In April of 1860, the Pony Express made its first delivery from
St. Joseph, MO to San Francisco, CA. It took ten days to make the
trip and cost $5-in current day dollars more than $225-to mail half
an ounce. More than 115 years later, a series of deregulations
allowed private carriers to ship packages by air and for the first
time deliver them to and from all of the 48 contiguous states. In
1981, FedEx introduced Overnight Letters throughout the U.S. and in
1985 UPS followed suite with its Next Day Air service.

This new speed of delivery came about at the same time as Toyota
Motor Company’s new supply chain philosophy was coming to the
attention of Western manufacturers. Just-in-Time supply chains
eliminated waste by only receiving the product that was immediately
needed, saving warehousing costs and other waste related to buying
product before it was needed. Reliable express shipping was
critical to keep Just-in-Time systems working though since one
critical shipment being a day late could bring an assembly line to
a standstill and defeat all of the process’s benefits.

Reducing waste is an ongoing battle in every organization. In
the past several years, reducing human capital costs specifically
has gotten a renewed level of scrutiny. The recession prompted many
organizations to move once manual tasks into automated systems
providing long-term cost savings. Other organizations added more
contract staffing to their employee mix adding flexibility and
reduced scaling costs. Still other organizations have taken another
tack and whether consciously or only in effect, have moved their
staffing strategies to a Just-in-Time philosophy.

“In this economy, companies continue to focus on cost
containment, and one of the easiest way to keep costs low is to
leave vacant positions unfilled and limit the creation of new
positions until there is no other option,” says Rob Romaine,
president of MRINetwork. “They feel that they are saving money as
long as these positions are left open. But, when the need is truly
urgent, there is no overnight option.”

In February, there were 3.9 million job openings in the U.S., the
highest number openings since May 2008, but in March only 88,000
new jobs were filled.

Whereas it is easy to predict when a part or component will
arrive-all package carriers today have detailed tracking
features-when a new vice president of sales or director of
operations will be hired, on boarded, and begin operating at full
speed is a much looser science.

“Working with an industry expert recruiter will both reduce the
time to hire and help find people who will be up to full speed
faster. But, that time is still at minimum several weeks and
potentially several months,” says Romaine. “If the employee is
already needed, those weeks and months are going to turn into a
time when either customers are underserved, existing staff is
overworked, or both, which costs far more than is saved.”

The shift is that employers by and large stopped looking at
their business and their pipelines to project the need for more
staff several months down the line. Instead they wait until the
growth has already materialized to hire the staff needed to service
that growth. Deciding in May, that more staff will be needed in
August creates enough time for top candidates to be recruited and
onboarded before the additional capacity is needed.

“Using solutions like contract staffing adds agility to
workforce management and we have seen it being used increasingly in
recent years,” notes Romaine. “But workforce planning isn’t a short
term endeavor. In the big picture, hiring someone a few weeks or
even months before they are needed is a small price to pay to
ensure you have the talent when you need it. Business leaders need
to be able act on what they see on the horizon even when they know
their vision isn’t perfect.

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