From engineering and technology to health care, advanced manufacturing, and many other fields, the highly publicized "skills gap" is a real challenge for many companies. For the past 10 years, companies report they've had trouble filling jobs because of a lack of available talent, and that bringing top talent on board is often a slow and frustrating process.

One simple solution is to enlist the help of staffing firms. Staffing firms "match companies' needs with a global workforce of specialized labor," explains Jeffrey Neal, chief marketing officer at Kforce, a leading professional staffing services firm specializing in Technology and Finance & Accounting. This enables businesses to adapt to changes in supply and demand as well as their own rapidly evolving business needs.

Time is of the essence. The unemployment rate hit an eight-year low in January, at 4.9 percent, and is even lower among college graduates. Top talent is often off the market within 48 hours or less, according to Kforce.

Job seekers with technology prowess are especially hot commodities. "Almost all companies have some technology needs-it's not just tech companies anymore," observes Neal. "For example, you now have healthcare providers competing against the most innovative tech companies for the same talent. That has been a very big shift."

Another shift has been the surge in temporary workers, known as the contingent workforce. According to the American Staffing Association, more than three million temporary and contract employees work for America's staffing companies in an average week.

Neal notes that businesses' embrace of the contingent workforce gained real momentum after the Great Recession. Just-in-time labor emerged as a tool for facilitating nimbleness and flexibility. "There is now strategic awareness at the executive level, and we have seen a real advancement in the way projects are built. They're often designed to include staffing strategies in their execution," he says.

The word strategic is key here. "Clients have become more strategic in their engagement with us, just as they have become more strategic in their use of just-in-time talent to drive productivity and cost-effectiveness," says Neal. Neal notes that staffing firms also help businesses navigate through this increasingly complex regulatory environment. "This is a big concern, as there are heavy penalties associated with compliance and reporting for any size company," he says.

Businesses are also taking more time to educate their recruiting partners about their business goals and company culture. Staffing firms then act as marketing enterprises, pitching a business to a pool of candidates, many of whom have chosen to work as consultants rather than seek long-term employment.

Today's top candidates often have the luxury of being very selective, and understandably so: They know their skills could make all the difference for a growing business. That's why your company should consider partnering with a staffing firm that can help you find and hire the best, on whatever terms make the most sense for both your company and the new hires. "Think about what propels companies from the startup stage to something truly significant," Neal says. "At the heart of the matter, it is all about your people. Who you surround yourself with makes all the difference.

Published on: May 26, 2016