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January 13, 2021

Building a Staffing Tech Stack 101

Conversations around technology are difficult for the uninitiated. And this makes it difficult to become initiated.

The staffing industry isn’t known for its innovation or early adoption – paper-based firms continue to (somehow) operate to this day – but a reckoning is coming. COVID-19 has forced many firms to adapt, clearing a lot of the frightening fog around technology in the process. That being said, your firm, and countless others like yours, are more open to tech solutions today than it was a year or two ago.

The lack of understanding persists, however, which means the time is ripe for a zoomed out, introductory conversation around that most ubiquitous yet confusing of terms: the tech stack.

 

The whats and whys of a staffing tech stack

A technology solution stack – tech stack to its friends – is an ecosystem of all the technology services used to run your organization, all bundled up into a single package. Think of all the little tools and solutions you layer upon or integrate into your ATS or CRM – combined, they make up your tech stack.

By asking yourself ‘where do I want my staffing firm to be in two, five, or ten years?’, you’ll begin to mentally scale your organization. You’ll soon realize that the growth you’re looking for will only be possible if you lean on robust and efficient processes. To win, you need to rely less on brute force, and work smarter not harder.

A tech stack turns a group of recruiting individuals into a team pushing in the same direction. It does so by establishing processes, taking care of the busy work through automation, and granting access to insights that lead to continuous improvement.

Clever tech stack formation offers up real opportunity to small staffing firms. Large firms are like giant oil tankers; they hold a lot of cargo and they're super powerful, but they take five days to turn around. A small, tech-aware firm can be a little speedboat running rings around them, simply by quickly implementing sophisticated technology.

But rather than choosing that speedboat, a lot of small firms continue to opt for the canoe. They paddle away, telling themselves ‘I can work harder than that giant engine’.

Why do that when technology can take care of the toil for you?

 

Tech Stack 101 worksheet

 

“Where do I even begin?”

Creating your tech stack is a bit like designing your dream house. You start with the zoomed-out view – the land, the blueprint – then you work your way down to all the minutiae that works together to make the dream possible – the pendant lighting, the love seat, a spice rack worthy of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.

This high-level concept phase can begin with a simple whiteboard exercise. Ask yourself:

  • What’s our budget?
  • What’s the core system – the chosen ATS/CRM – that we’re building around?
  • Where do we want to be in the future?
  • How will we scale to reach those long-term goals?
  • What systems do we currently have? Should we keep them?

While you’ll begin with this high-level view, there are elements of minutiae-level thinking in this process. You want to think long-term when crafting your tech stack, as you need it to be capable of servicing your organization for years into the future. But you also need to think short term from time to time, as you need to generate enough revenue to fund the next stage of the investment.

Start with your overall goals, then break those goals down, defining the elements you need to achieve them. You can then chase after some quick wins to get the process rolling.

Remember though that long-term thinking should define short-term thinking. “I’ve seen it so many times before,” says Jack Copeland, Co-Founder and CEO of Staffing Future. “A firm chooses a solution that delivers a quick win – one that takes them from a two to a four, but now they can't go from a four to a five without unpicking the whole thing and starting again.”

It’s wise, says Copeland, to think about your tech stack in a modular way. You don’t have to buy or create the whole thing at one time. Begin with the most important pieces, then build it out from there. Give yourself the opportunity to add the appropriate elements at the appropriate times. In the long-term this will allow you to get it to where you need it to be.

The process of building a tech stack is a marathon, not a sprint.

 

The importance of integration

“There’s no transformation without integration!” This is a phrase that you’ll hear Lauren Jones, self-declared HR tech super-nerd and Founder of Leap Consulting Solutions, often shouting from the rooftops.

Integrations – think common staffing solutions like Gmail, Microsoft Office and Slack – sit in a sort of gray area. In some ways they may not be considered definitive parts of your tech stack, but it’s nonetheless vital that they play well with it. You can learn more about the importance of integrations in this blog post.

Your tech stack investment will only generate a return if your recruiters use it. If they have to go to a dozen different places to utilize a dozen different tools to do their jobs, technology becomes more disruptive than helpful. And wasted time means wasted money, as busy work replaces revenue-generating activities.

Everything from emails to onboarding should be served up through the one system. If you allow your workers to do everything through one portal, they’ll be able to focus on building revenue.

 

What a tech stack won't do

This leads us neatly onto our next common issue with tech stacks, which we’ll entitle robots is gonna tek er jerbs!

The Hollywood-sponsored vision of the future is one in which we turn into amorphous blobs as technology takes over every aspect of our lives. The reality looks to be quite different.

Digital tech is great at doing the things that can be converted into zeroes and ones. It’s notoriously bad, however, at doing the organic human stuff. And the argument can be made that of all the world’s industries, staffing is the most human.

All this is to say that tech stacks aren’t designed to replace recruiters. They’re designed to let recruiters be recruiters.

“Think of the things in your business that you never seem to get to – the ones that you know add value, but you never have the time for,” Jones begins. “Think of all the repetitive tasks that you do – the ones that you’d ideally be able to pass onto an assistant, so you could focus on revenue generating activities. Tech stacks enable people to do more – to get rid of the bad work and replace it with good work.”

“But we’re a white glove service!” a firm will inevitably shout. The truth? Not only can you still be white glove with automation, automation will in fact make high-end services better, as it frees up your recruiters for the high value and highly personal work of building relationships and enhancing experiences.

All of this is not to say that automations take care of everything. Recruiters will remain hands-on, continuing to do many of the tasks they do today, like adding data and notes. The real difference is in the rewards that they’ll see for doing those tasks, and the service they deliver because of them.

 

Preparing yourself for the unavoidable future

Any new technology should be met with healthy skepticism, particularly when it represents a significant investment. But staffing tech stacks are no longer an unproven technology. If anything, they are proving to be a necessity.

With the specter of COVID hovering over the industry, the owners and leaders of tech-phobic staffing firms need to switch their mindset: they need to go from working in their business to working on their business. And that work should center on creating a fully functional tech stack.

Because when it’s done well, a tech stack makes your organization something that is far greater than the sum of its parts. Check out episode 19 of the You Own the Experience Podcast to learn more.