Member Profile: Goodwill Staffing Services, Macon, Georgia

GSS Macon-Diane WallYear business began: 2010
Jobseekers placed last year: 1,971
Sponsor organization: Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the Central Savannah River Area (CRSA)

Goodwill Staffing Services was launched five years ago to complement Goodwill’s Job Connection employment services and support the culinary arts training at Helms College, Goodwill’s first and only licensed and accredited college. Goodwill Staffing Services operates out of five offices that extend from Macon to Augusta, Georgia and further west to Aiken, South Carolina. In just a few years, the business has grown its revenues to over $6 million. We spoke with Diane Wall, Senior Director of Employment and Business Services to learn more.

How did you get into the alternative staffing business?
I worked as a staffing professional for 15 years and my philosophy has always been: if you take care of people, the profits will come. Over time, as I saw the industry become less of a “people” business, I began to feel less enthused about it. In 2012, around the time I was considering a career change, I was also relocating to Middle Georgia for personal reasons and did a web search for staffing and Middle Georgia. To my great surprise, the Goodwill Staffing Director position appeared and I applied. It was serendipity really. I’m in my third year at Goodwill and I love the combination of business and mission.

What job seeker population does Goodwill Staffing Services recruit and support?
We mainly recruit for entry- and mid-level jobs, and we serve a combination of people who are chronically unemployed because they lack soft skills, or long-time workers who have been displaced and need help navigating their way back into the labor market. We also place culinary students at Helms College to help them “earn while they learn.”

How are participants referred to your staffing service?
We recruit through nine Job Connection centers Goodwill operates in our region, offering job search resources, job and life skills classes and job fairs. These centers served almost 25,000 job seekers in 2014. Over time, we’ve also built word-of-mouth referrals. For high-volume “surge” hiring needs, we’ve used radio spots and find this to be very effective.

What types of employers do you serve?
Our largest commercial customers to date are in the warehouse/logistics and hospitality industries. Goodwill is our top priority customer, though not our highest revenue generator. We supply a mix of retail, custodial, stocking and office/clerical workers to Goodwill, in addition to adjunct instructors at Helms College. We also provide banquet and set-up staff to the Anderson Conference Center and Snelling Conference Center, Goodwill’s conference venues in Macon and Augusta.

What marketing messages and methods have you found to be most effective?
With commercial businesses, it’s been a long and organic education process, first, to overcome their perception that Goodwill only serves people with disabilities. The Goodwill name opens doors and once we’re face-to-face, we always lead with Goodwill’s mission and describe all of our employment services, including service referrals for people who aren’t job-ready, our “Good Start” pre-employment soft skills training, our six “101” sectoral trainings, job fairs and our staffing services. For a while now we’ve joked about developing an “I had no idea!” marketing campaign.

Tell us more about your sectoral training courses.
We’ve developed introductory trainings specific to working in manufacturing, hospitality, warehouse/logistics, office/clerical, retail and customer service. The trainings range from two to four hours and cover basic industry terms, work processes and safety issues. We routinely customize these courses for individual customers.

What has been an innovative solution to a customer problem?
Last year we helped a large e-commerce fulfillment and returns center meet some unforecasted labor needs and add seasonal staff for the holiday period, placing 1,041 total workers during a six-month period. At the height of peak season, we had 450 people working weekly, 50 hours per week. The customer operates 24/7, is in a somewhat remote location and required a no-felony background, so meeting their needs involved some aggressive recruiting and significant mobilization by our team to screen, train, interview, onboard and manage the high volume of temporary staff.

Goodwill’s marketing department helped us coordinate a radio, print and social media advertising campaign. As a next step, we organized on-site meetings with groups of 20 to 30 candidates three times weekly to describe the work, clarify criminal background limitations, deliver the GoodStart training and a customized warehouse/logistics training, and perform interviews. On day one of employment, we provided an orientation to the worksite. Our customer then provided one to three weeks of position-specific training on-the-job. To further support this engagement, we supplied lanyards and managed site badges, provided an on-site payroll service and secured a donation of 300 extra lockers needed to accommodate our workers.

To promote worker retention, we ran a six-week Perfect Attendance campaign during the height of peak season, with weekly drawings for a $50 VISA cash card and a grand prize drawing for a $100 VISA cash card including all who had perfect attendance during the campaign. Throughout the six-month engagement, our weekly attrition was about 12 percent including those who were dismissed due to performance, attendance or job abandonment. Although the customer was not originally looking for temp-to-hire staff, they hired more than 100 of our workers they wanted to retain based on the quality of their work.

As a marketing tool, we’ve developed a two-page case study summarizing our staffing solution for this customer and have recently used it to land a large manufacturing account.

What are the biggest challenges of operating a staffing service in your market?
From a sales perspective, there’s a continued need to educate the market about how Goodwill Staffing Services is different. We also need to refine our recruiting and improve our outreach to candidates.

As a manager, what do you wish you had more time for?
I wish I had more time, period, but especially to interact with our candidates. I hear about their many successes but don’t get to know them as closely as our staffing specialists and I miss that.

Please share a success story about one of your workers.
One of our workers, Victoria, first came to our Job Connection Center in Eatonton to do job search. We soon noticed she was helping others to use the computers or come up with wording for job applications, and we asked her to become a volunteer at the center. She agreed, and when a Job Connection employee went out on medical leave we immediately called her to fill the position. This was the first in a string of temporary positions with Goodwill Staffing that ranged from working as a seasonal employee at Lowe’s to serving as an HR administrator at a luxury golf resort. Victoria took every temporary position we offered, even ones we presented at a moment’s notice.

Her last temp position was a year ago, a one-week stint at an online clothing company that turned into three weeks, and then into permanent employment there. With a stable job, she has begun attending classes to pursue a nursing degree to create a better life for herself and her children. She still visits the Job Connection to help other job seekers, and she recommends volunteering as a way to feel good, make connections and enhance one’s resume.

What about Goodwill Staffing Services makes you most proud?
The people on our team! They work hard every day, and as anyone in staffing knows, this is not an easy business. I’m very moved by our team’s commitment day in and day out to support our workers and our customers.

What are your ASO’s main goals for the future?
Our business is concentrated with several large customers and an immediate goal is to diversify our customer base, in terms of both industries and number of businesses. One niche market we’re exploring is school systems, to supply food service and janitorial staff. We’d also like to expand our market reach within Goodwill’s territory which covers 35 counties.

What advice would you offer to someone considering alternative staffing as an enterprise strategy in their community?
First, engage someone with staffing industry experience. Staffing is a challenging and dynamic business and having a team member who understands how staffing works can help you avoid a lot of missteps. Second, it’s critical to invest in good software systems for the job matching piece, to manage cash flow, and to track performance in order to manage effectively and document results.

To learn more, please visit Goodwill Staffing Services on the web.

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