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“Why people are a company’s greatest asset” with James Essey of TemPositions

Coming from my extensive background in the staffing industry, I can confidently say that people are a company’s greatest asset. You can have all the resources in the world, but unless your people are motivated and dedicated towards accomplishing your company’s vision, you will achieve a fraction of your potential. Companies and people evolve over […]


Coming from my extensive background in the staffing industry, I can confidently say that people are a company’s greatest asset. You can have all the resources in the world, but unless your people are motivated and dedicated towards accomplishing your company’s vision, you will achieve a fraction of your potential. Companies and people evolve over time. Any company that wishes to boost employee happiness and employee engagement needs to constantly reevaluate and align employee goals with company goals. This is much easier said than done.


I had the pleasure of interviewing James Essey, President/CEO of the TemPositions Group of Companies. Since joining the TemPositions Group of Companies, one of the nation’s largest regional staffing firms, in 1985, Jim has focused the firm on developing a number of niche businesses, heading each with industry experts. He has also been responsible for the closing of 15 acquisitions. Through his efforts, TemPositions is one of the true full service staffing companies in the market today. In 2004, Jim was honored by his peers by being elected Chairman of the American Staffing Association (ASA), the industry’s national trade association. Prior, he served as Chair of the National Chapter Leadership Council and served for five years as President of the New York Staffing Association (NYSA) where he was a recipient of the NYSA’s New Yorker Award, for outstanding service to the industry. He now serves as Chairman of the ASA Legal/Legislative Committee. In that role, he has helped shape the industry’s position as relates to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and speaks widely on the topic to industry groups. On behalf of NYSA, Jim worked first with the NY City Council and then the Department of Consumer Affairs on the provisions of the Earned Sick Pay Act as they related to employees of staffing firms.


Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I am in a family business, so I grew up knowing I would work in staffing. Smartly, after I graduated from business school my father insisted I work for a different company. That was good advice and allowed me, five years later, to come into the family business with my own ideas. Ultimately, those ideas transformed our company from a small office staffing support service to one of the largest regional staffing firms. We now serve multiple areas besides office support, including health care, accounting and finance, education, hospitality, legal, human resources, and light industrial services.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I was getting out of a cab with a friend who owns a competing staffing firm. As we’re saying goodbye, he mentioned an idea for clients to place orders online and for talent to receive and accept assignments online. It was like a light went off in my head. I realized that was the way for us to truly revolutionize the way we conduct our business. An online platform would let us interact with and service our clients and employees quicker and easier.

So that very week we hired several developers to begin work on what would become our Client Web Access and Employee Web Access systems. Today we have gone a step further to “uberize” our business by adding state-of-the-art mobile apps for our employees and our clients, developing one of the most sophisticated online ordering mobile apps in existence. All from that 2-minute parting conversation.

Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We have developed a proprietary applicant tracking system that allows our clients to hire employees on a 24/7/365 basis. On the other side, we have developed an employee platform that allows employees full transparency and 24/7/365 access to their schedules, billable hours, open job positions, and more. After using versions of this system, in-house, for many years, we have decided to commercialize it and make it available to other staffing firms. We’ve built a development team in Chile to make these changes and are looking for a first quarter 2020 launch.

This will allow staffing firms to connect employers with candidates much faster and more efficiently than has ever been done before.

According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?

When you look at the other statistics in the article, it’s easy to understand some major weaknesses in the industry today.

CareerBuilder says 58% of managers don’t receive training. General studies say 79% of people quit their job due to “lack of appreciation.” And at the same time, recognition is revealed to be the number one thing a manager can give their employees.

Managing a team is much more than being the most productive member. A large part of being a successful manager is making sure that your team is thriving and developing on a professional level. Every team has goals, benchmarks, KPIs, and deadlines. Not only is it the manager’s duty to make sure that the company fulfills its goals, but it’s also the manager’s duty to make sure that their team is recognized for their accomplishments.

If 100% of managers were trained on how to motivate their team to do good work and how to recognize them both publicly and privately for their efforts, I believe appreciation and happiness indexes would improve.

Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?

An engaged workforce is essential for a company wishing to accomplish its goals. Productivity, profitability, and employee health and wellbeing are all affected by a company’s ability to engage with its workforce.

We’ve already established that employee happiness is related to management effectiveness. When employees do not feel that their hard work is appreciated, they are disincentivized to perform. They still feel the urgency and pressure of completing an assignment but miss out on the reward and satisfaction. This inevitably leads to lower productivity, profitability, employee health, and wellbeing.

Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?

VISION:

Make sure everyone understands the company’s vision, so they can all push towards a common goal. This year we initiated quarterly “Town Hall” meetings where everyone gets together either in the office or virtually via a web portal to hear a review of what happened in the quarter and what we plan for the next one. In addition, each week, we have an all company huddle (again either in person or virtually) where we share successes for the current week and fine tune goals for the next one,

COLLABORATION:

Provide lots of opportunities for employees to work together. It creates stronger relationships and improves results. We have established a number of committees where employees from across divisions get together to work on a common goal. An example is our Spirit Committee which plans events to keep morale high, or our charity works committee, which thinks of opportunities to involve our staff in giving back to the community, or our training committee, which identifies training needs across the company and then develops a plan to address them.

ENVIRONMENT:

People spend more time at work than anyplace else. Be sure it’s a place they want to come to. We recently moved our headquarters office to a new location. We secured a space with amazing views of Manhattan and provided new furniture in an open set up, allowing teams to work together for greater collaboration. Our new space includes a large open pantry where people can sit together and have lunch (rather than going out) and a 1,500 sq foot gaming area which includes pool and ping pong tables, air hockey, Xbox, basketball, darts and foosball. It’s a terrific place for people to have some fun during lunch, after work or during our happy hours.

RECOGNITION:

Individuals are motivated by more than money. Find opportunities to celebrate the work people do both publicly and privately.

FUN:

Let’s face it — they call it work for a reason. But people need a break. Be sure there are reasons for employees to smile — whether through group meetings, a game room, or email communication.

It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?

Coming from my extensive background in the staffing industry, I can confidently say that people are a company’s greatest asset. You can have all the resources in the world, but unless your people are motivated and dedicated towards accomplishing your company’s vision, you will achieve a fraction of your potential. Companies and people evolve over time. Any company that wishes to boost employee happiness and employee engagement needs to constantly reevaluate and align employee goals with company goals. This is much easier said than done.

How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?

I believe in leading by example. For example, you can’t ask someone to work long hours, if you yourself aren’t willing to work those as well. In addition, when I hire a new employee or put someone on a new project I try to work very closely with them during the initial stages helping them plan the approach and modeling behavior. But then it’s very important to give them the chance to succeed on their own, so I like to step back, have regular update meetings with them, and give them space to prove they were the right person for the job.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am in a family business. I’m the second generation. A fraction of businesses succeed into the second generation. I owe our overall success and my personal success to the management style of my dad. He made sure I learned business skills outside of his company before joining and once joining he gave me progressive responsibilities so that I could grow in the role and ultimately have what it took to lead the company.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Absolutely. We bring goodness to the world with every candidate our company places. We provide companies with high quality employees and we provide job seekers with employment opportunities which allow them to support themselves and their families. Because we care about the communities in which we operate, we have set up the TemPositions Community Service fund which donates 5% of our profits to not-for-profit entities (many of whom are our clients) within our service area.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My dad once said to me that I am free to take on responsibility in life, but once I take on that responsibility I should be sure that I deliver. In other words, once you take on a job give your best effort to make it successful. I use that philosophy in the way I grow our business and volunteer to sit on boards. I don’t want to just lend my name. Instead I want to be sure that if I get involved the project will be greatly improved because of my involvement.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would like to tip the scales of the American prison system to shift from punishment to rehabilitation. A large part of that shift would involve job training programs. I firmly believe that these programs would help reduce recidivism and provide a substantial benefit to communities affected by high crime rates. Connected with that, we need a return to vocational education in the schools through programs that provide apprenticeships. If we can make sure to give students the tools they need (either through academic programs or vocational programs) we can be sure individuals have a way to earn an income and support their families without having to resort to crime to survive.

Thank you for these great insights!

— –

About the author:

Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.

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