A talent website the state of Michigan relaunched in mid-October includes bells and whistles like a career investment calculator enabling people to weigh their investment in higher education against the earning power of various careers.
But the site's second iteration—at www.mitalent.org, which replaced the Michigan Talent Bank on Oct. 16—also includes a provision that has alarmed some Michigan staffing companies.
Concerns from job seekers and employers prompted the state to block recruiters and staffing companies from viewing job seeker profiles on the site. The policy change came after job seekers reported aggressive recruiters were shopping their resumés to employers without their knowledge.
In addition, employers expressed concerns that staffing firms were competing with them for the best candidates.
"Previously, we had full access to search," said Kirk Hanna, director of government affairs for Troy, Michigan-based Kelly Services Inc.
"With the new guidelines, staffing firms are able to post positions but not search the talent."
The updated site incorporates 20-30 changes designed to enhance the experience of the job seeker or employer. The previous version was launched in December.
Amy Cell, senior vice president of talent enhancement for the Michigan Economic Development Corp., said the policy change was meant to alleviate the concerns from job seekers and employers.
"It's hard to find out who the bad actors are," she said. But "if we want job seekers to use this system and come back to it, we want to make sure they have a good experience."
Additionally, while recruiting and staffing companies have a key purpose in connecting job seekers with job opportunities, "sometimes they compete with employers," Cell said.
"Wherever possible, we want to make a direct connection between employers and job seekers because that was the feedback we were getting."
Cell said that by the end of last week she'd gotten calls from about 30 staffing and recruiting companies that were concerned with the policy. While the state is not changing the policy for now, a workaround is available.
The MEDC and its workforce system, MichiganWorks, are reviewing staffing companies and recruiters seeking full access on a case-by-case basis.
"Once we are sure they are connecting with MichiganWorks and taking advantage of the services ... and [their] pool of candidates and MichiganWorks validates their business practices, then we'll restore capability for the short term while we work on the long-term partnership with the staffing and recruiting industry."
The MEDC plans to begin meeting this week to plan phase-three improvements to the site, Cell said. That work will develop additional tools, such as a guide for those exploring a career path and enhanced functionality to guide staffing firms' and recruiters' use of the site, among other things.
Kelly Services learned of the new policy through other Michigan staffing firms in Pontiac, Flint and Grand Rapids, Hanna said. And in the absence of an active state affiliate for the American Staffing Association, which was also getting calls from staffing companies, Kelly contacted the MEDC.
"We were given a solution that will be in place for now," Hanna said.
"We have encouraged our branches to register themselves and to have a partnership with their local MichiganWorks director. My understanding is this is going to evolve."
Local Snelling Staffing Services franchisee Maura Ryan-Kaiser also called the MEDC, which informed her of the reasons it put the policy in place.
Ryan-Kaiser said her Michigan franchises in Auburn Hills, Southfield, Troy, Livonia and Taylor haven't yet been blocked from viewing resumés on the state's new talent site.
But that the policy exists at all may be a concern. As the economy improves, staffing firms are more likely to be the source of new positions because clients are more likely to want to try out new employees.
"The staffing and recruiting industry is pivotal to ... helping people find new jobs in the state of Michigan," Ryan-Kaiser said.
Other staffing and recruiting firms said they were unaware of the new policy.
"We use the Talent Bank almost every day," said Nancy Hanoosh, president of the Troy, Michigan-based boutique staffing firm Corporate Recruiters Inc. The company specializes in legal staffing and works with most of the large law firms in Detroit.
"We're constantly going on there to search for the most recent people who've been displaced, from paralegals to accounts receivable ... or marketing coordinators," she said.
Being able to do that helps the company, which does business as CRI Staffing & Transcription, fill open positions for clients, Hanoosh said.
"For people who are using [the site] for the right reasons ... we really are helping the general public in securing employment," she said.
On the other hand, Angott Search Group, a Rochester Hills, Michigan-based executive search firm, doesn't peruse the state's talent website much at all, given that it concentrates on middle-level and higher management searches for the finance, automotive and information technology industries -- and those people typically aren't registered to the Talent Bank, said President Mark Angott.
"If a company can go find someone using the Michigan Talent Bank or any job board, they're going to do that," he said. "And they're not going to pay a search firm our fees."
There are recruiters talked about in the industry who don't have a real job opportunity and may use a person's skills to gain entry to a placement for a company or shop those candidates around without their knowledge, Angott said.
"It would be unethical to do that," he said.
Among the terms and conditions for the site is one that alerts users that the MEDC is a public body and keeps records on information entered that could be accessed through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Regardless, Cell said, "I do think we have an obligation to provide a good experience for our job seekers, regardless of FOI."