[HJCC COVID-19 Conversation: Members Moving Forward] Kristi Inkinen Yanagihara (Owner, Remedy Intelligent Staffing)

Jill Kuramoto

About the Author
Jill Kuramoto is the Chief Communications Officer & Client Development Director of RKT Media. She has been a member of the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce since 2014.

Kristi Inkinen Yanagihara
Owner, Remedy Intelligent Staffing
[HJCC Board of Directors, HJCC Member since 2003]

How has your company adapted during this time? 

As the owner of Remedy Intelligent Staffing for the last twenty years, I’ve seen my company through two waves of economic depression: September 11, 2001 and the 2008 recession.  Like every company, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is nothing we had even conceived could happen and have been left with more questions than answers about how to handle the imploding job market, assist our clients and sustain our company in the immediate and long -term.

Traditionally, staffing companies have done well regardless of the state of the economy. In times when the economy is down, temporary or continent staffing offers companies the flexibility to hire without commitment. By allowing for flexibility, staffing companies help businesses add workers as production demands begin to rise.

COVID has brought a significant shift in the needs of businesses and the staffing that we’ve never before experienced. This has forced us to pivot and branch out to other areas of business that we had not serviced in the past and focus on addressing the needs of the community. For example, instead of a clerical data entry clerk, we are now placing candidates in essential industries like retail distribution warehouses, hospital temperature screeners.

I’m proud of my staff and how we were able to transition quickly in March to working remotely from our homes. We also adapted to communicating on virtual platforms like Zoom versus our daily in-person huddles and it’s been working well so far.

What has your company done to evolve and do you think this will continue into the future?

The pandemic reinforced the importance of engaging with customers, candidates and employees. Early on, we acknowledged that we are a true business partner with our company clients.  With the huge support and resources that our corporate office provides, we held weekly legal webinars focused on HR, along with compliance and safety issues related to COVID-19. We also provided weekly educational videos and tips our clients could utilize with their own staff in the workplace. We made it a practice to call each of our clients every few weeks to ask how they were doing, how their business was performing, and how we could be of assistance in any way. This personal outreach was important and beneficial to both our clients and our team.

Similarly, we focused on employee and candidate communications. We set them up with online support to help them with personal and professional development such as how to keep themselves safe in the workplace, interviewing skills on video and resources in the community to assist personal needs. These efforts have been tremendously important to maintain our relationships and be a true resource and partner during these ever-changing difficult times.

Over the past several months, we’ve also strengthened remote processes like video recruiting. Where before we could hold in person recruiting events and interview dozens of people in person in our downtown offices, we now use video conferencing. This has allowed us to increase the number of interviews we can conduct per week and as a result, we’re able to fill more jobs faster.  In addition, we have implemented a full application and onboarding process that can be completed remotely before a candidate starts their position.

These past few months have presented our company and others with challenges unlike any before. At the same time, it’s provided an opportunity to take a step back, rethink how we approach various aspects of our business, and make changes that will position us well for the future. It’s also reminded me how fortunate we are to be a part of the staffing industry and to play an important role in the success of companies and candidates.

With more companies allowing employees to work from home, how has that affected staffing and what do you think employment will look like going forward?

In the past, there has been a definite stigma attached to remote working. Some employers believed the production output was less or that hours spent on the job was not equal to being in the office.  However, through this pandemic, the traditional work style will likely change as working from home becomes the ideal solution for many local businesses. Indeed, it’s reasonable to expect that numerous businesses are simply not going to return to the office and may not do so even after a vaccine is found. While it’s fair to say that there are downsides to running a business remotely, the advantages can be too good to ignore. A company working remotely is certainly cheaper to manage and will be far more flexible in times of economic turbulence.

In staffing, contingent or temporary employees who are able to work from home now must shift to working independently and with little in person oversight from their managers.  Traditional “temps” that were utilized within the business, like receptionist and clerical support are no longer needed, and candidates with higher skill sets and greater work experience or capacities are now being sought after.  Those candidates are usually ones with great technical skills and the ability to work independently. With that said, managers are now working with no support person housed next to their offices and they need to manage their own clerical work or coordinate remotely with others. 

What advice do you have for other businesses? 

Companies must remain agile and flexible. Staying healthy, feeling safe, and being close to their loved ones are definitely employees’ biggest priorities right now. Companies must hear the concerns and opinions of their workers and be flexible with any accommodations that may be required, of course in reason. 

The ongoing socio-economic crisis has also affected consumer behavior. Companies need to adapt to business fluctuations and be ready with the necessary staff needed to continue operations.

The economic uncertainty caused by this crisis is forcing companies to take difficult measures, including layoffs or reducing quality in product or services in order to survive. These decisions won’t be forever.  At Remedy Staffing, we’re taking the approach of being a supportive and responsive partner through this ever changing economy and that’s something other companies can easily do as well.

What is one thing you learned from this experience so far?

I’d like to think I’m not alone in finding it ironic that all the annoying characteristics that the millennial generation is accused of such as chronic texting, apathetic work attire, and prioritizing work/life balance is everything that we’re now embracing in this new work world.  These days I’m finding that group texting is sometimes faster than a formal meeting and working from home does have its benefits. The traditional work environment has changed, most likely permanently, and we’re now having to accept and adapt to these changes. My office staff is many years younger than me but because they are comfortable with technology, the transition to online operations was quick and relatively seamless. So, rather than complain about the generation gap, we probably should be appreciative and more welcoming to this next generation of workers who will usher us into the new “normal.”  

[HJCC Member since 2003]
Remedy Intelligent Staffing is a nationwide professional staffing organization with over 50 years of recruiting and selection expertise to match job candidates with positions where they will succeed.  As the franchise division of Employbridge, the nation's largest industrial staffing company with over 400 locations, Remedy Intelligent Staffing is a national leader in workforce management solutions.

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