Physical, emotional, and economic pain has been part of the new normal for the staffing industry throughout the pandemic. This slowly transformed into more of a dull throb as the unprecedented slowly became precedented, and a numbness to the carnage swept over the industry.
Postmortem isn’t the right word. But with vaccinations now being administered at a record rate, perhaps it’s time for some reflection on the pandemic: what the most successful staffing firms did to survive (and even thrive) during COVID, and what they’re now doing as we leave the worst of it behind.
Here we’ll take a look at three pain points that are indelibly linked: technology, storytelling, and talent.
Despite the fact that everyone became overly reliant on technology and the internet when the pandemic hit, technology and marketing investments were amongst the first budgetary cuts for many staffing firms, who saw them as low priority or dispensable.
Unfortunately study after study has confirmed that pulling innovation and marketing investments during an economic dip will see you lose market share in the long-term, as it’s claimed by competitors who take the opposite approach, and double down on their marketing and innovation efforts. Your hibernation gives the competition clear air to capture the attention of clients and candidates.
How do you avoid this fate? Let’s start with the basics. Have you touched your site in the last few months? How about the last few years? Enhancing your website should be like getting a haircut: it might be difficult in pandemic times, but it should be done regularly so that you present well to your audience. Your website is essentially the face of your firm. You don’t want it to be so outdated that this face is framed by a mullet (with apologies to any mullet-wearers reading this.)
If you invest in technology, tell your clients! ‘We invested $100,000 this year on AI and automation tools. Here’s how it made us better, and how it helps us to make you better’. Imagine if a person gets an MBA to advance their career, then never puts it on their resume. Investing in technology without telling people about it is essentially the same thing.
As Lauren B. Jones, Founder of Leap Consulting Solutions says, “Any firm building a tech stack must have an evangelization marketing project post-digital transformation. Period.”
Another area that technology and marketing meet is in your website messaging. Begin developing it by thinking about your elevator pitch: when you have conversations with a potential client or candidate, what do you point out as your main differentiator? What do you do that helps your clients and candidates be better?
Avoid the cliché and meaningless claims that we’ve all heard a million times before:
The truth? If it’s something that every firm claims, it isn’t a differentiator at all. Your unique selling proposition should be tangible, provable, and, as it says on the packet, unique. It shouldn’t say ‘here’s why I’m a big deal’. It should say ‘here’s how I can help you’.
“Say I'm an IT staffing firm and I want to get in front of firms who need IT talent. If they're experiencing rapid growth and don’t have people to implement the work, I know their pain point” explains Kelli Schutrop, Director of Sales and Marketing at Parqa. “Speak to that on your site. Say ‘we get that you are trying to grow rapidly, that you’re trying to get in front of completely passive candidates, and that these candidates are bombarded hourly by recruiters. We understand your situation, and here’s how we make it better’.”
Messaging built around these themes isn’t just great for your branding and website, it makes for fantastic content too. Get stories from your recruiters about candidate pain points, get stories from your salespeople about client pain points, then demonstrate how you are the solution from their perspective.
An example: A dentist is visited by a salesperson trying to sell a teeth cleaning tool. Instead of saying what every other salesperson has said before – it’s the best, the fastest, the most durable – the salesperson takes a different tack. “If your dental hygienists keep using those old tools, they’ll get carpal tunnel, they’ll need workers comp and time off, and your business will be hurt. My new tool will mean you retain your hygienists, helping business continuity and your bottom line.” The pitch for the tool is no longer based on features, but the impact it will have on the customer’s life.
In the same way, a client doesn’t care about ‘features’ like how many candidates you have in your database. They care about how you’ll make their firm better.
Staffing is an industry that offers up amazing stories that are just waiting to be shared. We spend our days working with people who earn a living to support their families and realize their dreams, and in the process, we become blind to wonderful stories: people landing their first job post-motherhood, companies exceeding their own expectations off the back of our talent.
Capturing and sharing these stories is not only great for marketing, it’s an incredibly rewarding process. Every firm should really have a staffing gratitude journal, where these successes are logged.
The final post-pandemic pain point, particularly as the staffing industry begins to ramp back up, is attracting and retaining the best recruiters. “Something that I've been hearing about a lot in the last quarter is ‘I need more recruiters’,” confirms Schutrop.
The first thing to note is that many staffing firms will already have the necessary people power, but won’t be using it efficiently enough. The tech investment we mentioned at the top is key, but so too is a mindset shift. Instead of forcing recruiters to cold call, set up a Calendly link that allows candidates to come to you. Inbound recruiting is efficient recruiting.
A similarly simple approach can prove effective in attracting top candidates and in-house recruiting talent. Ask the best a simple question: who else do you know?
Go to your top recruiters, and ask ‘who else do you know that would thrive in this environment?’ Go to your top candidates, and ask ‘who else do you know that would do well in your situation?’ Good people attract good people.
Retaining the best is a slightly more complex undertaking, but two strategies are more effective than most:
Whether we’re talking technology investment, recruiter retention, or candidate journeys, everything in staffing ties back to communication. As an industry, we need to stop thinking of these efforts as marketing. We should instead think of them as storytelling.
Humans are hardwired to understand the world through stories – it’s how we’ve passed down knowledge throughout history, and biologically speaking, we’re really no different from our hunter-gatherer ancestors. No matter how advanced our civilization becomes, we still make sense of things through stories.
Good staffing stories are collaborative efforts. They should be an accumulation of conversations with your clients, your candidates, and your internal team. They should be constructed from a range of different perspectives, to understand exactly how your firm helps each of these stakeholders.
Combine these stories with a good website, consistent social media activity, and automated tools, and you’ll make everyone’s lives easier, as well as producing amazing results for your business, no matter whether you’re pre-, mid-, or post-pandemic.