For many, the words “staffing service” sound like “temp agency.” Production Support Services (PSS) is many things, but it isn’t a temp agency. PSS works with its clients to provide manufacturing, light industrial and clerical staff, often consisting of college and international students working on J-1 visas. The J-1 visa offers cultural and educational exchange opportunities in the U.S. through a variety of programs overseen by the U.S. State Department.
General manager Jennifer Christian says, “Our business is like a partnership in the sense that we don’t provide day labor; these are long-term relationships, but it would be more accurate to say that the businesses we staff are a customer or a client.” Christian started with the company in 1994, working as a skilled assembler in a local manufacturing facility but quickly climbed the company ladder. “I became a sight manager at that facility, then a supervisor and finally general manager here at the main office.”
Discerning for whom a PSS employee works can be a bit confusing, and Christian sometimes uses the term “coemployment.” The businesses that PSS staffs are referred to as clients, and the individuals who make up the staff are considered PSS employees, though they may work at any one of a number of businesses.The client has a great deal of control over the workforce; he or she counsels, trains and coaches. Meanwhile Production Support Services handles concerns, such as corrective action, workers’ compensation claims and the ultimate decision-making on terminations.
As part of its “Temp-to-Hire” service, a company will conduct its own interviews and handle the hiring process but can mitigate some of the risk associated with new hires by bringing the individual to the company through PSS. In such cases, PSS will handle payroll, workers’ compensation and payment of unemployment insurance. After a successful trial period, the employee will be released to the client, no longer a PSS employee.
Companies can also essentially outsource their human resources department to PSS, by using the “Direct Hire” service. Here, the business assumes the role of a recruiting agency, and the individuals hired are never considered a PSS employee.
The companies PSS works for often have a fluctuating need for staff. One such company was in the process of fine tuning its manufacturing process: initially, the automated manufacturing system was producing substandard product and required greater human intervention. Eventually all of the kinks were worked out and the need for staff dropped, so the agreement with PSS allowed them to easily streamline the workforce and reduce costs.
Another company has contracts with different professional sports teams across the country to produce merchandise and memorabilia, such as refrigerator magnets, tire covers and trash cans. The demands in production entirely depend on what kind of season these teams are experiencing. “If the Minnesota Vikings are having a great season and they’re headed to the playoffs, then we know we’ll need to fill our client’s increased staffing needs,” Christian says.
Other reasons a company might look to PSS to fill its staffing needs are based on PSS’s ability to manage employees. “We’re a twist on management. We’re hands on and more involved than most staffing agencies that don’t really know their employees. We have onsite managers who get to know our employees well,” Christian says.
Working through PSS has its advantages for the employee as well. Due to lack of skill-set, a person may not be able to get a job in a particular company. That person can come in through PSS, and once in the door, build the necessary skills to move up within that company. An over-qualified individual might take an entry-level job in a company through PSS and have access to intra-company employment bulletin boards that make it easier to find a more suitable position.
Advancements in technology are changing the business landscape. For PSS, this means an overall reduction in staffing needs and changes in the types of positions that must be filled. “One of our clients has done away with traditional carousel-type assembly lines in favor of smaller-type assembly in tighter spaces. This just doesn’t require as many people, and most of the material handlers have been replaced by robots that move throughout the plant,” Christian says. Another client has moved towards automation, reducing the need for unskilled workers but increasing the demand for technically skilled workers who can service the new systems.
“I didn’t have a computer when I started here,” says Christian. “I had a pad and a pen. But I’d say that tech-wise we’ve come a long way; with hiring, we have to work within strict guidelines, and technology has allowed us to look at backgrounds, insuring quality staff for our clients. And websites like Craigslist, Indeed and Monster have been a huge help for us in the hiring process.”
The Neo-Luddites (a leaderless movement of non-affiliated groups who resist modern technologies and dictate a return of some or all technologies to a more primitive level) might disagree, but technology will never completely eliminate the need for skilled human workers, and Production Support Services will be there to help its clients find the best staff possible.
Christian enjoys spending time with her husband and son. She is an avid saltwater fisherman, basketball fan and coach. She has coached recreation and AAU girls basketball.
TO YOUR HEALTH:
Production Support Services
Address: 11834 Canon Blvd., Newport News, VA 23606
Contact: Jennifer Christian, general manager