Jobs to go

For companies like Anderson & Associates, the down economy means more clients in search of work

Joy Anderson Kimball has been matching employers with employees in Chico for three decades.

Joy Anderson Kimball has been matching employers with employees in Chico for three decades.

Photo By Stacey Kennelly

Joy Anderson Kimball knows the ups and downs of the economy—and its effect on employment opportunities at local businesses—quite well. In the last 32 years, she has seen four economic recessions.

This one is different.

“This one is longer, and it’s been more across the board. It hit everybody,” she said with a sigh.

Kimball, owner and president of Anderson & Associates Inc.—an agency that provides temporary and regular staff personnel to a slew of local companies in a variety of industries—started noticing an increase in job seekers in the Chico area about three years ago. But she’s kept really busy for the last two years, since businesses have been forced to make huge cuts in staff, she said.

“I always say, two years ago they cut to the bone. And last year, they cut into the bone.”

And when unemployment numbers are high and businesses are struggling, Kimball’s role in the community becomes increasingly important—both to job seekers and the companies that need multi-skilled, qualified employees more than ever.

Kimball has spent the last 30 years getting to know companies in the Chico area that belong to just about every industry imaginable—including agriculture, manufacturing and food processing, retail and restaurant businesses, and medical, accounting and professional offices, to name a few. She got into the staffing business in the late 1970s when she moved to Chico from Montana. While she had a background in teaching, she needed a stable income. Anderson & Associates was born with Kimball in charge and just two other employees.

Anderson & Associates has two kinds of “clients”—the companies they help find employees for and the job seekers themselves. Kimball and her staff have spent the past few decades building relationships with her company clients through on-site visits and face-to-face conversations, which allow her to understand the changing needs of the companies.

“We need to be knowledgeable about all different types of industries,” she said. “We need to understand how a medical office operates, how a manufacturing plant runs, or how food processing works.”

She and her staff also spend time getting to know job seekers, both on and off paper. Knowing about a person’s occupational background as well as his or her outside interests helps to make the best company-employee matches, she said.

“We learn about the people who come in,” she said. “It’s about spending time with them.”

The job seekers that filter in and out of Anderson & Associates’ quaint office space on Connors Court off East Avenue have a wide range of educational and occupational backgrounds, and include doctors, laborers, certified public accountants and teachers.

“At any given time there can be any gamut of people in our lobby,” she said. “We see everyone from college students from Butte College and Chico State to retired people whose retirement funds have gone south in this economy and they’re going back to work.”

With just six employees today, Kimball’s business hasn’t grown much over the years, but it’s certainly seen some changes. Back in ’77, she said, it was called an “employment agency,” and job seekers were charged a fee for her services.

“Can you imagine that?” she said. “Things changed long, long ago.”

Today, Kimball’s business offers services for employees free of charge, and the cost of qualifying candidates—that includes computer and general testing, drug and background screenings, interviews and all the other footwork required prior to placement—is on Anderson & Associates.

“We’re investing in people,” she said. “I can spend all kinds of time qualifying you, but if I don’t place you, we don’t get paid for it.”

The agency offers direct hires and temporary placements for job seekers, and an on-staff accountant provides payroll to temps each week. Company clients can hire temporary workers through the agency for the price of the temp’s salary plus services charges from Anderson & Associates, Kimball said.

And while job search engines are a go-to for many employers and job seekers, many companies prefer the help of Kimball and her staff, who sift through résumés and take care of the hiring process and other odds and ends, leaving company clients free to run their businesses as usual. She and her staff also stay up-to-date on interview techniques, changes in different industries and the shifting needs of her company clients.

Those shifting needs have also caused changes in the structure of Kimball’s business, and two years ago her staff started a customer-service training program. Company clients can send their existing employees to Anderson & Associates to brush up on customer-service skills in a classroom-like setting.

“In the bad economy, customer service became a huge priority for everyone,” she said.

Anderson & Associates also sends staff members to company sites to give clients suggestions and impressions about what they can do to improve customer service. They also do free workshops at places such as Butte College and local high schools, where future job seekers can learn how to perform tasks that are simple but necessary, such as writing a good résumé.

The “local” nature of her business sets Anderson & Associates apart from many other staffing agencies, most of which are headquartered outside of Chico (with the exception of Rush Personnel Services). She uses her company clients’ services whenever possible for things such as insurance, printing brochures and advertising.

“[Everything we do] gets recycled back into the local economy,” she said. “We’re definitely doing our little part.”