For nearly three years, many employees have been working remotely because of the pandemic. Now, whether employers are choosing to stay fully remote, implement a hybrid model or make a full return to the office, several businesses are starting to make decisions about their post-pandemic workplace environments and requirements. But what do the employees want?  

Strategic Staffing Solutions President and CEO Cindy Pasky sits down with One Detroit contributor Nolan Finley of The Detroit News at the 2023 Detroit Policy Conference to learn more about the disruption COVID-19 caused to Detroit’s workforce, as well as how employees and employers are navigating the post-pandemic landscape.   

They talk about the increased number of people taking on gig economy and/or entrepreneurial ventures, employees’ shift in perspective, the organization’s efforts to find jobs for veterans and returning citizens, and the importance of those efforts to the organization. Plus, she gives her predictions for the future of Detroit’s job market and workforce development. 

Full Transcript:

Nolan Finley, The Detroit News: So we’re joined now by Cynthia Pasky, the chairman of Strategic Staffing Solutions, a longtime Detroit company, a longtime Detroit supporter. Cindy, thank you for joining us.

Cindy Pasky, CEO, Strategic Staffing Solutions: Oh, thank you, Nolan. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Nolan Finley: Cindy, your company provides workers for a lot of different kinds of companies. Tech business, other businesses, insurance companies. We went through this horrible workforce disruption in the pandemic. A lot of people dropped out. It’s hard to find workers. Has the ship righted? Are people coming back to work, are people looking for jobs again, and are employers looking for employees?

Cindy Pasky: Well, employers never stopped looking. In certain industries, they never stopped looking. So finance, energy, health care. They always had to look. Some employers obviously stop retail, transportation, things like that. So employers are continuing to look. They have a greater comfort level now as to getting their work done. The type of employees that are willing to come back, your high-tech workers, your finance people, your health care people. They’re looking for jobs. They want to engage, but they were with industries that kept working along through the pandemic.

I think part of what I don’t see a lot of conversation around is a lot of individuals found a way to make a living through the gray economy. And perhaps it’s not as lucrative as when they had a position, but it has the flexibility of their own schedule, their own roles, whether it’s being a person driving an Uber, delivering, or whether it’s cutting hair in their basement. So we still see a challenge with individuals that have said, I’m not sure I actually want to step back and take this position full time at the salon or take this position at the restaurant. I can make an income this way.

Nolan Finley: Flexibility is sort of the keyword in employment, right? The sort of business you run, where you take workers and put them with companies for a short period of time or maybe a long period of time. But not, I’m signing up for a lifetime job.

Cindy Pasky: Exactly.

Nolan Finley: I’m going to work here for a while, then maybe over here. Does that seem to be where workers are going today? They want that variety or flexibility.

Cindy Pasky: They want the variety. They want the flexibility. And I think one of the things that happened during the pandemic is they lost some of the fear of having that flexibility and having that variety. And they recognize that if they have a skill, they’re a valuable commodity and they don’t have to stay somewhere for ten years or 15 years.

Someone’s going to see value in what they bring and provide them another opportunity. So while it was a very fearful situation for so many reasons, one of the things that happened is people went, my talent has value. I shouldn’t be afraid to ask for what’s important to me and I shouldn’t assume I won’t find that next opportunity.

Nolan Finley: For a long time, people coming into these temporary positions at places like Ford or Blue Cross were sort of looked at as second-tier workers. Not full partners, if you will. Has that changed?

Cindy Pasky In some industries, specifically, it has changed. I think your energy industry. We have a very large energy customer that’s headquartered between Houston and California. And they refer to their talent as where the location is and who the partner is. Is it the customer’s talent in Houston, the customer’s talent in the Philippines, or the customer’s talent in Argentina? Is it ASTRI’s talent in Houston or ASTRI’s talent in Lithuania? So they don’t distinguish at all whether it’s their team member or their partner’s team member. All they say is who has the talent and what country are we looking for this talent to get our work done?

Nolan Finley: Obviously, demand is booming. Your company has grown tremendously over the years. You’re in how many countries? How many cities?

Cindy Pasky: We’re in 16 countries now. We opened in the Philippines during the pandemic. We have consultants working in Argentina, which we accomplished during the pandemic. And we just opened in Poland. And we have consultants in 48 states and brick-and-mortar in 23.

Nolan Finley: So how often do you put employees with a company, and they end up staying long-term at that company, taking jobs with that employer?

Cindy Pasky: In our world, the way that works is you work that out with the customer before the work begins because it’s a different interviewing process, right? You wouldn’t want to interview someone who has the mindset that they don’t want to hire in, and then you disappoint the customer when the customer offers them a job.

So you have to decide upfront and then you look for talent that says, yes, I’d like to have the opportunity to then convert. Each case is different, but it has to be pre-defined for us. That’s the ultimate compliment, right? If we did such a good job, the customer wants to hire the talent, then it means we really know what they need.

Nolan Finley: So you see why this is a good deal for employers. They can fill a need without long-term obligations. Why is it a good deal for the people taking the job?

Cindy Pasky: It’s a good deal because they have an opportunity to understand the environment, they’re going to be a part of, decide that they can bring value, understand the career paths that are there versus the career path and consulting, and know that they’ve earned an opportunity for that position. But they don’t have… On day one of the new job, they already have their orientation, they know people, they can bring value, and they also understand where they could guide themselves through to go forward.

Nolan Finley: What’s the average amount of time someone stays with your company taking jobs in different ways?

Cindy Pasky: We track it two ways. We track it for our core overhead team, which is our back office, payroll, and finance. That average tenure is 13 years. The average tenure with our consultants is between five and six. It’s pretty high.

Nolan Finley: You’ve had to be very innovative in staffing and finding people to take these jobs. You’ve been sort of a pioneer both in hiring veterans and in hiring former prison inmates, returning citizens. Why is that important to you and how has it worked out?

Cindy Pasky: It’s important because we believe… One of our pillars is to provide people an opportunity to change their station in life. And we live that every single day. We believe that when you look at a veteran, they have sacrificed part of their life to ensure that we have the freedoms that we believe in, that we need, and that we desire. They should have barriers removed to offset the fact that they weren’t in the workforce with someone their age for X number of years. They start out of the gate four years behind.

Nolan Finley: And returning citizens?

Cindy Pasky: And returning citizens. When someone’s gone through and said, I recognize that I’ve made a mistake, I have done what I need to do to rectify that, I have gathered a skill, and I want to be part of my family and I want to be part of the community. It would be so unfortunate if somebody didn’t recognize that they should be given that opportunity.

Nolan Finley: Do you run into hesitancy with employers when you try to place returning citizens?

Cindy Pasky: We used to but we have to… Remember we have a different customer base, so it’s focused on certain industries, but we’ve also been very upfront about it. And we create ways for them to do that. So we’ll hire them as our employees. We can have them work in one of our development centers. We can take all of the risk, which we will gladly do. And then six months to a year down the road, the customer’s like, you were right, now I want to hire this person. So it’s been a success. But we remove barriers not just for the person but for the customer.

Nolan Finley: As we said at the beginning, longtime Detroit chairman. You’re looking at Detroit post-pandemic. What do you see over the next five years?

Cindy Pasky: Oh, that’s a really good question. I wish I could see Detroit over the next five years. You know, where I see… We still don’t have enough jobs. We don’t have enough layers of jobs to have Detroiters go to work. We don’t have enough jobs, still, coming into our state and into our city.

I co-chair the mayor’s Workforce Board. I chair the governor’s Workforce Board. So I don’t say that this is an issue and not try and be part of the solution. But we don’t. We don’t have the right combination of jobs. I think everybody should have an opportunity to work. We continue to make success with that, and I believe Detroit will continue to prosper.

Nolan Finley: Cindy Pasky, chairman of Strategic Staffing Solutions, thanks for being with us today.

Cindy Pasky: Thank you, Nolan.

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