Since we started in 1999, ProActive has always found itself in situations where we are asked to differentiate ourselves from staffing companies. The main reason we’re asked this is because our rates are usually higher, but our clients know they are not comparing apples-to-apples. In fact, the ProActive model, while potentially having higher hourly rates, is usually more cost effective in the long run. Here are some of my thoughts on why a relationship with a company like ProActive might be a better solution than adding bodies from a staffing firm.
First, notice I said “might be a better solution”. Both models have their place. In fact, ProActive frequently uses staffing companies when adding new full-time people. And that is the key. If the need is a full-time person, whether in a temp-to-perm situation or when the need exists but a new employee position isn’t approved, staffing companies are the right fit. The staffing model is built around providing a person with specific skills sets for an internal team to manage. You are getting that one person and their skills. No more, no less.
The ProActive model is different in some very specific ways:
- ProActive’s goal is to help solve specific, identified issues or needs, not to provide a body in a chair 40+ hours per week solving issues as they arise and are assigned. The latter fits the staffing model while the former is the ProActive approach.
- With ProActive, you are not actually contracting for a specific person. Instead, you are contracting with ProActive to provide a solution. Obviously, there will be a primary person assigned, and we don’t move people to/from projects flippantly. However, what you are really doing is contracting with ProActive for our collective expertise, our wide-range of skills and our ability to deliver solutions. So, for example, even if a SQL Server Technology guru is the primary contact because the principal focus of a project centers around database needs, if specific .Net skills are needed, the entire ProActive team is accessible. Likewise, if need for testing arose, we’d recommend getting a qualified QA person to develop test plans and test instead of the SQL Server person. Our model is about applying the right skill set to the problem.
- Once the job is completed, the partnership remains. With staffing, the person usually must contract with another company or go without a paycheck. If a new need arises, that resource is usually no longer available. ProActive’s team has been together for a long time. We have very low turnover. The result is that people with knowledge gained from previous projects about a client will still be at ProActive months and years later. Even more importantly, they will likely be assigned to the subsequent project because it is the best way to provide the solution.
- Finally, the ProActive team is self-managed. Typically, a staff augmentation person will require management from the customer, just as any employee would. I don’t want to paint the picture that ProActive can be completely autonomous day one, and I am not suggesting that people found through staffing companies can’t be autonomous. But, there is a huge difference because of the role. The staffing person needs to be kept busy 40+ hours per week while ProActive has been hired to solve a specific problem. Early in the relationship, since we don’t know internal systems and procedures, we’ll need some guidance. But after a short period of time, clients find the entire ProActive team, whether helping with SQL Server technologies, .Net development or SharePoint, to be a highly self-managed, self-motivated and reliable team.
So if the goal is a body to simply extend the team without a full-time person or a one-off need, staffing can be the right solution.
However, if the goal is a longer term relationship with a company that provides solutions, and who, over time, will learn, maintain and apply knowledge about how a client works, ProActive is usually a better fit. On top of that, in the end, the total cost for the solution is usually lower as well.