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Temp Staffing Firms Lend a Hand

Vendor-on-premise model allows tech departments to contract the contractors and ease administrative burden associated with management of temporary hires.

Vendor-on-premise model allows tech departments to contract the contractors and ease administrative burden associated with management of temporary hires.

Maintaining adequate staffing may have been made marginally easier by the dot-com bust turning IT employment into a buyer's market. But finding the right employees is a challenge at any time. And in bust, as in boom, IT departments may face challenges that require ramping up an initiative more quickly than it takes to integrate new full-timers. Furthermore, if the project needs to ramp down just as rapidly, new staffers could be redundant.

All of which continues to fuel insurer interest in temporary IT workers. The kinds of professionals a company wants to bring on board has been affected by the economic downturn, says Raymond Chua, senior partner at T-house (Short Hills, NJ), a temporary staffing firm. "During the dot-com craze, companies were looking for strategy-oriented people, but the people I'm placing now on a project basis tend to be very specialized on the technology infrastructure side," he says.

Is IT Temping a Trend?

Chua sees no permanent shift toward temporary staffing, but says that the companies are now under pressure to meet immediate needs. "Companies have invested in infrastructure that was not market-tested," Chua says. "The cost of being an early adopter is that you don't know what's going to last and what isn't." Or who is going to last. "Some of the vendors that supported technology have gone away, and their former customers are the ones that need the most correction. Companies have realized that they made some wrong decisions and now need to rearchitect," Chua says.

Whatever the prevailing needs of the day, the option of bringing in a "contingent workforce" has become part of how business is done, according to Patricia Murray of Boston-based temporary staffing company Veritude, a spin-off—launched this summer—of Fidelity Investments (Boston). According to Murray, "on any given day, there are about 3 million employed on a temporary basis," and technology workers are especially well-suited to the trend. "Many technology workers prefer to be contractors and work from project to project," she says.

Veritude's managed services "vendor-on-premise" (VOP) solution allows companies to focus on their core competence, says Susan Yule, senior vice president, Veritude. "Companies get a management staff on site that is expert in recruiting, qualifying and administering an IT staff," she says. "That frees IT managers from having to spend all their time advertising, networking and screening resumes. It allows them to focus on their work while the VOP delivers qualified candidates for them to screen and interview." The number of Veritude representatives on site differs with the contracting company's needs, Yule says. In crafting a solution, Veritude creates a database for each customer. "We learn companies' skill sets and departmental needs and build a recruiting engine around that," according to Yule.

Among the benefits of the VOP model to insurance companies, Yule argues, is that "having a VOP manage that temporary workforce gives them the 'bandwidth' to staff up or down, according to transitory project needs, such as those arising from regulation such as HIPAA or things like Y2K."

Staffing for the Crunch

Ed McHugh, senior vice president of strategic services group, Fidelity Investments Life Insurance Co. ($11.5 billion in assets, Boston) uses Veritude to manage changing requirements for technology staffers. "As is often the case in high tech, there are various crunch periods in projects, and you don't need to staff to the maximum level of a project, so occasionally it's far better to bring in extra staff to get you through those crunch periods. Also sometimes you need very specific kinds of skills that you may not have on your regular staff," McHugh says.

Veritude supplies McHugh's group with two on-site staffing professionals. "We have one person that we work with primarily for technology staffing, and another for administrative employees," McHugh says. "They have a really good pulse on available talent, particularly the kind of skill sets we need. They also take care of the paper work I'd rather not deal with," according to McHugh.

"The things I like about Veritude is that they're here, they know our business, they take away the administrative burden and they source very highly qualified people," McHugh says. "The vendor-on-premise model has worked very well for us."

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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