By Stormie Haller, Director of Marketing at Able

COVID-19 has proven to be one the greatest, and certainly the most unique, challenges that the staffing industry has ever faced. Sure, the Great Recession shook many firms to the core, but the volatility and the uncertainty of the pandemic was an entirely different ball game. Unless you were a veteran of the Spanish Flu (and a special hello to any centurions reading this), you had no idea what was coming.

In the face of adversity, staffing firms showed bravery, resilience, and no small amount of innovation. They found new ways of doing things, and many of these Band-Aids, it turned out, were actually far better than the strategies and solutions they replaced.

What were these tools, trends, and techniques? And how might you steer your firm into the future?

The power of video

It shouldn’t be a surprise that video makes this list, as the trend toward the moving image began before the pandemic was even a glint in a young bat’s eye. Social media platforms have long funneled their energies into video, with features like live streams, video calls, stories, and reels pushed mercilessly. If a picture says a thousand words, a video says 25,000 every second, or so the thinking goes.

COVID tightened the focus further. Forced into isolation, staffing firms realized that video allowed them to keep the all important humanity in their communications – white glove service over wires. They did so through a number of means:

  • Video job descriptions: Research by Ongig found that video ads hold the attention of jobseekers five times longer than text ads. Video job posts are engaging. You can showcase your office, team, and culture, humanizing your brand and telling a compelling story. What’s more, the resulting content is oh so shareable.
  • Custom video outreach: Instead of creating and sharing video job posts, many recruiters have turned to another, even more personalized method of speaking to their audience: custom video outreach. Tools like Loom, Vidyard, and BombBomb let you film a short clip explaining an opportunity to a prospect before sending it via email. It’s both incredibly easy and incredibly effective.
  • Video in the hiring process: How could we possibly screen, interview, onboard, and train people if we aren’t physically present? COVID has shown recruiters that it’s not just possible, but so effective that they may not switch back.
    • Candidate screening is either automated or managed within teams over conference calls.
    • Interviews are conducted via Zoom, making them more convenient and relaxed for both parties.
    • Onboarding is completed through a combination of both live and pre-recorded videos, as is ongoing training (this video by Google is a great example).
  • Video-based virtual events: While the limitations of virtual events mean that they won’t completely take over from in-person events, they certainly have their place. They are borderless, so attendees can log in from wherever they are in the world, granting each event a truly unique set of ideas and perspectives.
  • Social media live videos: Authentic, entertaining, and endearing, live video offers a behind-the-scenes look at a person or brand, a fact that has made it arguably your most powerful marketing tool.

It’s no time to be camera-shy. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, savvy staffing firms are using video to future-proof their businesses The technology is here – all you need is the will.

Man vs machine

COVID saw the office traded for the home, in-person chats are traded for Zoom, and manual processes traded for automated. It begged the question: as technology becomes smarter, faster, and more effective, what role will humans play?

As perhaps the most human industry of all, technology simply isn’t capable of overtaking staffing as it has factories. It can make recruiters better, however.

  • Virtual vs personal: There were worries when the virtual replaced the personal. But it turned out that video allowed the humanity of communication to be retained, while increasing convenience, enabling more effective collaboration (Slack, Microsoft Teams, etc), and granting the ability to instantly contact anyone anywhere. All in all, there are far more perks than pitfalls.
  • Remote vs brick and mortar: Working from home has its pitfalls: no delineation between professional and personal lives, a lack of socializing. But there are plenty of perks too: no commute, creature comforts, cost savings, flexibility. WFH/WFA won’t suit everyone, but many find it far more productive and fulfilling.
  • Digital vs. human: Will technology replace humanity? In staffing at least, the answer is no. Business intelligence, collaboration, and automation technologies are designed to deal with the monotonous and laborious stuff, ironically allowing a staffing firm to become more human, as recruiters spend less time acting like robots.

Far from the end of staffing, new technology is instead an opportunity. And thanks to COVID, it’s one that innovative, agile, and forward-thinking firms are primed to make the most of right now. Which brings us neatly to our next point.

Automation and on-demand

Staffing has never been an industry known for early adoption – just one in 20 firms is currently making use of automation effectively – but COVID saw resistance to technology melt away.

No recruiter wants to do laborious, monotonous, and low-value work. Staffing automations take care of stuff like data entry, ATS management and credentialing, freeing the recruiter to focus on higher value work like building relationships and elevating experiences.

Staffing automation technology won’t replace recruiters because it can’t – it turns out that bots aren’t known for their elite soft skills. They are simply a recruiter’s assistant, and when used effectively, the results can be incredible.

Imagine measuring your time-to-fill not in days, but in seconds. That’s the promise of one example of automation tech, on-demand staffing. One firm recently set a record of four seconds from receiving a job to filling it, leaving recruiters free to create new relationships and nurture current ones in the process.

At an entry level you can use a bot to clear your ATS of duplicate entries, or to send out an automated email to long lost candidates. Your automations will grow organically, and before long you and your team will feel the weight of drudgery being lifted from your shoulders.

A new type of leader

In recent decades, the manager-worker dynamic has seriously improved. But in isolating team members, COVID-19 threatened to undo much of this good work. So how can a leader retain a strong team culture and offer real support in this new work landscape?

  • Offering flexibility: Working from home might be comfortable, convenient, and cost-effective, but it can also be isolating, frustrating, and anxiety-inducing. In an ideal post-COVID world, employers will create a hybrid workplace, offering their teams the option of working from the office or remotely. Leaders must also look to automation to lighten loads and reduce burnout, an all too common affliction in the industry.
  • The importance of empathy: COVID saw personal and professional lives clash like never before, and more often than not the personal (quite rightly) won out. Staffing leaders have seen the importance of work-life balance, that work should come second at times, and that this is all in the firm’s best interests, as it enables a recruiter to be fully committed to the cause.
  • Diversity, equality, inclusion: While BLM protests put DEI in sharp focus, so too did COVID. The most successful staffing leaders were those who regularly consulted their team, and solved problems collaboratively rather than doing everything themselves. They didn’t give their team a fish, they taught them how to fish.

An eye on the future

COVID will separate the wheat from the chaff in the staffing industry. But a prize awaits for those who make it out the other side: a rare opportunity to grow and succeed in a market with fewer competitors.

In the same vein, the best time to plan for the next crisis is right now. Take the opportunity to test technologies and strategies that grant agility and adaptability; that enable your businesses to grow no matter what happens.

Because as COVID has proven, there’s no way to know what challenges might lie ahead. For more techniques that are here to stay, check out Able’s COVID Recovery Strategy Guide.

Stormie Haller is the Director of Marketing at Able, a SaaS platform for onboarding automation. She has spent the last 9 years focusing on data to drive creative marketing and sales efforts. She’s passionate about reducing the tension between sales and marketing teams to ensure a great experience throughout the entire sales funnel. Stormie holds a degree in Advertising from Kent State University with minors in Business and Marketing.