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The Integration of the Staffing Industry
From World War II to 2016

From War-Time Need to Business Essential: The Integration of the Staffing Industry

June 29, 2016

A Look at the History of Staffing

The Start of Staffing Agencies

Imagine it’s World War II, and while men and women are overseas fighting, there are companies attempting to fill those positions left behind. You might be a factory owner, or run a banking office and suddenly you’re running your company at less than half of your normal capacity. Where in the world will you get these positions filled in a timely manner so your business doesn’t fail? Enter some of the most comprehensive and recognizable staffing agencies.

Some will argue that the history of staffing goes back further than the 1940s. There are in fact at least three known privately owned staffing companies from the 1890s in the history books. However, most placed domestic help and didn’t operate on a large (cross industry) scale until the immediate need was brought home to roost in the 1940s.

As our soldiers vacated their positions in record numbers to fight the good fight, there was an extreme lack of talent available to fulfill positions. The Midwest was the first to readily address business needs by recruiting local housewives to form a new part-time workforce for the United States. Once the war was over, these businesses continued by placing our now displaced soldiers in new positions. And so the cycle of finding and developing man power for multiple industries was formed into a profitable market.

staffing industryKelly Services Inc.

As one of the first well-know staffing agencies, Kelly Services Inc. was established in 1946 in Detroit, Michigan as Russell Kelly Office Service. Known around town and eventually the nation as Kelly Girl Services, the company boasted smiling women in advertisements. Available primarily for clerical work in a variety of industries, Kelly saw a boom in temporary assignments as business owners realized they could have a qualified individual ready to fill their clerical needs at a moments notice. The company has morphed over the years and is still operating, now on a global level. Today, Kelly Services provides more than just clerical work and now services industries such as automotive, technology, law, education, science and many others.

White Glove

1948 brought a “white glove” approach to the staffing scene. Able to skirt the existing union laws of the time by claiming temp work as “women’s work,” Wisconsin based Manpower Inc., along with Kelly Girls and other newly formed staffing companies, filled a market need without ruffling too many feathers on the opposition. Installing an iconic image of a woman working outside the home in clerical fields was an enormous success. By the 1960s companies were spending as much as $1 million in advertising and earning between $12 million and $24 million annually. That’s roughly $190 million today.

The Start of Temporary Staffing

The late 1960s and the early 1970s saw the rise of the “semi- permanent employee” – a mixed attempt at the staffing industry to negate the value of the employee and turn focus onto the work completed. Why pay someone who calls in sick? Shifting all your office needs to a temporary staffing company removes any need for the expense of the vacation days you would give to full time employees. Better to rent than to buy right? Every recession since has seen an increase in the temporary staffing workforce.

staffing agencyPresent Day Staffing Industry

According to the latest data provided by the American Staffing Association, there are approximately 20,000 staffing companies with over 39,000 offices in the United States. These companies place over three million workers each week, many whom move on to permanent job placement in their career field. Staffing companies will place everything from janitorial services to nurses, doctors and CEOs. Globally,  the numbers are difficult to find. Let’s just say global staffing is still on the rise and extremely profitable for those involved.

So whether you currently own a company looking for people, or provide those companies with the people they need, it appears as though our cultural embrace of the staffing industry will not be letting go anytime soon.

Author: Angelique C.