In an effort to improve the quality of temporary personnel hired at Hopkins divisions and to cut costs, the university has recently agreed to an exclusive three-year, renewable contract with Kelly Services.
Hopkins had previously subcontracted with four temp agencies, including Kelly, but, according to Audrey Smith, vice president for human resources, the persons hired did not always turn out to be a good fit for the positions.
"It has been a real challenge for us in the past," Smith said. "We've had some real problems with the quality of some temporary employees the university has hired, and that is something we certainly have to be concerned with."
As part of its arrangement with the university, Kelly Services has agreed to set up a downtown Baltimore office devoted to Hopkins hires. Smith said the dedicated office was a key factor in choosing Kelly, one of 13 agencies that bid on being the university's sole provider.
"We also looked at clients Kelly has served that were similar to Hopkins, and the references [they gave] were very good," Smith said. Kelly currently provides temporary help to local organizations such as University of Maryland at Baltimore County, Towson University, Helix Health and Magellan Health Services.
The problem with temporary hires in the past, according to Smith, was that they were sometimes mismatched with the position or department and weren't familiar enough with the university system. To alleviate that problem, Smith said, Kelly Services will offer a brief orientation to prospective candidates so they know a little about Hopkins before they come here.
"Kelly also will go out and directly advertise for temps to work at Hopkins and will screen the candidates who have the particular skills we are requesting," Smith said. "In the end, we feel by using one dedicated provider, Hopkins will have better qualified and more suited candidates to pick from when vacancies do occur."
In fiscal year 1999, the university had a $3 million budget for temporary help. According to a Kelly spokesperson, the average length of a temporary assignment is three months, but an assignment could last one day or several years.
Smith said the university negotiated a "very reasonable" fee with Kelly and hopes that having one provider will provide additional cost savings by reducing the turnover rate of staffing.
"In some cases, we had to hire four or five temps before we found one who was able to do the job," Smith said.
The contract, which went into effect on Nov. 19, 1999, states that Kelly will provide temporary help for departments at Homewood, Peabody and JHMI and for Hopkins affiliates around the Baltimore/Washington area. The Applied Physics Laboratory is not covered under the contract.
Although it is not mandatory for departments to hire temporary workers through Kelly, "we strongly encourage everyone to take advantage of this arrangement," Smith said.
Kelly begins providing help to the Homewood campus on Jan. 10. Other university divisions, based upon their size and need, will be phased in over a period of time; the School of Medicine is next in line.
Representatives of Kelly Services are currently meeting with Homewood office managers and department heads to understand their particular staffing needs. Kelly will provide chiefly short-term clerical and secretarial help, although temporary positions in other areas, such as light industrial, also will be filled by the agency.
Char Talmadge, regional sales manger for Kelly Services, said her agency is very excited about the opportunity to offer exclusive service to the university.
"As one of the largest employers around, Johns Hopkins is a premier account," Talmadge said. "And from a quality standpoint, we feel that when you can act as an organization's sole provider, you get a much better handle on the culture you are dealing with. So we feel that over time we'll be able to build a large pool of very qualified Hopkins temp employees."
The phone number for Kelly Services' dedicated Hopkins office is 410-332-4445.