Though Georgia’s unemployment rate is back to pre-pandemic levels, Renae Keitt, President of ARK Temporary Staffing, said the number of staffing requests her company has received has tripled.

“We’ve been experiencing an increase like we’ve never seen before,” she said. Not only have the requests for employees increased, but the number of employees per request has also gone up.

“They’re calling for 45 to 100 workers at a time,” said Alvin Keitt, Director of Business Development and Renae’s husband. “We’ve had to be more creative in sourcing workers.”

Fortunately, the family-run Lawrenceville-based temporary staffing company has a database of more than 20,000 applicants that they’ve gathered over the last 16 years. This robust pool of employees, coupled with ARK’s staff, which has a combined 50 years of placement experience, helps the company quickly evaluate applicants and fill open positions.

But even with their large database and skilled staff, the Keitts have also had to change the way they find workers to fulfill the increased volume of requests. “A lot of the sourcing tools we were using in the past are no longer relevant in today’s market,” Renae said. “It’s a tech world; it’s a fast world.”

ARK now connects with potential employees mostly through social media, text messaging and video calls to fulfill staffing requests in just about every industry, from warehouse workers to corporate positions to medical staff. Recently, there’s been a big shift to government staffing.

“We staffed the majority of the nurses at the Georgia Dome during the mass vaccination, and we staffed all of the COVID testing sites in Fulton County,” Alvin said.

Though the company has successfully changed its communication methods, it can still be tough to convince job-seekers looking for flexible work schedules and work-from-home opportunities to take work.

“I know for a while a lot of people were saying people don’t want to go back to work because of the extra unemployment. I don’t think that’s the driving force,” Alvin said. “When we call people and they say they’re not available for work, we’re digging in and trying to ask why. It’s usually a childcare or family situation where they’re afraid of getting infected and bringing it back into their homes. I haven’t heard anyone saying, ‘I’m not going back to work because I’m getting extra unemployment.’”

Another thing job seekers are looking for is higher pay, and it’s out there. According to a survey conducted by the Georgia Department of Labor, 69% of Georgia employers have increased pay scales to make their open positions more competitive in the job market.

“You can call them pandemic salaries if you like, but I call it a changing sign of the times,” Alvin said. “Before the pandemic, the average salary for warehouse workers was $10 to $12 an hour. Now it’s between $15 and $18 an hour. So, there’s been a huge shift in salary requirements.”

ARK works with clients to counsel them on competitive market rates, gives them feedback from staffing candidates and looks at other ways to make their positions more attractive.

Along with an increase in pay, Alvin said he has also seen an increase in staffing requests coming from small companies. Most of ARK’s clients are large companies or organizations, but with more open positions available than people to fill them, Alvin said smaller businesses are feeling consumed by the process of hiring.

“A lot of small business owners don’t have that luxury or the time to track down employees and run their business at the same time. It used to be that they would place an ad and people would call them. That’s not happening anymore,” he said. “With the market the way it is, you have to be aggressive and go out and find the people. We used to do all the interviewing, and now the employees are interviewing us.”

And ARK has the capacity to handle the time it now takes to find the right employee. ARK’s clients also get to test that employee before making any permanent decisions about adding them to the payroll. After 90 days on the job, ARK’s clients can decide if they want to end the employee’s contract, keep the employee for another temporary period, or convert them to a full-time employee.

“The biggest benefit of using temporary staffing agencies is that you can ‘test-drive’ the employee,” Alvin said. “The employee can look at your business and you can look at the employee and see if they’re going to be a fit for your company. Usually after 90 days, employers can make that decision and with ARK there’s no fees to convert after that time.”

“We like to say we’re an extension of your HR department,” he said. “And if you don’t have an HR department, why don’t you make us your HR department.”

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