According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2020 is the year of the rat, which feels oddly appropriate.
In the Staffing Zodiac, 2020 has proven to be the year of the pivot. Long-term planning is no longer measured in years, but in weeks. The more agile firms in the industry have managed to roll with the punches, and in some cases have achieved incredible success. With more talent on the market, they’ve done what they needed to to snatch it up. Others have played it safe, and generally paid the price for the cautious approach.
What will come next? Admittedly it’s a guessing game. Nevertheless, predictions are fun, and guessing can be educated, so while today’s subject has the very real potential to make fools of us, let’s take a look at what 2021 (the year of the Ox, a far more noble and promising creature) might bring.
On-demand staffing allows staffing agencies to access workers that meet specific requirements whenever they are needed, which in turn allows candidates to rate clients and clients to rate candidates immediately. This data allows a staffing firm to identify issues and improve their offering. But while candidates and clients love it and are increasingly requesting it, the work involved means that the recruiter is often the most resistant to it. Rather than an opportunity, it’s seen as a hurdle to jump over.
In four to five years, on demand will be expected – that’s less a prediction than it is a fact, says Ryan Kovach, staffing CMO at large. “Their whole lives, young people have been able to click a button and get what they want. If you have a cumbersome website, no app, and a client or candidate has to put time and effort in to produce a result, you won’t be chosen as a preferred partner.”
“I’m working with a staffing salesperson who recently met with a potential client in the high-volume industrial space,” Kovach explains. “‘How are y’all different?’ the client asked, ready to roll their eyes because staffing is staffing. The salesperson was able to say ‘we’re adopting a platform that will allow you to see ratings on each worker, play around with shifts, and check social proof’. The client saw it as a real and valuable differentiator.”
Now is the time to start dipping your toe – to be the early adopter. We know the on demand revolution is coming, so there’s no excuse not to.
The decision to develop on demand capability is the first small step of the process – actually developing it is a far larger task. If it’s not used regularly by the user it will fail, so your app can’t be an afterthought – it needs to perform a critical function, and one that’s different to your website. Perhaps you could grant access to pay stubs, shift schedules, or other valuable information.
It’s important to understand that while being an early adopter of on demand is a differentiator, it isn’t about being different. It’s instead about doing things better and more efficiently.
Inbound vs outbound: the old marketing tug-of-war is less about finding a victor than it is about finding balance. While outbound will always be a part of the recruiting process, the importance of inbound is only increasing, most notably through the proliferation of content.
There’s not a lot of in-person contact any more, and COVID has accelerated that trend. As we move from physical to digital interactions, content is the obvious way to hit as many eyes as possible. If someone has a problem, they Google a solution, so your recruiters need to be there, offering just that.
“You need to lay those breadcrumbs for clients and candidates to find you,” instructs Kelli Schutrop, Director of Sales and Marketing at Parqa. She explains that doing so also grants you more control over your reputation. Most clients and candidates will form an opinion of you before they contact you, and content gives you more control over the narrative.
Good content is about creating relevant conversation, and positioning yourself as a thought-leader. “I'm a big fan of distilling customer pain points into content,” advises Schutrop. “Take that information and create content that offers a fix, whether in eBook, blog, social post, podcast, or webinar form. You’ll not only expand your reach, you can also use the content in one-on-one conversations. ‘I recently posted a video about X issue, I’ll flick you a link!’”
While an inbound marketing focus can prove incredibly effective, it does rely on active involvement from recruiters. If you give a recruiter the choice of creating marketing material or doing something that more directly generates revenue, they’ll choose the revenue-generating option every time.
The good news? Creating the content can be surprisingly simple. Have recruiters put half an hour aside every week, and use 15 minutes ideate topics, and 15 minutes to record a short video. This video can be posted as it is, cut up into snippets, used as source material for a blog, or be quoted in an email. You can also post an automated transcription to your site – it may not be grammatically perfect, but it will be keyword rich, and thus aid your SEO efforts.
Which leads us neatly onto our next topic.
“We hear the conversation around the importance of SEO all the time,” says Jeff Staats, Head of Marketing for Talent Launch. “It seems like it’s getting more important annually – it’s always more important than it was before.” But this, he says, may not necessarily be the case.
Staats feels that Google is almost becoming a ‘pay to play’ system, where the company controls not just the search and the algorithm, but the output too. He explains that Facebook was an early driver of this strategy, all but destroying organic engagement on company pages as they began to pick and choose the most valuable content to serve their users. The upshot is that SEO is turning from an already long play into an even longer play, and the importance of supporting it with PPC is only increasing.
Getting professional marketing help is no longer a plus – it’s a must. With so much to know, and the rules of SEM constantly changing, partnering with an expert will ensure that you don’t throw money down the drain.
When all you’ve got is a hammer everything starts to look like a nail, so expanding your technology toolkit is vital. With the help of the experts quoted above, let’s take a look at a few solutions that could help to set your firm apart in 2021.
Like a good 90s game show, why don’t we finish with a speed round. We posed a handful of hard-hitting questions to some experts, and obtained the following quick-fire thoughts:
Staats: If you do thought leadership right it becomes your positioning statement… and that’s what PR is. So yes, when done right, thought leadership can replace PR.
Schutrop: PR still has its place in certain situations. If your focus is on a specific city, getting a representative to speak on your behalf on the local news is incredibly valuable, and can make for valuable source material for content generation.
Kovach: People have always sought out experts for advice. To position yourself as such you’ve got to speak to your authority. I think thought leadership is the number one thing that is going to get people to trust in you and your services.
Predicting the future might be a fool’s errand, but making an educated guess is not, as it allows you to prepare for what might come.
Will the year of the Ox turn out to be as volatile and challenging as the year of the rat? To some degree the future is in your hands. Change is the only constant in life, so by listening to the experts, and making your firm as agile and forward-thinking as possible, you’ll have a better chance at tackling whatever challenges might lie ahead. To hear more, check out episode 15 of the You Own the Experience Podcast.