Short on staff? Borrow some

New service matches understaffed, overstaffed employers
By Amanda Silliker
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 03/31/2011

Cheryl Duivesteyn’s company was faced with unprecedented, rapid growth. In just six months, sales had tripled at Gosco Valves in Oakville, Ont., and were expected to quadruple by the end of the fiscal year, said Duivesteyn, the company’s business development strategist.

So she went to poolingpeople.ca in the hopes of borrowing some skilled employees to fill her labour shortage. She is hoping to add to the company’s 40 employees and hire several temporary assembly and product-testing workers by the end of March.

“We believe this will be sustainable growth but, in the worst-case scenario, our fear would be if we hired several employees and this growth didn’t last, we’d have to lay people off,” she said. “For now, Pooling People is a great tool for managing this amount of growth.”

Poolingpeople.ca offers an employer that is temporarily overstaffed, perhaps due to the end of a high-demand season, to share employees with a company that is temporarily understaffed, perhaps due to vacation season, said Oakville, Ont.-based founder Hannah McKinnon, who launched the site in January 2011.

“It’s a business-to-business community that enables members to better manage their fluctuating HR needs,” she said. “It opens up a whole new way of managing your staff.”

Members register for an annual fee of US$250 and can either post employees they have available or search postings for new employees. The site offers listings for full- and part-time temporary employees (the borrowing aspect) and full- and part-time permanent employees (similar to a more traditional job board).

If employers find a posting that meets their needs, they can contact the other employer directly, without a middle man, said McKinnon. The original employer continues to pay the salary and benefits of the employee while he is on loan. When the term is up, the employee returns to his original place of work.

It’s expected filling a talent shortage this way will save a lot of time and money for interviewing, hiring and training, said Duivesteyn.

Employers save “a couple of thousand dollars right away” by removing the entire interview process and getting rid of the six months’ probation, said Harpaul Sambhi, CEO of social networking recruitment site Careerify and author of Social HR (published by Carswell, a Thomson Reuters business).

Another perk of the site is the sense of security in knowing she is hiring “better quality” employees, said Duivesteyn.

“Another employer already found them skilled enough and didn’t want to lose them permanently so you’re getting skilled workers who can really just insert themselves into the position,” she said.

The people who will benefit the most are likely in low- to mid-level positions and not bound by intellectual property, such as in the hospitality, retail and food services industries, said Sambhi. For those who are, it would be a risk to loan employees to another company, armed with their employers’ trade secrets, he said.

To address the issue of confidentiality, employees should not be loaned to competitor organizations. Through poolingpeople.ca, employers have control over where they lend employees. In addition, the website has tools to help employers navigate the transfer, including contracts.

“There is a written agreement between the lending company, the borrowing company and the employee with a specific clause about confidentiality that says the employee isn’t going to divulge any trade secrets,” said McKinnon.

Another possible concern is the borrowing company could be interested in poaching key talent from the lending company, said Sambhi.

There is also a clause in the written agreement citing the borrowing company shall not solicit the employee for a certain period of time without prior written authorization from the lending company, said McKinnon.

The notion of sharing employees is something that will become increasingly common over the next few years but is not something people will be adopting today, since it often takes a while for a new form of social media to catch on, said Sambhi.

“This concept is ahead of its time, which is great, but it will eventually come to the point where employers are more receptive because we’re going to have a labour shortage,” he said. “How you handle that shortage is potentially sharing resources, so this could be a good opportunity.”

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