After a year or more of uncertainty, volatility, and unprecedentedness, the shape of the future is slowly beginning to congeal into something recognizable. While COVID will more than likely be around for a long time to come, the vaccine rollout will continue to curb its influence, allowing the world – and more pertinently to this blog, the staffing industry – to go back to something resembling normality.
Except this won’t be the old normal. We’ll instead be faced with something very new.
Let’s gaze into the Able crystal ball and get a sense of what the immediate future will look like for the staffing industry, and what this new reality will mean in terms of plans and strategies for firms and professionals alike.
Staffing industry growth has always had a strong correlation with GDP. When GDP goes up, the industry goes up, and when GDP goes down, as it has since the start of 2020, the staffing industry follows.
But the worst is certainly behind us, and the recovery is well underway. In fact, US GDP is expected to grow every quarter until the end of 2023 – three years of non-stop growth – and there are already recruiters who are painting the walls of their cubicles with job orders off of the beginnings of this surge.
As the economy continues to rebound, the pressure to deliver will continue to become more acute for recruiters and firms. While this is undoubtedly a good problem to have, it’s a problem nonetheless. Getting better, faster, and stronger as a staffing firm is a non-negotiable if you are to keep up.
There are two main ways that a firm might work to meet this growing demand. The traditional is to hire more recruiters to fill the torrent of roles coming in. The new – and far more sustainable and cost-effective – is to lean on technology to take care of the busy work, and get your recruiters filling roles more efficiently.
Staffing automation technology is well established. We are beyond the early adoption phase, and well into the era of widespread uptake. Automation technology has been proven in every conceivable area of staffing, whether marketing, ATS management, onboarding, or on-demand, so to disregard it as unproven, unnecessary, or some form of risk is to deny the truth. If you’re genuinely looking to secure or maintain a competitive advantage, automation is no longer a luxury – it’s a necessity.
What’s more, your candidates are ready for it. They want job roles available on their mobile devices like everything else does, they just need their recruiter to deliver that. If their recruiter doesn’t and another does, they won’t think twice about switching.
This isn’t to say that you should run blindly into your automated future. Due diligence should be conducted on any proposed solution, and you should get an idea of what the ROI is likely to be before you commit.
As Tom Kosnick, President of staffing consultancy Visus Group says, “if you buy a piece of technology, that technology should increase the average gross profit production per internal recruiter. If it doesn't, somebody made a bad decision somewhere along the line.”
Setting the technology itself to one side, social media has indelibly transformed the role of the recruiter. The way they source candidates, communicate with them, and market themselves bears little to no resemblance to how things were done as little as two decades ago.
Most recognize the importance of a firm’s brand. Far fewer attach the same importance to a recruiter’s brand, but in a way the sum of these individual brands is the firm’s brand. As the face of the organization, recruiters have real power over how their firm is received.
It is therefore critical that recruiters spend time developing their brands, and aligning them with that of the firm. In the attention economy, when a candidate is overloaded with the endless information streaming from their phone, a recruiter must be laser focused in marketing themselves. They need to be a beam of light that cuts through the social media chaos.
They should differentiate themselves. Be ‘Suzie at ABC Staffing, the go-to for SAP implementation people’ or ‘Johnny, the guru of sourcing finance professionals.’ Trade the endless cold calls for social media content that gets the recruiter’s (and firm’s) name out there, offering the sort of insightful content that attracts warm leads.
Recruiters are often compared to salespeople. But your clients don’t need a salesperson, particularly in a world that is making it increasingly simple to source your own talent through marketplaces like Fiverr and Upwork. They need an expert. What is the job market like? How in-demand are these skills? What salary will attract the best? Where can I find who I need? This is where the value of a recruiter increasingly lies – as consultants, advisors, and experts, not as salespeople.
Developing the brands of your recruiters is critical to differentiating them as such. It also incentivizes good recruiters to stay: once you’ve built a personal brand that aligns with your company and that makes you money, why would you leave?
Use social proof wherever you can. “I was speaking to someone who was collecting feedback from their clients, one of whom said ‘we just love our recruiter’” explains Kosnick. “I said ‘oh my God, I'd be creating videos, testimonials, emails signatures, and all sorts, and blasting that stuff out’.”
What else should a forward-thinking firm be thinking forwardly about? Let’s finish our crystal balling with a couple of quick-fire comments:
Analyze: Conduct a high-level audit of your business. How well does your current growth strategy align with the new realities outlined above? How can you improve upon this strategy, and what technologies will help with implementation?
Capitalize: Lending rates are likely to stay low from now until at least early 2022. Combine this fact with the opportunities outlined above, and now is the time to get aggressive with your business. Begin by developing your strategy and making capital investments in new tech.
Prepare: We’re currently experiencing the calm before the storm. All signs point to significant growth quarter on quarter, so now is the time to get all your ducks in a row. Implement the technology that will allow you to capitalize on the coming growth, but also hire extra recruiters where necessary, and get them trained up.
Recruit: If you do need to hire more help, what should you be looking for in 2021? Kosnick says that he’d look for the following four traits in a modern recruiter:
The new normal is coming. In fact, it may have already arrived. Your firm and your recruiters need to understand and adapt to this new reality if you and they are to succeed within it.