In this episode, Caitlin Delohery sits down (to a Zoom call) with two Bullhorn team members: Vinda Souza, the VP of Global Communications, and Caitlyn Rhodes, Talent Acquisition Business Partner and DEI Program Manager. We talked about making a statement for racial justice, Bullhorn’s thought leadership around diversity and inclusion, and the industry’s optimism in spite of the pandemic.

Caitlin Delohery:  Hi, and welcome to the Staffing Show. I’m here today with Vinda Souza and Caitlyn Rhodes from Bullhorn. Thank you guys for joining me today, I really appreciate it. Vinda is the VP of Global Communications at Bullhorn, and Caitlyn, can you talk a little bit about your role?

Caitlyn Rhodes:  Yeah, certainly. I am on the talent acquisition team, but also in my time at Bullhorn, I’ve been very deeply involved in our employee resource groups, and contributing to our culture of inclusion here. In addition to that more recently, I’ve worked with the leadership team on our DEI efforts within the organization.

Caitlin Delohery:  Perfect, and that is a lot of what I wanted to talk to you guys about today. About two months ago, Art Papas, your CEO, put out a statement. And I wanted to read it here to start things off. This is from Art, for the Bullhorn statement:

“We want to make it clear where Bullhorn stands. We stand for equality, we stand for justice, we stand with the Black community. We stand against hate. We stand against racism in any form. Our employee vision is: every employee has a sense of belonging, a voice that is heard, and a clear path for success. We are human, and we will struggle in many areas, but this vision is critical, now more than ever. And we will do everything we can to uphold it.”

So this statement really stood out for me. In my personal social media feeds, all my feeds were covered with statements similar to this, or at least people being really supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement. Or going through a lot of introspection in the wake of all that happened a couple of months ago. But my LinkedIn feed, filled with staffing professionals, was pretty silent. And this statement was one of the few that I saw. And I want to talk to you guys because you’ve taken the lead, in opening these kinds of conversations, both with that statement and with some of the research that you’ve done into diversity and inclusion in the staffing industry. So I was wondering if you can tell me a little bit about how you guys came to put this statement out.

Vinda Souza:  Sure. So the desire for that statement was absolutely driven by Art himself. He’s very passionate about representation and diversity equity and inclusion. And he holds those principles close to his heart, as does the entire leadership team at Bullhorn.

And so when it became evident that there was just such tremendous and pervasive sadness, and despair amongst I would say the vast majority of people in this country, then Art realized that we had to take a stance. We had to make a statement and show solidarity for Black Lives Matter and for just anybody who was feeling marginalized and oppressed.

And, in addition to that, when he first approached Gordon and myself about the statements, he was first and foremost thinking about Bullhorn employees.

He wanted to make sure that they felt safe, and that they felt heard, and that he was speaking to them as part of the Bullhorn family.

And then we realized that the statements had applications and ramifications that went beyond just our own family into the broader community of customers, partners, prospects, stakeholders.

Everybody who exists in the staffing industry, essentially, would benefit from seeing the fact that we were committed, and we wanted to take a public stand. And that’s why we issued it.

But it was initially sent internally to Bullhorn employees, to reiterate the fact that Art and the leadership team is deeply committed to ensuring that we have that employee vision come to life. A clearer path to success, a voice that is heard, a sense of belonging. For everybody who works for Bullhorn, and everybody that we deal with outside of Bullhorn.

Caitlin Delohery: And that folds into my next question. Because it seems like you’re really opening Bullhorn up, with this statement and offering a community of inclusion by setting the example for other people in the staffing industry. And I know you guys are doing a lot of work around diversity and inclusion, that is both internal and is opening those doors up for other people. And so I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about what initiative you’re developing to help the staffing industry educate themselves and become more aware around issues of diversity and inclusion.

Caitlyn Rhodes: Yeah, absolutely. I think the most important part of these efforts moving forward has been surrounding education. Similar to the stance in the statement, putting that message out there and making it more normalized, to bring this to awareness, has been a really important part. So in increasing internal educational opportunities, we are going to be launching a lecture series to engage with our partners as well, and have these discussions on a larger scale.

Caitlin Delohery: And are you able to talk a little bit more about what that will look like, or is it still in the forming stages?

Vinda Souza: For the lecture series specifically?

Caitlin Delohery: Yeah.

Vinda Souza: That’s actually that is beyond formative. That’s definitely happening. Starting in early September, September 9th, we will have the first of three series, under the Recruitment Innovation Exchange, which is an industry-leading site for thought leadership in staffing. Sponsored by Bullhorn and several of its esteemed partners.

We’re all very concerned and committed to advancing discussion around these issues. And, we were excited about the speaker that we have selected. It’s not completely finalized yet, but it will be very shortly. And we’ll be able to tackle, first and foremost, the topic of making the organizational case for diversity.

Register for Bullhorn’s September 9 Webinar, The Organizational Case for Diversity.

Then, the following lecture in October, we’ll focus on the business implementation of DEI initiatives.

And then finally the third session will be a panel that focuses on practical ways to implement DEI, in staffing companies specifically.

Caitlin Delohery: My next question maybe ties all three of those strands together, but in a more general way. When Bullhorn released the GRID Analysis on Diversity and Inclusion, you very specifically and authentically acknowledged how difficult these conversations can be. I’m just going to read a little bit out here, before I ask my question, because I think it’s a good framework for thinking about these things.

You said, “I want to preface my analysis by saying that race and gender dynamics are HARD. These conversations are tough. There are issues of economic and representative privilege that vary by region and role, and even the most well-meaning people can be influenced by implicit bias. Full disclosure, even my own teammates, truly the kindest, smartest, and ‘wokest’ humans I know, didn’t share my view of what the most surprising and important finding was from our D&I data set. That just goes to show you that this is hellishly nebulous work.” 

And I think that that is so true. And I think that part of the silence that I’m seeing from a lot of the staffing industry is because this is so hard. Or there’s this idea that it maybe is even impossible. So I wonder if you guys could talk a little bit, given how tricky these conversations sometimes are. What would you say to those listeners out there who don’t really see what the big deal is, or why you’re going to such lengths to address these issues?

Vinda Souza: Yeah, sure. I will caveat, I’ll start by saying that I wrote that paragraph on our DEI analysis for GRID, back in December. Because we first released this year’s GRID research in January, as we always do. So this was long before the unrest, and protests, and uprisings that we’ve seen, in response to the injustices of the past several months. Or one could say really of the past several hundred years, but coming to a head in the past several months. That just goes to show that this was never really not a thing. Just a lot of people weren’t paying attention to it. So, that’s food for thought.

But as far as, when we’re dealing with, how do you address the issue, and why are staffing agencies not necessarily addressing the issue? First, I’ll just talk a little bit and say that a lot of them are. They’re just doing it in maybe more subtle ways.

Staffing is an industry that has traditionally been so misunderstood by other industries.

It doesn’t have the same horizontal application as technology, or marketing, or anything of that sort where you can get the national headlines. People don’t understand staffing.

Staffing is like skiing. You could get on skis, but to become a master, really takes a tremendous amount of time.

And so, outsiders don’t always understand the terminology. They don’t even know how to look at that box. And as a result, some of what the staffing industry is already doing, may not be as visible as it should be.

I know for instance ASA, I’m on the Diversity Equity Inclusion Task Force there. It’s very committed to this, and they’re taking bold steps. There are plenty of staffing industry associations and agencies that are very concerned about this.

So there’s plenty of examples of people really putting a line in the sand. But as far as why maybe it’s not universal, I think it’s important to consider that staffing agencies have two sets of stakeholders. They have their candidates, and they have their clients. It’s a really tough position to be in when you’re trying to please multiple masters at once. And sometimes you need to be very thoughtful in how you’re going to do that in a way that’s productive. And that’s easier said than done.

And Caitlyn can of course speak to what it feels like to actually be a recruiter and having to deal with this on a daily basis.

Caitlyn Rhodes: Yeah, I think to echo that comment, you spoke about the statement that Art made initially, and Art internally has sent video updates to the team, as we’re going through a number of crises internally. And I responded to one of them, because it is such a challenging thing to talk about, and to address, especially for leaders.

I subscribe to the idea that you don’t necessarily have to say the right thing, especially the first time, but you should say something.

So I appreciated that he took that approach, especially in alignment with our core values, and our employee mission, or our employee vision that, everyone feels safe and heard within this organization.

Caitlin Delohery: Sorry. There was a dog barking. That leads me really nicely into my next question. Which is, with the fact that there is a lot going on out there, maybe just not as publicly as in some other industries, if there are staffing firms out there who are, maybe aware that there might be a problem, or that their staff isn’t as diverse as they would like it to be, but they don’t know where to begin in terms of, even starting to have conversations about these issues. And still grappling with whether implicit bias, or whether race has an impact on their candidates, and their clients. How do you guys think they might start to take a closer look at that impact?

Vinda Souza: Caitlyn, go ahead.

Caitlyn Rhodes: Yeah, sure. My initial thought is, acknowledging the existence of these conversations is the first step and looking at, like Vinda referenced earlier, the GRID research.

The data shows that there are some gaps here, and acknowledging that and taking even small baby steps toward closing those gaps, is the first step.

Caitlin Delohery: That’s great. Shifting gears a little bit to our second concurrent crisis. You guys have also put out some substantive data on the effect of COVID-19 on the staffing industry. Can you speak a little bit about what some of your most surprising findings were from that data? Or just the highlights, even if you weren’t surprised.

Vinda Souza: Sure. Everything’s surprising right now. We’re living in a state of perpetual surprise, unfortunately.

But, we were heartened to see, that the majority of respondents that we surveyed in May and June are optimistic about economic indicators rebounding by the end of the year.

At least domestically, and internationally too, frankly. And we’re already starting to see that internationally, quite significantly. And so, that’s a great sign.

Recruiters are the canary in the coal mine because they control the majority of the labor market. And therefore when recruiting starts to see signs of trouble, you know that trouble is ahead for everybody. And when recruiting starts to see signs of recovery, usually that’s really good news for the rest of society. So, the fact that recruiters are optimistic about where we’re heading, is really great news.

That was refreshing to us. And we enjoyed seeing that it was great validation.

As far as their key priorities, really it’s around building client relationships. And the second big priority is nurturing candidate relationships. And those were both crucially important.

We understand exactly why and in a very remote heavy work environment right now, which some companies have been forced to embrace, and other companies don’t have the luxury to embrace. It’s been interesting to see how the desire for solutions, that help staffing agencies prioritize their first and foremost currency, which is relationships, through the power of technology are becoming increasingly important.

Things like automating candidate experience management and engagement and building relationships can really help when it’s hard to reach your headcount.

And, it’s both internally and externally, really. People are distributed, and they’re not in an office together, and they can’t really collaborate in the same way that they’re used to collaborating.

It makes technology really stand out as the great equalizer, when you can’t be as integrated as you want to be, from an interpersonal standpoint.

But it doesn’t take away from the importance that relationships play in recruiting. It’s really around giving recruiters the ability to be more human, and to make those judgment calls, and to have that decision making influencing power, by nature of eliminating some of the more mundane tasks off your plate.

Caitlin Delohery: Yeah. We’ve been thinking a lot at StaffingHub about the increasingly remote recruiting world right now. We’re working on some data, and just the initial findings have shown that the majority are feeling happier working remotely, feeling even more productive, feeling like they have a better work-life balance.

I was surprised to see such, such a strong vote in favor of remote work, since it’s such a big change. And I was wondering in what you’ve seen, how do you think this real push towards remote work will change what staffing firms need from technology? Because for a long time, we’ve needed to enable better relationships through technology choices in recruiting. So how do you think this is going to change the game around tech choices?

Vinda Souza:

There’s no room to sit on the sidelines anymore. If you were a late adopter of technology, that’s not really a luxury or privilege you have any longer.

Because we have been thrust into this new working world, and we all have to adjust. And I am legitimately concerned for those who don’t use cloud-based software. I don’t know how they’ve been managing to function effectively and productively, without being able to access their systems. And all their data, and their talent pools, those currencies of relationships.

So, I think that the need for the cloud is overwhelming, right now. And then in addition to that, the desire for automation, and not automation as an end game, because that’s just a buzzword but really, the idea of what automation facilitates, which is: eliminating the manual processes that get in the way of human engagement, that get in their way of the rapport-building, that get in the way of creating trust with the candidates, or with a client, or with another stakeholder, or with a fellow employee.

That’s been crucially important because we don’t have our old bag of tricks, at our disposal anymore. We can’t go out to lunch and form a bond or a dynamic. We can’t shake hands, probably ever again. I don’t know that I’ll ever shake hands with anybody again. Even when this is all over.

We can’t even pick up the phone as easily as we used to. I sometimes don’t know what number to call because I’d be calling somebody’s house. It’s a very confusing new way of working. And really, the only thing that, that we can rely on is when we know that there’s a single system, that various groups are working out of.

And so Caitlyn, for instance, is a great example. She’s in St. Louis, I’m in Boston. But we both use Bullhorn, and we both have access to the same data. So, I know that, regardless of the fact that she’s a slightly different time zone, or has a different set of meetings, and in a totally different atmosphere than I am, we are still operating off a single version of the truth.

That’s making it easier to come to grips with this remote working environment, which is why I think you see so many companies saying, “Yeah, remote work is actually more productive.” When they have a good infrastructure in place, remote work can be very productive if you’re not an essential worker, if you’re not on the front line, if you’re not in healthcare, or working in a grocery store or as a delivery driver, yes. Remote work can be really great, and semipermanent, to be honest. But there are drawbacks that, and I know Caitlyn can speak to the issues with placing talent in this type of environment. I mean, it cannot be easy.

Caitlyn Rhodes: Yeah, absolutely. I’m nodding aggressively to what you’re saying. I think being in an organization that has, such access to all of these technical tools and resources, I’ve felt some of those positive impacts that you mentioned, Caitlin. I also think that it provides us more access to each other, and to candidates. Going back to the forefront of the conversation on my mind, which is diversity.

The two things I’m always thinking about is accessing candidates and accessing underrepresented candidates. And virtually, I can reach out to anyone nearly any time, and I can meet with them face-to-face by video.

So I’m finding it really empowering, and powerful. There are challenges with the training and onboarding. But fortunately Bullhorn has school for that. So we can overcome that.

Caitlin Delohery: I’ve been thinking a lot about how remote recruiting, also feels like a big game changer in terms of just that. With so much of the workforce being remote, positions are freed up from the geographic structures. And the pools are more diverse, it really changes the game. How are you as a recruiter adapting to the fact that really it’s the whole world now, that you can be recruiting from, in a lot of ways, I think.

Caitlyn Rhodes: Yeah, that’s such a great point. We really started heavily recruiting for technical support remotely about a year and a half ago, pretty much predominantly remotely. And I went from looking at the St Louis market and having a handful of qualified candidates, to literally receiving thousands of applications. That presents a challenge. But we were now at this point where we can really evaluate candidates with various backgrounds and various experience. Underrepresented candidates, candidates who have formal education, and candidates who have academy education, or tech school education. It’s widened the candidate pool, and the funnel so much. And it’s incredible in terms of our efforts toward, having a more inclusive and diverse employee population.

Caitlin Delohery: And how have you guys in Bullhorn, as a company, how has it been for you to adapt to this? Were you guys always remote? How have the past few months impacted the way that you guys work?

Caitlyn Rhodes: I think it was a relatively seamless transition for most of us. A lot of us were working in offices. I was, Vinda was. But occasionally, we’d work from home. Maybe once or twice a week on a regular basis, or on a day when you’re having a refrigerator delivered, you’d have the opportunity to work from home. So it was really a simple transition, and we have so many communication tools, and we have Zoom and Slack, and all of these ways that we can communicate with people relatively instantly. So it’s very similar to being in the office.

Vinda Souza: The issue, I think to Caitlyn’s point is, it’s not been technological. We were always set up for success there because we’re a technology company, and we’ve got great technology, we’re set up for remote work and for cloud-based work, and for a geographically distributed workforce.

The issue has been emotional. And it’s not remote work that we’re dissecting really, it’s remote work in a global pandemic that’s terrifying. So, how do you deal with working parents who now don’t have child care access? How do you deal with people who feel very isolated because they live alone in a studio apartment? How do you deal with people who are worried about loved ones who are sick? There’s a lot more things to manage now, that every company is going through.

At least we got part of it done really easily. But the other critical issues no one can solve.

Caitlin Delohery: Yeah. And I think having conversations about it, is a huge way that I’ve… It’s not a solution at all, but just continually pointing to the fact that there is a constant, maybe low-grade, maybe high-grade, drain on human resources, on human ability to mine their own resources for work, because of these emotional tax. I think of it as like, a weighed down CPU. Just dealing with the low-grade emotional stress, or very high-grade emotional stress of this time, I think impacts the way we can work.

And that companies who are aware of that, and flexible to that, I think will at least have a much happier workforce and I suspect fair better in the long run, if there’s some agile sense of how you need to run your teams right now. Given that everyone is under a measurable amount of emotional stress, and uncertainty.

Vinda Souza: We’re nodding in agreement.

Caitlin Delohery: And I’m wondering, it’s hard to piece this out, but what are you focused on at Bullhorn, looking towards the future knowing what you do from, the data that you’ve put out, and from your customers, what’s on the horizon for Bullhorn right now?

Vinda Souza: Well, from a product and solution horizon, there’re numerous things. We announced our unified workforce management vision and strategy, which is tremendously exciting. I think that will be, ultimately transformative for the market in terms of really helping with, high volumes and healthcare agencies. Really just to manage these processes at scale effectively, and help them on their journey to digital transformation, and really future-proofing their business against any number of threats. Taking advantage of opportunities, it’s the great equalizer. And leveling the playing field through technology essentially then, allowing our company to succeed based on its, relationships and its talents. Without the burden of that technology.

Vinda Souza: But from an internal standpoint, I’m more excited about that. And that’s the stuff that Caitlyn’s really taken the lead on. Our DEI internal initiatives that are, I think incredibly exciting for the future of Bullhorn. I’d love to shed some light on that.

Caitlyn Rhodes: Yeah, I think moving forward, I’m evaluating the work that we’re doing, in a series of buckets. One, is the education piece that I referenced earlier, which we’ve put a lot of time and effort into already. Then there’s, creating an inclusive environment because we can bring in underrepresented people, but how do we retain them? Which pivots into my next two, hiring and retention. So we’re putting a lot of, investment and accountability, and analyzing the data in terms of hiring and retention, in our employee resource groups. And, I’m really excited about that moving forward.

Caitlin Delohery: That’s great. Thank you guys so much for talking to me today. This was really illuminating. I really appreciate it.

Caitlyn Rhodes: Thanks for having us.

Register for Bullhorn’s September 9 Webinar, The Organizational Case for Diversity.

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