The official number of unemployed Americans is 10.1 million, according to the Labor Department. But there’s another government data source that indicates a much higher number of unemployed at 18.3 million people. As more Americans get vaccinated and we begin to see Covid-19 start to appear in the rearview mirror, we should anticipate almost 20 million people starting to return to the workforce, many leaning heavily on staffing agencies to reenter the career marketplace. How these agencies reposition and rebrand themselves will determine their productivity, profitability, efficiency, growth, and even survival.
As the hiring floodgates open and companies start to consider ways in which to best use their PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) dollars to invest in their workplace, the ability of staffing agencies to create and communicate their brand and post-Covid-19 expertise will become critical to their growth and competitive survival. Remote working using emerging communications technology has taught us that local market expertise can no longer be a staffing agency’s primary brand leverage. Thinking local is lethal. Transacting business during the pandemic has taught us not to limit ourselves to what services can be sold and serviced locally. No matter how complex a service is, today it can be presented, negotiated, closed, serviced, and expanded online in real time anywhere in the world.
Staffing agencies will continue to require a full menu of service offerings to solve employers’ needs, including contract, contract to hire, direct placement, payroll services, recruitment process outsourcing, and on-premise management. However, the pandemic has driven home an even more important consideration: the value of being “human” and the new work/life balance. This new employment currency is what candidates are looking for in their next company and how employers can gauge their responsiveness to pandemic-driven employee needs and values.
In the new post-Covid-19 normal, job candidates have become increasingly selective about whom they work for as remote locations and meaningful work have become paramount. The freedom to work remotely and to manage one’s own schedule has increased job seekers’ expectations that they can exert considerable control over the design and negotiation of their job opportunities. Adaptive staffing firms can help employers understand candidates’ expectations and assist in crafting positions accordingly, in the same manner in which businesses tailor their products to customers and benchmark their offerings against those of competitors. Employers need to offer prospective employees opportunities they truly value. Staffing agencies can play a significant consultative role in helping companies move beyond immediate skills-based qualifying criteria into what broader skills the larger organization must acquire to succeed in a rapidly changing future.
We still may be struggling with how to manage a crisis the magnitude of which this generation has never experienced before but the human qualities of reaching out, supporting one another, and nurturing newfound communities have always been there waiting to be tapped and nurtured. A robust authentic staffing agency brand shared through a compelling, interactive website, a blog with client- and candidate-driven content, email messaging, texting, and video engagement are the building blocks of the new normal staffing agency that will be relevant, responsive, profitable, and ahead of the competition. But, there’s one more major factor: The single greatest point of differentiation for successful staffing agencies will be in the area of client consultation.
The staffing industry will continue to be about people. Improving and reinventing client relationships through consulting will be critical to the success of staffing agencies as employers look to the experts for guidance in navigating the post-pandemic recruiting landscape. This will require staffing agencies to build new bridges of knowledge between what candidates consider important in the post-Covid-19 work from home world and what companies have to do to attract and retain talent based upon emerging needs and values.
Disruptive technological breakthroughs have made job-specific skills short-lived, especially with sales, IT, and finance now requiring up to a dozen new skills within 18-months of hire. Staffing agencies will need to up their game as client advisors in helping employers identify future skills created by remote work and automation. Recruiters will need to get especially creative at finding gifted candidates outside traditional talent clusters as more and more people are acquiring critical skills through virtual learning. With an increased emphasis on cross-functional team collaboration, scanning for skills through Applicant Tracking Software (aka ATS) needs to be dramatically elevated in order to find transportable rather than just industry-specific experience. Micro-credentials such as nanodegrees and digital certificates, are quickly gaining prominence and will need to be considered along with academic degrees, certifications, and formal experience. Staffing agencies will be vital in guiding employers to consider all candidate qualifying credentials. Being able to find candidates whose skills are self-taught, especially with the ubiquity of remote work, can greatly expand and diversify where top notch candidates are to be found; namely, outside high-priced talent clusters. This will greatly reduce recruiting costs with the added benefit of increasing diversity.
Staffing agencies have a once in a generation opportunity to help employer clients to rethink traditional ways of doing business—thus providing an opportunity to reform outdated recruiting practices. The pandemic has throttled up a business world already in transformation and now that these changes are much easier to see it is up to recruiting agencies to reimagine, reinvent, and realign their relationships with both employers and job seekers.
About Garrison Leykam, PhD:
- Certified Business Coach (Expert Level)
- Certified Remote Work Professional
- Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC)
- Certified Professional, Résumé Writer (CPRW)
- Certified Employment Interview Professional (CEIP)
- Certified Life Coach (Expert Level)
- PhD Marketing, MA Psychology
- LinkedIn profile in Top 25 MA, PhD profiles in U.S.
- Top 1% LinkedIn Industry Social Selling Index
- Author, Audacious at Any Age and Design You