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June 8, 2021

Why the Most Successful Staffing Companies Invested in Innovation during COVID

There’s a degree of fortune in establishing a business right before hard times hit. It either breaks you or makes you. If you’re able to survive, the instant dose of reality that such an event delivers tends to make you incredibly resilient.

Case in point: BGSF.

Becoming comfortable with crises

Founded in 2007, right before the Great Recession, the first few years of what was then known as BG Staffing were incredibly difficult. But pressure makes diamonds, so when the company came out the other side, it used the lessons learned to realize success, and is now a collection of 12 brands across more than 80 North American offices. This is an organization that provides high-end talent and technical services – and does it well.

CIO Chris Loope isn’t a stranger to hardship either. His first role in staffing was as a Y2K project manager, tasked with helping organizations survive the change of the millennium. This was a job that perhaps seems less stressful now that we have the benefit of hindsight, but you can imagine the anxiety induced by a clock counting down to doomsday, while people around you stock up on canned goods.

Y2K thwarted, Loope shifted his focus toward helping large professional services organizations in conducting business transformations. His professional life has been one defined by helping businesses innovate, streamline, and scale. In joining BGSF in 2019, Loope brought his unique brand of strategic IT leadership to an already successful and fast-growing company.

And then the pandemic hit.

Experience told Loope and BGSF what they should do. Where many companies went into shutdown mode, employing skeleton staff and halting any investment not deemed critical, BGSF took a different approach, and one that serves as a blueprint for other organizations who find themselves in challenging times, whether they’re a staffing firm or any other organization.

To loosen or tighten the purse strings?

Loope entered a company that had primarily grown through acquisition. The issue with M&A growth, he knew, was that each new brand brought another set of disparate systems into the mix. BGSF worked from three different applicant tracking systems, for example.

With a history of successfully overhauling tech stacks, his mind was soon set on a solution: digital transformation and integration through cloud-based technology. The resulting tech roadmap listed 21 different jobs that needed to be tackled, carefully listed by prioritization. One of the most pressing was candidate experience, a job that would require a new website, job board, and onboarding system.

The project began in earnest. Paper-based processes began to be replaced with digital, and SaaS solutions like Able were considered in an effort to integrate, streamline, and automate.

“When there’s a solution out there that lets you do whatever you want with your onboarding and application stages, you can make it as easy as possible to get candidates through the process,” Loope explains. “We could save significantly by going with a SaaS solution.”

But then the pandemic hit. While a lot of work had been done on the tech stack, BGSF and Loope faced a decision. Should they halt technological investment, and try to hibernate through a challenging time? Or should they continue to innovate, even as revenue streams seemed likely to dry up?

Able Case Studies

The role of Able in pushing BGSF forward

It was a decision made easier for the stage at which the process was already at, and for the solutions that BGSF had already found. Able, for example, gave the company the ability to standardize onboarding quickly and easily, while also offering integration with all the other technologies that were being considered.

“Of all the tech projects we’ve undergone at BGSF, the Able implementation was one of the easiest ones. Every status report that came up during implementation was positive. The biggest challenge for us was just deciding what we wanted to use as content in Able, since it was so configurable,” Loope confirms.

Able’s ability to enhance the candidate experience was another key factor. When COVID-19 hit and BGSF found themselves needing to provide their typical high-touch engagement to candidates in a now isolated world, the value and importance of the solution was writ large. People are beginning to expect the seamless job application and onboarding experience provided by the likes of Uber, a fact that Loope was all too aware of.

“If you’re a staffing company and not thinking about putting similar technologies [to Uber] in place that provide the same simple [candidate] experience, as time goes on you’ll be further down the list of options when talent becomes available,” Loope says. “That was the bottom line for us when it came to Able.”

And so, as the ill effects of the pandemic became acute within the staffing industry, BGSF made the decision to double down on its innovation investment, viewing it not as an expense, but as an opportunity.

You gotta spend money to make money

“Able seriously allowed us to survive the pandemic,” says Loope.

Pre-pandemic and pre-Able, the BGSF onboarding process took an average of 5-10 days. Candidates would be asked to come into the office, fill out paper forms, email data, and attach PDFs.

After implementing Able, that average was reduced to four hours from beginning to end.

This has put the firm in a position of power. Where many competitors spent 2020 in a holding pattern, doing no more than what they needed to get by, Loope and his team took the opportunity to invest, to innovate, to improve. Now, as the economy recovers, and all those who found themselves out of a job need to get back into one, BGSF has put itself in a fantastic position to continue the growth it has enjoyed since 2007.

There’s a lesson here for all business owners and stakeholders. It was inevitable that COVID-19 would separate the wheat from the chaff, and by understanding exactly what successful companies did over this period, you can arm yourself with the knowledge necessary to overcome whatever challenges will inevitably come next.

Adversity builds resilience. Pressure makes diamonds.

And COVID or no COVID, Able enhances onboarding. Learn how it can help your company here.

Topic(s): Product