Make us your home page
Instagram

Tampa's Kforce leverages coming shift in U.S. work force to more temp jobs

TAMPA — In a state with a sticky 10.6 percent unemployment rate and a country where "economic recovery" means stumbling forward in concrete boots, it seems bizarre that so many companies nationwide still can't fill their job openings.

Meet Kforce. The Tampa company should hit a landmark $1 billion in revenue this year, making a good living matching companies that need to fill temporary but sophisticated jobs with people with those skill sets and experience.

If the employment scene in America were that simple, Kforce would do just fine. But there's more to this story. Company CEO David Dunkel sees a shift in the way many major corporations are hiring since suffering through the rough recession. Many companies slashed payrolls during the worst of times. But don't assume they will bring back nearly as many full-time workers during this recovery.

Companies have learned to operate leaner and meaner using more temporary workers.

"We believe temporary staffing penetration of the work force may achieve historic highs in the U.S. in this cycle," Dunkel recently told analysts. "Our clients' increasing desire for a more flexible work force," he said, "… may contribute to a sustained shift toward a flexible staffing model."

It's not unusual for companies to hire more "flex" or temporary project workers and fewer full-time employees early in a recovery. But after the major downsizings of 2007 to 2010, managers remain wary of the high expense of finding and adding full-time employees with benefits and health care plans. Business executives also want to avoid the extra hassle of another round of big layoffs should the U.S. double-dip back into a recession.

And this isn't a one-sided trend. More workers are embracing — some by necessity — the role of independent contractors, aided by firms like Kforce or others like the recent St. Petersburg startup called Back of the House. Such firms increasingly provide individual workers with administrative, bookkeeping, health insurance or benefits services.

It's all about remaining flexible in a fickle economy.

Flex hiring, Kforce says, will likely become "a bigger piece of the payroll dollar in the future." In 2010, the company says, 36 percent of new jobs were temporary placements.

In this second year of the economic recovery, the company's back to 99 percent of its prior peak revenue and 46 percent of prior peak earnings.

• • •

Step inside the enormous national recruiting center at Kforce's modern Tampa headquarters on Palm Avenue and bask in the intensity of a room that handles up to 300 (mostly) 20-somethings in headsets busy arranging job placements. This room is the heart of Kforce, where the company matches the needs of large client companies — including major drug companies, health care firms and other businesses seeking mostly temporary workers skilled in technology skills like Java programming, conversion of paper medical records to electronic medical records, accounting and other specialities.

The national recruiting center also scours social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn looking to build a deeper bench of candidates with the skills companies need now. A center in the Philippines takes over when the national recruiting center in Tampa is not open.

"There's more demand than we can handle," says a pleased Michael Blackman, Kforce corporate development chief and a 20-year veteran of the company. "That's counterintuitive to today's high unemployment rate."

No argument there. Overall, the nationwide ratio of unemployed workers to job openings is 4.7-1, with 3 million job openings in the country for 13.9 million unemployed. That means for much of the past 21/2 years, there has been no available job for at least three out of four unemployed workers.

Workers lacking the right skills is one big reason Kforce finds it hard to fill all the specialized jobs sought by its corporate clients.

• • •

Finding the right people to keep up with Kforce's own expansion has its challenges, too.

The company's national recruitment center, stretching the length of Kforce's headquarters, is run by Jennifer Cirrito. She's a no-nonsense manager with a master's degree in microbiology who joined Kforce's center six years ago and quickly rose in the ranks. Now she oversees a sea of cubicles, typically manned by college-educated men and women, most of them young.

Kforce recruits at local universities. In Kforce's aggressive sales culture, Cirrito says she looks for young, hungry people accustomed to adversity. The greater the applicant's track record in dealing with stress, the better.

"God knows they are going to get it here," says Blackman, only half in jest.

Blackman, who bears a passing resemblance to actor Dustin Hoffman, says one big factor behind Kforce's ability to grow and attract employees is the campus-style headquarters. The company occupied it nearly 10 years ago, the week after the terrorist events of Sept. 11, 2001.

The building's features include its own cafeteria, ample training rooms where Kforce clients come to explain their needs and train workers, a fitness room and even a popular basketball court out back. In cooler weather, Kforce employees can stroll to nearby Ybor City.

Slackers rarely survive the Kforce interview process. But Kforce enjoys some buzz among recent grads eager to put in the hours and who know there is the potential to make good money.

At this time in the economy, when a college degree can feel like it's lost so much of its clout, those kinds of jobs are looking better every day.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at [email protected]

.AT A GLANCE

Kforce

What it does: Provides flexible and permanent staffing to companies in technology, health care, accounting and other specialty areas.

Headquarters: Tampa, on western edge of Ybor City.

Started: 1966 as Romac & Associates.

Chief executive: David Dunkel, who owns about 3 million shares and received $8.2 million in compensation last year.

Employees: 2,000 full time, about 10,000 flex "consultants" at client companies.

Annual revenue: Approaching $1 billion annually; $262 million in the first quarter of 2011.

Earnings: $20.6 million in all of 2010, $4.8 million in the first quarter of 2011.

What "Kforce" stands for: Short for KnowledgeForce.

Stock trades: On Nasdaq, under KFRC ticker.

Tampa's Kforce leverages coming shift in U.S. work force to more temp jobs 07/15/11 [Last modified: Monday, July 18, 2011 10:53am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Carrollwood fitness center employs scientific protocol to help clients

    Business

    In 2005, Al Roach and Virginia Phillips, husband and wife, opened 20 Minutes to Fitness in Lakewood Ranch, and last month they opened the doors to their new location in Carrollwood.

    Preston Fisher, a personal fitness coach at 20 Minutes To Fitness, stands with an iPad while general manager/owner Angela Begin conducts an equipment demonstration. The iPad is used to track each client's information and progress. I also included one shot of just the equipment. The center recently opened in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  2. Olive Tree branches out to Wesley Chapel

    Business

    WESLEY CHAPEL — When it came time to open a second location of The Olive Tree, owners John and Donna Woelfel, decided that Wesley Chapel was the perfect place.

    The Olive Tree expands its offerings of "ultra premium?€ extra virgin olive oils (EVOO) to a second location in Wesley Chapel. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  3. Massachusetts firm buys Tampa's Element apartment tower

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Downtown Tampa's Element apartment tower sold this week to a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company that plans to upgrade the skyscraper's amenities and operate it long-term as a rental community.

    The Element apartment high-rise at 808 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa has been sold to a Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company. JIM DAMASKE  |  Times
  4. New York town approves Legoland proposal

    News

    GOSHEN, N.Y. — New York is one step closer to a Lego dreamland. Goshen, a small town about fifty miles northwest of the Big Apple, has approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park.

    A small New York town, Goshen approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park. Legoland Florida is in Winter Haven. [Times file  photo]
  5. Jordan Park to get $20 million makeover and new senior housing

    Real Estate

    By WAVENEY ANN MOORE

    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG —The St. Petersburg Housing Authority, which bought back the troubled Jordan Park public housing complex this year, plans to spend about $20 million to improve the 237-unit property and construct a new three-story building for …

    Jordan Park, the historic public housing complex, is back in the hands of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority. The agency is working to improve the 237-unit complex. But the latest plan to build a new three-story building for seniors will mean 31 families have to find new homes. [LARA CERRI   |   Tampa Bay Times]