distinct minority, but they indubitably exist. And, as we all know, it only takes 1 out of 30 (or 50, or 100, or…) in a bid to skew everything for everybody. But before I begin to think this is all about profitability, I’d like to say this isn’t the case. It’s also about quality, and quality comes at a price (cost), for all concerned. Quality service, quality jobs, quality wages, quality workers, quality benefits, quality screening, quality…well, I could go on ad nauseam – they all cost something. And the alternative is just not satisfactory.

Just replace the word “quality” with the word “poor” in the earlier sentence and we will all get a glimpse of what happens when we don’t invest in our people, the people services that supply companies critical talent and, for that matter, ourselves.

I once worked for a supervisor who condensed our company’s drug policy to one word: “Don’t!” The same could be said here. How do we stop the madness? Stop! Stop giving away something of intrinsic value unless, tragically, you have nothing else to offer but a low bid. Stop sabotaging a pivotal piece in the talent supply chain. Stop undervaluing people and the companies they might go to work for. Stop selling your own people services short. Care enough about everyone mentioned above to charge a fair price for the value you produce. And don’t let anyone tell you that you, your people or your service just aren’t worth it.

It’s More Than Just About Money

Although you might think this is ridiculous, to me, this is just as much a moral issue as it is a monetary one. Am I suggesting the lowest price bidder is always unethical? By no means. However, in a similar analogy, although I’m not a particular fan of artificially raising the minimum wage, to pay your workers the minimum wage in today’s labor market is just bad business. It doesn’t work and, in some cases, it borders on misanthropy when you so undervalue people and the intrinsic benefit they bring to your company.

That said, in my humble but accurate opinion, to consistently undervalue people and people services does reflect on your moral compass because it often mirrors what is important in your paradigm of business, society and, of course, people themselves. The moral high ground can prompt us to confidently say, “No! Our people and our service are worth more than that. I won’t let the company I work for and the client I work with sellout to the devil of “win at any price.”

Stop the self-inflicted suffering, my industry friends. Don’t be complicit in devaluing something of intrinsic worth – you, your services and, above all, your people.

Want to learn more? Please contact Linden Wolfe, PHR, CCWP at Self-inflicted Suffering in the Staffing Industry