When Rental and Staging Systems prepared to go to print with its first national Directory of AV Services a few years back, staffing companies were called "Labor Brokers" in the registration forms. Immediately, I called the editor and asked if that title could be changed to Audio Visual Technical Staffing Firms. It was changed before it went to print.
It had occurred to me several years before, when we were changing our yearly calendars, that our company should no longer use "Audio Visual Technical Labor" as a description of the service. We were in business some 15 years, and we had evolved into a staffing firm with highly specialized services. It also made sense to my staff, technicians, and clients. Now we are appealing to the entire industry to change the description of "Labor" into "Staff."
Staging companies that make this conscious effort to avoid the word "labor" and to show the technicians the respect they deserve will get improved performance from that staff. Dont forget "You get what you give." These men and women work hard and accept everything from four-hour calls to 14 full days of work in a row. This is hard work, and the equipment does not function properly without the experience these professionals bring to every event.
The role of a freelance technician certainly has evolved into much more than just a days work. Due to the cost of sending their own technicians from city to city, clients are depending on freelance technician more and more to complement their own staff. If a client is comfortable with a staffing firm, then they are more often at ease with requesting a certain skill set that they require on a show site. There have been shows that have required all the top talent locally, and it has worked out as if it were the clients own top people performing the work. With enough notice and excellent show management, a staffing firm can produce an entire event with mostly local people.
After 9/11 the pool of freelance technicians dwindled, and some of them moved into other areas of the business or out of the industry completely. Some went the IT route; many more producers went on their own; and some people moved into the growing integrated side of the business.
But I can safely say that this year has been the best we have had since 9/11. (Usually the staffing companies in the country are the first to see the economy turning around, according to The American Staffing Association.) We have also seen many long-term temporary positions turn into secure full-time jobs for our technicians this year. This is a positive trend that I believe will continue through and into next year.
Also, education is becoming a requirement by our client base. At Immediate Connections, we have been sponsoring many of our technicians through InfoComms on-line training classes and they are becoming certified. With this training and our own in-house sessions, our people are better trained and ready to perform at their highest capacity.
Many staging companies routinely use temporary help. I would encourage them, while they are engaging that help, that a little adjustment in language can even impact their companys image and, possibly, their bottom line. As a sales tool, referencing to "Professional AV Staffing" enhances a companys professionalism and dedication to providing a quality product. And on the back end, costs associated with "Professional Staffing" are more easily explained and accepted than the plain old everyday "labor" word.
And remember, the "best" get booked first. Make staffing your first or second priority on your complicated lists for producing your shows. n