"Risk management" isn't just a buzzword today, but an urgent business priority for companies across industries — and manufacturing and logistics is clearly no exception. Yet risk is also becoming more complex, as recent trends like the emergence of the gig economy and a greater reliance on contract workers continue to reshape the workforce.
With so much in flux, leading companies are increasingly turning to staffing partners to solve their most critical talent pain points. Beyond access to talent, these companies recognize that staffing partners can help them better manage a wide range of risks — everything from business interruptions to accidents, compliance and more — that impact bottom-line performance. These benefits are just a few of the reasons U.S. companies employ 3.2 million workers via staffing partners each week.
But how should manufacturing and logistics companies evaluate potential partners? And once a partner has been selected, what's the best approach in order to ensure successful implementation on the ground?
To power your success, we've got answers to these questions and more — so you can overcome risks that could derail your business in joint-employer environments.
essential criteria for evaluating potential partners
Working with the right staffing partner brings with it a host of benefits for manufacturing and logistics companies. But to see those benefits, you'll need to take an end-to-end view of risk — and that begins with your approach to evaluating partners.
Here are some key questions — organized around core elements of Prevention through Design (PtD) and risk control — that are crucial to consider when evaluating any potential staffing provider.
goals and expectations
- Start by looking at the procurement process. How is it incentivized internally? For example, is performance tied to the success and capabilities of recommended vendors, or does “successful procurement” just mean the lowest cost? Clearly defined goals and shared expectations are cornerstones of successful partnerships — and when it comes to managing risk, you can't afford to let the procurement process be disconnected from safety goals.
- Consider the performance metrics that matter to you, whether that means risk identification and communication, incident and injury reduction or candidate quality, wages and rates. How will these metrics be reinforced through specific interventions, such as risk assessments, site evaluations, training, communication and more?
- What will be the touchpoints between your organization and your staffing partner to ensure the success of your efforts? Leaders in risk-based thinking recognize that it’s easy to drift from good intentions — and that’s why defining and guarding these touchpoints is so critical.
- What site-specific information must be communicated? What follow-up methods will be used to verify retention of critical safety knowledge?
- Studies show that contingent workers can have lower risk awareness, and be at greater risk of injury, when conducting the same job activities as their full-time peers. So what hazards critical to safety — for instance, life safety, equipment safety or chemical safety — must be communicated to them? What serious injury or fatality exposures must be communicated? What follow-up methods will be used to confirm that key safety knowledge is not only being retained, but practiced every day on the job?
- What hazards are the most critical to safety outcomes at your worksite? See Appendix 2 in OSHA's Job Hazard Analysis workbook if you need help classifying these hazards.
front line supervisors
- How will front line supervisors be trained to communicate safety and manage your temporary and contingent workforce? How will front line supervisors manage workers’ tendency to do more than assignments require? Can they limit access to machinery, equipment, ladders and other high-risk processes? Are there opportunities to control the work environment during high-risk, non-standard work, such as equipment changeovers or sanitation tasks?
- How will assignments be managed? What escalation and approval processes should be in place in the event that you or your staffing partner need to alter assignments?
- Can peer-to-peer knowledge be leveraged to enhance problem solving, improve processes and uncover solutions? If so, what role should front line supervisors play?
These questions should help you not only evaluate vendors more rigorously, but also begin to think through what implementation looks like on the ground. And in the next section, we'll break down a framework to help you do so. By taking a structured approach, you'll be far better equipped to manage actions, timelines and expectations down the line.
the continual improvement cycle:
plan, do, check, act
The occupational health and safety (OH&S) management system ISO 45001 is an international standard and framework to help companies, regardless of industry, proactively manage risk in order to prevent work-related injuries and illness for employees. One central piece of the ISO framework is the plan-do-check-act (PDCA) cycle, which has proven especially valuable in the context of joint-employer environments.
To help you out, let's look at how some best-in-class manufacturing and logistics companies have put the PDCA cycle into action today in order to more effectively manage staffing partners and drive business outcomes.
- Establish key touch-points as well as a meeting cadence — say, monthly, quarterly or annually — for senior leadership to review goals, risks and progress.
- Define the factors that are critical to worker safety in your joint-employer environment, and implement ongoing injury-prevention activities aimed at addressing them.
- Identify metrics and leading indicators — for example, the number of trainings or safety interventions during a given timeframe — that matter the most to your organization.
- Ensure completion of all items identified during the "plan" phase.
- Record any successes, areas for improvement and course-corrections related to your safety planning activities. You should also be sure to record peripheral activities, such as near hits, root cause evaluation and compliance activities, in addition to creative items such as surveys from employees or front line supervisors.
- Document who between the primary and host employer owns each component of safety planning and preparation, with action items and target completion dates to keep everyone on track. This ensures all parties follow-through and helps safeguard against potential process breakdowns.
- Test the reliability of existing systems, including hazard identification, reporting, audit processes and safety committee communications, in order to mitigate potential drift.
- Manage and communicate changes on an ongoing basis.
- Understand deviations from planned safety methods and expectations.
- Ensure all team members, especially new(er) employees, understand not only the overarching goals, but why taking a proactive approach to safety is such an urgent priority.
- Identify and ensure resolution of any escalations related to items critical to safety.
- Communicate risks through an established hierarchy of leadership and controls.
- Celebrate wins and be sure to communicate risks removed as well as big-picture goals for the future.
- Ensure all items identified during the “check” phase are built into the next planning cycle.
By taking this structured approach, you and your staffing partner can ensure alignment and continually make progress toward your goals. With proper goal setting, clearly defined expectations and an established communication cadence, the journey to best-in-class should be within reach. And as you work in that direction, the PDCA process should serve as a simple, yet powerful tool to keep you and your partner on track.
Staffing partners bring considerable value and benefits to manufacturing and logistics companies today — yet realizing all of those benefits isn't always easy. And when primary and host employers aren't aligned on the management of current and future risks, the costs and drawbacks can quickly add up.
For these reasons and more, building a best-in-class joint-employer environment starts early. You need to ask the right questions when evaluating potential partners, then adopt a structured approach to implementation. Fortunately, armed with these insights from the safety experts at Randstad, you should be able to not only approach staffing partners with confidence, but ultimately uncover opportunities to drive your business forward — without increasing your risk exposure.