Presents findings on how alternative staffing organizations can help in employing disadvantaged workers in short-term placements that may turn into permanent hires.

“Alternative staffing organizations (ASOs) use the temporary staffing business model to help hard-to-employ individuals secure work. Like conventional firms, ASOs provide staffing services to employers for a fee, but they place a greater focus on the well-being of the worker than a conventional staffing firm would. Rigorous research is lacking on the impact that ASOs produce in the lives of their workers; however, since tryout employment has become more routine, the model deserves further exploration as an employment strategy for workers with barriers” (p.iii).


“MRDC launched an effort to better understand the potential of the ASO model to employ disadvantaged workers at greater scale and the feasibility of conducting rigorous tests to establish evidence of their impact on workers. As part of this research, MDRC collected information on the sector from the Alliance and visited three ASOs across the country to interview staff and conduct observations.


In order to build on the findings from the earlier demonstration by CSP and P/PV researchers, MDRC visited three independent ASOs in November and December 2014: DePaul Industries, headquartered in Portland, Oregon; First Step Staffing in Atlanta; and TeenForce in San Jose, California. The ASOs are different in size (from 200 to 3,000 individuals served annually) and target population (individuals with disabilities, the homeless, and youth, respectively)” (p. 10).


(Abstractor: Author)


Full publication title: Temporary Staffing for the Hard-to-Employ: Findings from a Brief Study of Alternative Staffing Organizations

Major Findings & Recommendations

“Taken together, the three ASOs featured in this paper present an instructive range of organizations pursuing and looking to expand alternative staffing models that serve disadvantaged job seekers. Information collected from the ASOs and the Alternative Staffing Alliance, as well as knowledge developed from the demonstration project, point to the following key takeaways on the current state of, and prospects for, the alternative staffing sector” (p. 8). Key findings: • The core of the ASO model is rapid, transitional employment that yields immediate income and work experience for disadvantaged workers, with limited supports to boost job retention. ASOs rely on partnerships with community-based organizations to recruit workers who have received some supports to be ‘job-ready.’ Postplacement job coaching is the most common form of support provided by ASOs. • ASOs appear to fill a gap in workforce intermediation for low-skilled workers in regional labor markets. ASOs that participated in this research believe they are better able to meet the needs of employers for low-skilled workers because conventional staffing firms do not pay as close attention to matching candidates to the specific needs of the customer business. • In order to create job opportunities for the hard-to-employ and engage private employers on a large scale, ASOs have to build the capacity to run a viable, competitive business, while balancing their social mission. This includes understanding the dynamics of the local labor market and the needs of employers, as well as investments in sales and management staff with expertise in the for-profit staffing industry. “In order to be successful, ASOs have to: • Be demand-driven. They have to understand in depth and detail the supply and demand dynamics of the local labor market and its relevant micro-markets, in order to deliver entry level workers who meet existing and emerging needs” (p. 10). • “Invest in sales and management staff with expertise in the private sector, especially in the for-profit staffing industry. ASOs need staff who can balance their social mission with the bottom line and run a high-performing business (which in turn is crucial to the mission of creating job opportunities for disadvantaged workers)” (p. 10). • “Build external partnerships with service providers who help the staffing organization deliver job-ready employees who can do quality work” (p. 10). • “Invest in marketing and building a track record of success. ASOs have to market their services and performance records aggressively to build a brand that employers recognize and trust in their local market” (p. 10). (Abstractor: Author)