Jenifer Lambert, Chief Revenue Officer, at TERRA Staffing Group, has over 20 years’ experience in the staffing industry – working across various roles ranging from recruiter to executive leadership. Jenifer is passionate not only about making the industry as a whole stronger – but also about inspiring her team at TERRA and helping to grow high performing individuals at her firm.

Inavero’s CEO and founder, Eric Gregg, recently sat down with Jenifer to discuss how TERRA Staffing Group has harnessed a caring culture to grow their business and defy industry standards of service excellence. You can read their discussion below!

Eric: Can you tell us about the philosophy that anchors TERRA’s approach to the candidate experience?

Jenifer: When my mother started TERRA Staffing Group 35 years ago, she was anchored by her desire to lead a business that, at its core, helps people. This was a driving force for the vision of our company from the beginning – and it has never been more important than it is today. We are competing against the negative reputation that our industry (as a whole) has earned with clients and job seekers.

At TERRA, we are quite aware of this perception. And our approach to changing this reputation isn’t ‘magic’ – it’s about caring for candidates through their entire journey with us. We have come to terms with the fact that while we can’t always make everyone happy, we can still provide a great level of service to everyone. Even when things go wrong, it’s our job to offer support and leave everyone’s dignity intact. I see my mom’s legacy in TERRA every day as we strive to create success stories for the people we serve.


Eric: How have you managed to build the idea of “service” as a performance metric across TERRA’s multiple locations and service areas?

Jenifer: First and foremost, we quantify our service levels using the Net Promoter® Score. We started surveying our client base for the first time 7 years ago, and in 2016 we recognized the missed opportunity for engaging with our candidates more frequently. In today’s job market, the single largest barrier to our organization’s growth is the ability to attract and retain talent to deliver for our clients.

We survey our candidates at 3 points in their engagement (onboarding, mid, and end-of assignment). We work really hard to maintain our NPS ratings and response rates so we can get ahead of any potential issues and celebrate service wins on an on-going, real-time basis. For example, one of the expected agenda items at all of our quarterly company meetings (125 people across 3 states) is how we’re doing collectively at talent engagement. We highlight the most improved branches and share inside stories from the various branches that act as learning opportunities for the whole company. Last, but not least, we participate in the Best of Staffing award for talent satisfaction on an annual basis to ensure we’re stacking up to service standards of excellence in our industry. If we’re not on that list every year, we know there’s a problem.


Eric: Looking at all the different stages of a candidate’s assignment, what do you believe to be the most critical point of engagement?

Jenifer: They’re all important, but we are finding that a candidate’s experience and level of satisfaction mid-assignment is critical, and it often gets neglected. We all have a vested interest in the onboarding process and there’s a lot of engagement that happens at the end of the assignment (for better or worse), but the midpoint is where candidates can feel forgotten – and it’s generally where we see our NPS dip. There’s a real practical benefit to caring throughout the entirety of the process. We get angry when candidates bail on us during an assignment, but when that person feels uncared for, we can’t be surprised when they leave. When we’re perceived as an apathetic partner, that’s completely on us. We have an opportunity to be more proactive in checking in and initiating engagement.


Eric: Let’s discuss your team’s day-to-day candidate experience efforts – how are individual team members held accountable to TERRA’s service standards?

Jenifer: This practice varies by branch. Our highest performing branches (those that receive the highest NPS) have built a review cycle into the daily or weekly rhythm of the branch. For example, one of our top NPS branches has a daily stand up meeting where the branch manager goes over any mentionable feedback that was received the day before. It gives them an opportunity to celebrate team members for being recognized while also addressing any negative feedback from candidates. We’ve found that, over time, our recruiters’ numbers continue to improve – not only because managers intervene to address issues, but also because the team begins to own their own performance and a natural evolution from “good” service to “great” service occurs. I and other members of our Executive Team also support these individual moments of recognition and accountability. I have a calendar item to look at feedback weekly and send a “thank you” email (along with some cheerleading) to team members who have exceeded expectations.


Eric: What has been your biggest “aha moment!” from surveying your candidates? 

Jenifer: What never ceases to take my breath away is how easy it is to provide a great experience. It really isn’t complicated. It comes down to caring, and holding yourself accountable to caring 100% of the time. The things people will thank us for are sometimes heartbreakingly simple – “you made sure I got paid on time” or “I couldn’t get into the building and you were there to help me get into the door.” There’s no algorithm for caring. How would you treat this person if they were your family member or friend?


Eric: For someone who is ready to survey their candidates, what is one piece of advice you’d offer them?

Jenifer: Set aside your ego. There are a lot of stories we tell ourselves – for example, “we can’t win in the industrial space or it’s so much easier to serve [fill in the blank] industry”, but it’s not true. Regardless of sector – there are challenges. It comes down to the story that you’re telling yourself about the service you’re able to provide. Data is a beautiful thing. Ask the question and be brave enough to look at the honest answer. I love this business, and the rewards will go to the companies that care. If you don’t care about people, please do something else because you’re hurting the industry.


About TERRA Staffing
TERRA Staffing Group is a leading provider of industrial, administrative and technical staffing services. Headquartered in the Seattle area, TERRA has 11 locations serving employers and job seekers in WA, OR and AZ.

TERRA stands out for the exceptional service they provide to their candidates, and has proven their service excellence as a Best of Staffing winner for talent satisfaction for 3 years running – an award based exclusively on ratings from their candidates. They are also the proud to be a Best of Staffing winner for client satisfaction for 7 consecutive years.


Interested in surveying your candidates?
Inavero can help! With more than 10 years of experience helping staffing firms maximize their client and talent satisfaction scores, we can help you build a powerful survey program to support organizational growth. Contact the Inavero team to discuss our satisfaction survey and talent engagement solutions for the staffing industry.