Maurice Fuller, CXO of StaffingTec, joins this episode of The Staffing Show to talk about the ways hyperautomation is set to reshape the staffing industry. Fuller discusses how staffing firms can survive and thrive in a rapidly changing future and touches on up-and-coming trends such as predictive analytics and autonomous staffing.
David Folwell: Hello everyone. Thank you for joining us for another episode of The Staffing Show. Today I am super excited to be joined by Maurice Fuller, who is the CXO of StaffingTec. Most of you probably know Maurice and have met him at conferences. Maurice, thank you so much for joining me today. To kick things off, could you give a little introduction to who you are and how you got into the staffing industry?
Maurice Fuller: Sure. Thank you very much, David, for having me on the show. I’m Maurice Fuller and I am a staffing technology expert and I serve as a fractional CTO to the staffing industry. I help staffing firms improve their productivity by selecting the best technology stacks, helping them acquire technology, and helping them get the most value from their investments in technology.
I’ve been doing this for many years, serving dozens of clients in a wide range of staffing industry segments from healthcare, light industrial, commercial, IT engineering, professional staffing. I got into staffing over 25 years ago because I really enjoyed working with people and I really enjoyed the process of helping people with their careers. I started as a recruiter, did that for many years before I moved into the management ranks and then really started working with staffing technology and became super passionate about that as a driver of success.
Folwell: It’s really incredible. Again, really great having you on the show. One of the things I’ve enjoyed about all of the conversations I’ve had with you over the years is how deep you go into technology, how you really do have a passion for it and trying to understand how it works, what value it’s adding. That’s part of the reason I’m excited.
Today we’re going to be talking about what you think some of the top tech trends are happening in staffing right now. You and I had a conversation before this, but I think it’s going to be valuable for all of our listeners trying to understand where they should go, what’s their tech stack and what technology they should be looking at and thinking about. One of the trends that I know you and I had talked about kind of kicking things off with is the concept of hyperautomation. Can you tell us what is hyperautomation and why does it matter?
Fuller: Yeah. So hyperautomation is the idea of using multiple technologies for automating your staffing firm. So we often think of automation technologies like Bullhorn Automation or Sense as the way that we automate, and that’s certainly one of the most important ways that we automate. The idea that we can now program our CRM systems, we can program our ATS systems like we program a computer is very, very powerful and really marks a major milestone in the development of our industry.
But more broadly speaking, there is a wide range of technologies that we can use to automate our businesses. And so what does it mean to automate a business process? We’re taking a process that is currently being done by a human being, and we’re using technology to streamline that process and handle that for us. And we’re also using automation to perform processes that were previously maybe not performed by human beings, but we knew that we needed to perform those processes to bring value to our stakeholders.
So there are a wide range of technologies that are used now for automating, and it could be Bullhorn Automation, it could be onboarding technology that is used to streamline the onboarding process. It could be integration technology like Zapier. It could be candidate engagement technology that we use to reach out to and connect with candidates that streamlines that process on the recruiting side. It could be a tool like UiPath, which is like a swivel chair integration technology that enables you to read information from one application, process that, and write that into another application. There’s a lot of different technologies, including low and no-code programming tools that are now being used, especially by the larger staffing firms to automate everything that can be automated within staffing firms.
Folwell: It’s interesting, I was interviewing an engineer yesterday and was talking about automation. He was talking about his passion for automation. It was fun to hear, his comment was, he’s like, “Well, if you have an accounting team and they’re doing a bunch of things, and you want to reduce the headcount in there,” he’s like, “If you give me three months, I could probably automate almost any one of those processes as long as I know what it is and what needs to get accomplished.”
And it really is becoming, I think a lot of staffing agencies when they hear automation, they think marketing automation or recruiting automation is what comes to top of mind. And what you just gave is a whole series of examples of different types of automation that could be really impactful for staffing agencies and really I think pulls it out of digging into just the marketing or email communication and really looking at what processes internally should be automated. How do you think agencies should approach hyperautomation?
Fuller: I think it totally depends on the size of your business and your internal capabilities. If you’re a smaller firm, you’re going to likely be automating using your existing ATS system. There’s a lot of capabilities within ATS systems today to automate, and many staffing firms are not taking advantage of what exists just within their own ATS. Beyond that, it will be automating using programming tools like Bullhorn Automation or Sense. Over and above that, it’s also adding in technologies, like I mentioned, onboarding technologies to streamline certain parts of the business. But I think at the top level, what we should be doing is really thinking about what we are doing in each of these different functions and thinking about it from a time standpoint. Looking at how time is being spent and analyzing how time is being spent and thinking about these broad categories of how time is being applied within the business and looking at opportunities to use technology to streamline the most time-consuming aspects of our business.
That’s where the low-hanging fruit is, and that’s where we want to focus first. Also thinking about the enablers of automation. What are the tools that we have available to us to automate our businesses? And then sort of marrying those two together, the opportunities to streamline and the tools that we have available to us to streamline. And sometimes it’s about taking out time and making us more efficient, but there’s also value in making us faster as well. Staffing is a speed game. The faster that we can operate, the more placements that we’re going to make. There’s also a case to be made for using automation to bring additional value to our customers or to our candidates because it’s going to enable us to make more placements. So it’s a huge area. It’s the single most important area right now for staffing firms to focus on and invest, and we’re going to see a lot more investment in the years ahead. It’s very, very exciting how it’s transforming staffing firms.
Folwell: So when it comes to hyperautomation, how can agencies approach this strategically?
Fuller: It’s a really great question, and not all automations are created equal. First of all, some cost more than others, some take more time to develop. So what I encourage staffing firm leaders to do is to start to build an inventory of opportunities for automating and look at such factors as the impact that it’s going to have. How much time savings is it going to create? How much will it enable you to speed up your processes? So you have some way of prioritizing all these ideas. The challenge is that, at least in my experience, when I work with staffing firms, I can very, very quickly spin up lists of 50, 100, 150, 200 opportunities for streamlining and automating businesses. So when you have a huge list like that, where do you start? And so again, it starts with prioritizing the opportunities and then systematically looking for the automations and the opportunities that are going to have the most impact.
So using an 80/20 approach to focus on the top 20% of opportunities. And then even within that 20%, there’ll be another 20%, which should be really the starting point, the very highest impact automations that will make a meaningful impact on helping you make more placements and streamline operations. So I was recently talking to a staffing firm owner who was very proud of the fact that she had been able to cut her recruiting team by 20% using automation, primarily programmatic automation tools. And it turns out that one automation accounted for about half of the impact that she had that was a direct result of the way that she did recruiting within her firm. So again, not all automations are created equal. And if you can hit upon a handful of automations that have a really meaningful impact, you can definitely see that show up in your financial results.
Folwell: That’s great. I think I hear this from agencies all the time is there’s so many options for paths for them to go down, things to prioritize, but really kind of laying out the list, looking at where do they think they’re going to get the highest ROI. Probably refining it even a step further and really nailing it down to like, “Hey, here are the things that we think are going to have the biggest impact.” Starting there when it comes to hyperautomation.
Folwell: Awesome. And the next trend, something that’s near and dear to me that you kind of identified, and I’ve thought this for years and I’m glad it’s bubbling up, is digital marketing as being one of the key trends for 2023. Could you tell me a little bit about why you think this is important and kind of what impact you expect this to have?
Fuller: Yeah, sure. So digital marketing is a trend that we’ve been following now for several years, and we think it’s super, super important for the success of staffing firms from multiple standpoints. Everything has become digital now. And so in order to find candidates, we have to be savvy digitally to attract candidates, and it’s all about marketing. And when we think about marketing, we often think about communications. We think about the group that handles the communications, the emails, but more and more it goes way beyond that. It’s about thinking about how we can connect with candidates, where we can connect with candidates, the tools that we use to do that. And it’s becoming more and more about automation, and it’s becoming more and more about metrics. The communications continue to play a big role, but it’s an intersection of a lot of different disciplines that is instrumental in helping us attract candidates, but also to support the sales function as well.
Because more and more, sales and marketing work hand-in-hand together in order to identify prospective customers to prospect them, nurture them, and engage with customers. It’s become a very critical function that is kind of like the connective tissue within the entire staffing firm. And more and more automations are actually being written and driven through the marketing department because they have broad visibility across the entire business and the way that they bring value to candidates, employees, and to customers.
Folwell: One way that I always think about this, if you think about a retail store like a Best Buy. Show up to a Best Buy and not having any people working in the Best Buy, you’d be like, “This is insane.” But you go to a website, a staffing firm website, and they have nobody in digital marketing on their team and say they get a thousand visits a day, that’s a pretty significant number of people coming to the website, experiencing their brand, experiencing what they’re looking for. And a lot of times staffing firms have no dedicated marketing person. And while a recruiter might talk to 30 people a day, digital marketer could talk to a thousand. I think that the scale of what marketing allows people to do is pretty impressive. With that, I know one of the things I’ve heard agencies struggle with is who should they have on their team? What should their team look like to make sure that they’re working effectively on their digital marketing effort?
Fuller: Yeah, that’s a really great question. I love that observation about the website and how the website touches so many different candidates. All your job postings touch a lot of different candidates. Marketing is really a leverage function, and it touches a lot of different folks that are involved in your staffing business.
But getting to your question about who should be on your team, digital marketing has become incredibly complex, and even if you talk to the agencies themselves that are serving the staffing industry, they themselves are struggling with keeping up with all of the changes that are occurring. And so the way I like to think about it is that if you are a marketing manager or a marketing director within a staffing firm, you want to constantly keep up with what’s going on. But how can you do that when even the agencies themselves are wrestling with that?
So what I would be doing is I would surround myself with a whole bunch of fractional experts that can support the marketing function in different areas. So I think many staffing firms should be aligned with some staffing firm agencies so they can get a lot of this insight in terms of what’s working well within the staffing industry. But then in addition, you want to have alignments with specialists in specific areas. Maybe you have specialists who work just within graphic arts. Maybe you have specialists who work with you on TikTok advertising or Facebook advertising. Maybe you have experts that you work with just on search engine optimization. You are kind of like a general contractor as a digital marketing manager or director, but you have all of these experts who are supporting you with all these different areas of expertise to build a world-class marketing function within your staffing firm.
Folwell: Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, having run a marketing agency previously, there are so many moving parts, so many paths that you can go down, and I think it is one of those areas where having outside specialization and then also looking at where you’re getting the biggest impact and making sure you’re working with people who really do specialize in that. It’s probably unlikely that you have a full-time in-house TikTok expert, but having somebody who knows how to do that as a consultant absolutely could make sense. I think that’s really great advice there.
Next category that we had for major trends in 2023: staffing platforms. How would you define staffing platforms? Can you just dig into why does this matter?
Fuller: Yeah, so the way I think about it, staffing platforms, it’s really the combination of all the technologies that you are using to serve all of your stakeholders and constituents. So we think about our technologies as a tech stack. We have a tech stack, and often that tech stack is built around a particular ATS. So we have our ATS, and then we have integrations with marketplace partners with our ATS, but it’s really become much broader than that. So we now have tech stacks for each of the departments within our staffing firm. So we have a tech stack for sales. We have a sales tech stack. We have a marketing tech stack. We have a recruiting tech stack and a sourcing tech stack. We have a back-office tech stack. We have an operational tech stack. Maybe even an infrastructure tech stack. And that collection of all of those tech stacks really represents our staffing platform that’s highly integrated together to bring value to our customers, candidates, and our employees.
Folwell: I don’t know the answer to this. This is a little bit of a one-off, but do you have any idea on average how many just software platforms or software SaaS products a staffing agency uses on average or what that range looks like? I imagine, I mean, I always think about just the marketing and sales side of it, but when you get through the whole process, it’s probably fairly significant.
Fuller: Yeah, I would say it’s closely aligned to the size of the company. So if you’re talking about a large company within our industry, north of a billion dollars or north of 10 billion dollars, they could easily have 250 different pieces of software that they’re using to run their business. If you’re a smaller staffing firm, you might be running 10, 20 pieces of software and then you have everything in between. It’s size-dependent. And the other thing is the number of software packages is certainly growing, and so the complexity of the software is rising.
Folwell: How should agencies be managing their staffing platforms? What’s the approach for that? I mean, obviously you would help in a lot of instances where you could come in as a fractional CTO and help organize and kind of strategize on it, but how are you seeing companies doing this effectively?
Fuller: I think again, as a fractional CTO, this is exactly what we do is bring leadership on the technology side. Fundamentally, as we shift from organizations that are mostly run by human beings doing all manual processes into a future where we are very technologically driven, people within our organization will gradually transform from roles like recruiter and sourcer and different operations people into more and more IT people, business analysts, developers, data specialists. And so we need to start staffing up our staffing firms with more and more IT specialists who bring IT leadership to our firms. Further, I guess within each department we need leadership to determine what are the right technologies that we need within sales or recruiting to run our respective functional areas. And so every leader needs to be technologically savvy in order to build and maintain and enhance the tech stacks for their respective departments.
Folwell: I feel like that’s one of the things just personally I’ve seen change over the years is having the functional expertise matter, but also knowing that you need to have the technology expertise along with it. It’s like you can have the best marketer, best salesperson, but you also need to know that beyond just the core capabilities, that they have the ability to integrate and understand technology. Any ideas on how companies could vet for that or how they should be looking for people with that skill set?
Fuller: When we interview, we want to look for people who have a passion for technology and that are open to new ideas, and that want to incorporate technology into the way that you do business and are not necessarily wedded to older or previous ways of doing business. And we want to spend more time becoming aware of all the different technologies that are available. Sometimes it just takes time to study all the available options and to make investments in technology. By learning what’s out there, by keeping current with all the available options, we make better choices in terms of which technologies should go into our tech stacks. Or you can work with someone like myself who spends all of their time keeping up with all the trends in our industry and I can advise you on what to do.
Folwell: Awesome. Jumping into the next trend, and I’m pretty excited about this one and to hear your perspective on it. But the whole concept of a total experience, we hear a lot about the candidate experience, that’s been kind of a trend that I’ve heard about for the last few years.
Explain what the total experience is and how does that kind of differ from when we hear about the candidate experience?
Fuller: When you think about our business, we have sort of a black box, right? We have all these different points, maybe you can call them “moments of truth,” where either customers engage with us, where employees engage with us, that’s both internal employees and our field employees, and where candidates engage with us. And so when we start to think about all these different touchpoints, we want to think about what are all of those experiences that they are having with us, with our technology, with our messaging, with our communications over the phone.
In the past, it’s largely just been human being to human being communications, but more and more these touchpoints are digital in nature. And so the bar is set very high because companies like Amazon have really kind of defined what that optimal experience really is. And I’m not sure that candidates or employees or customers really differentiate that much between a business experience and a consumer experience.
When you have best-in-class experiences with firms like Amazon, everything in business is kind of compared against that. So we really want to think about all those different touchpoints and ideally map those out. It could be your website, it could be the way that candidates apply, it could be the way we respond to them at different points along the way. On the candidate side, how we contact them, how we nurture those relationships, how we handle different parts of the candidate presentation and interview process. The key here, again, just like automation, there’s so many opportunities. In the experience area, it’s the same thing where it could be massively overwhelming if you just look at all the different places where we have touchpoints. But again, not all touchpoints are created equal.
And if you take an 80/20 approach and you think about where are we doing most of these touchpoints, you’ll find that there are some touchpoints where we’re doing them hundreds of times a day or thousands of times, and others where they only come up occasionally. So some of them are super high value and have to really be optimized, and some of them don’t matter quite as much. So it starts with really mapping out and building the big picture of the total experience that we’re delivering and where all those touchpoints are. And then identifying the ones that really matter and honing in on those first and optimizing those in the beginning before we go into the ones that don’t occur quite as often.
Folwell: Obviously you need to look at kind of mapping it out, being strategic about it, looking at where the impact is going to be the largest. From your experience working with agencies, any guidance on maybe a category or areas where you’ve seen low-hanging fruit consistently? Where it’s like, “All right, this is something that I go in, and typically this is an area that it’s like we know that there’s a gap here that’s an important gap to actually get involved with.” Is there any consistency with that or does that change based off of the agency in a pretty meaningful way?
Fuller: That’s a good question. I think when you look at Sense, or if you look at Bullhorn, both of these firms have listed out a whole bunch of automations that are high-impact, and those are really the starting point. When I talk to folks who are deeply involved in automation, what they tell me is that the most high-impact automation or touchpoint is just simply responding quickly to candidates that have applied for a job and letting them know what the next step is. That’s probably where you have the highest impact touchpoint right away, but there’s so many more. I don’t even know where to begin to lay out what the next ones are.
Folwell: Yeah, that makes sense. And also on the response rate, don’t remember the exact stat, but it was something along the lines of if you respond to an online lead application, whatever may be, within five minutes, I think like seven X the likelihood of closing it versus responding within one day. And so that lines up with that stat very well. That would be an area to make sure you’re doing that right because it’s probably very impactful regardless of where you’re sitting at.
Fuller: Interestingly, even there, there’s a lot of work that’s being done because of the speed in response, because of exactly what you stated. Being able to respond very quickly to candidates who apply for jobs, whether it’s through text messaging, through video, through phone calling, through automated means, that is one area where there’s just tremendous opportunity to gain competitive advantages by moving faster to follow up with candidates that apply for jobs.
Folwell: Absolutely. The last category that we had here for trends to dig into: Data. Obviously, something that is unbelievably valuable when used correctly, had a couple people on the podcast have talked about how they’re using data for hospital systems to reduce utilization of major ways. How do you see data being used by agencies today? Do you have any examples of how they could use data to improve decision-making or the overall business efficiencies?
Fuller: Yeah, that’s such a broad topic, and it’s hugely important as we go through the rest of this decade. The data that you have within your firm is going to become more and more valuable and important because staffing firms are transitioning from humans working with data within ATS systems largely and some other systems. We manually interact with the data through this intermediary technology called an ATS to various databases and algorithms working on processing that data. Very sophisticated algorithms that incorporate more and more AI and more and more machine learning and data from a wide range of sources. So we’re seeing more and more staffing firms that are aggregating all kinds of data into data lakes and data warehouses and are processing this data. It’s so much easier today to use tools like Power BI to combine all the data within your staffing firm and to be able to report on all of that data.
In the past, we’ve had different reports from different systems, and we’ve had to try to make sense of all of this. You’re seeing firms like Avionté, for example, that is now using Snowflake, and they’re bringing together all of the data into a data lake. And so now we can work with all of that data. Think about data more broadly, not just data necessarily within your accounting system or within your ATS. Think about data that might come about as a result of voice conversations that you have with a candidate, and that conversation is recorded. All the chat conversations that you might have with a candidate. All the email communications that you have. Being able to run and process algorithms on top of all of that data to make decisions about who you might want to reach out to for specific jobs, when you want to reach out to them, what messages you might want to say to them.
Again, fundamentally it’s about data and then also about reporting on that data. I think being able to bring all your data together into a data lake or data warehouse and then reporting across your entire company and combining metrics from different sources, different KPIs, and different KFIs, to build a holistic picture of all of the operations within your business.
Folwell: The one stat that still gets me every time I hear is people talk about data as the idea, and this is old news. But the fact that data is more valuable than oil in terms of resources, I think it was like 2019 or somewhere around there that I remember seeing the articles about that. It is incredible to think about what you can do with data and how valuable it can be for an organization.
I guess two things, if you’re a staffing agency owner, who should be on your team to work with, utilize and kind of get value out of the data? And are there any kind of starting points where you could say, if you aren’t leveraging your data in a meaningful way, here’s a couple things that you could think about in terms of moving forward. And maybe that is hiring somebody to bring them in, or maybe it’s leveraging your ATS. But who would you recommend? Also, what steps would potentially work for an agency?
Fuller: On a more practical basis, to answer your question, I think going back to automation, it relies on clean data. So data hygiene is essential for our automations to run correctly. So just starting within our ATS and having clean and organized data is super, super important. There’s a lot of different ways of doing that. It really starts with the data that we’re bringing into our system, making sure it’s validated before we bring it in. De-duping data. It’s also about having automations that take care of looking for data that might not be right and working with humans or self-correcting that data. So that’s really the foundation is clean data within your ATS system. I would say the next level beyond that is reporting and having some sort of data warehouse or data lake capabilities. Power BI is a great starting point for that.
Folwell: I think Power BI is a great starting point. And then from a team perspective, do you see this as something that they need to have in-house specialists, like data analysts, data scientists, any best practices you’ve seen on that front?
Fuller: If you’re a smaller staffing firm, the key is to build up your internal expertise with technology. How do you do it? It’s a combination of bringing in the right people that either have those skills or have a willingness to learn these new technologies around automation and learning about data, have been trained in these areas.
As you work into the bigger and bigger companies, of course they’re going to have more and more data specialists on their team to the point where the largest staffing firms have enormous teams of specialists on. I heard about one four-billion dollar company. I think they have 250 people on the application side just focused on all the different facets of managing the applications that recruiters and salespeople use to run their businesses. And you can imagine within these large teams, they have people like data scientists that are focused on finding ways to leverage that data to make their recruiters and sales teams more efficient. So it really depends on the size and the resources that you have available. But at every level, staffing firms have to become more technologically savvy in order to succeed in the years ahead.
Folwell: Absolutely. With that, those are kind of the key trends that I know we had talked about a little bit before this conversation today. What trends are you most excited about right now?
Fuller: Yeah, so there’s a lot of trends that I’m super excited about. One of the trends I want to mention is this idea of predictive analytics. So we’ve had analytics for a long time to report on the operations of our business and our finances. I’ve asked people in the analytics area, “Like, why can’t you do predictive analytics?” And they tell me, “Oh, we don’t want to go there,” or “It’s too complicated.” But that is changing now. I am seeing software now that is being used to predict things that are happening in staffing firms, predict job orders that we’re likely to see, needs for candidates that we’re likely to experience. And so once you have that in hand, you don’t have to wait for a particular job order to arrive. The technology will tell you it’s likely that these particular types of candidates are going to be needed and you can proactively start recruiting for those.
So predictive analytics is huge. Also excited about autonomous staffing, particular matching technology. So matching in technology has been around for a long time, but it’s really only been accessible to the very largest staffing firms. But that’s changing. There are commercial solutions that are becoming available to match candidates in a very sophisticated way to job orders and to do that very rapidly. That’s going to be one of those enablers that will take us to that future where we’re autonomously matching candidates to job orders. I still feel that by the year 2030, we’re going to see about a third of all candidates within our industry will be replaced autonomously, meaning at that moment where the match is made, there’s no recruiter involved. It could be a recruiter was involved in qualifying the candidate in the beginning.
There are staffing firms today that are already filling north of 50% of their orders autonomously without recruiters directly involved. So the technologies are becoming available. There are technologists at many staffing tech firms that are working in this area. So it’s a hot area. All the technologies that we need to get to 30% fills exist today already. We just have to get them into a commercial form and get them broadly distributed.
Folwell: That is an incredible stat and prediction, and also I believe it. So interesting, we talk about this a lot on this show, but the parallels between the travel industry and the staffing industry. I was listening to a podcast the other day where they were talking about the number of travel agencies and travel agents and how at one point you couldn’t book a flight without going to a travel agent because that information wasn’t readily available. It wasn’t easy to do. And now, Expedia, booking.com, you have the ability to do that all on its own. Simultaneously, travel agencies have had a resurgence as well as they’ve been more specialized and figured out new ways to add value. So I think it’s just interesting to think about the idea of, I completely believe that a third of candidates will be placed autonomously, and yet there will still be a need for people in the industry to serve in different ways and help support and provide different types of work around supporting that people getting jobs. So that’s pretty cool.
I actually hadn’t believed it fully until recently. I tried out ChatGPT, and I was just absolutely blown away with the functionality that that has right now. You can ask it to write a LinkedIn post for you. You can ask it to summarize saying. And then you can say, “Hey, what’s the best answer to this? And then write it in bullets. Give it to me in a hundred words.” It is really a spectacular piece of AI that I think shows where we’re going in terms of technology.
Fuller: That’s a very interesting area, and it’s really a preview of how our world is going to dramatically shift in so many different ways. And whether you are writing a movie script or working on song lyrics or whether you’re writing a job posting, this technology is going to change the world. I think of it as a difference between maybe riding a bicycle and being in a car with an engine. It’s a big step forward. It’s a step function progress in giving human beings more powerful tools to get more done and be more productive and be more creative.
Folwell: One of my buddies, we were talking about it. I was like, “Do you think it’s going to replace Google? Do you think this chat functionality is going to replace Google?” And we both agreed that we do think it very likely will replace Google at some point simply because when you go to Google, you’re going with a question and you want an answer. And right now you get 10 answers on the first page, but probably thousands of answers delivered to you and you get what should be the best answer delivered first, but you’re probably going to go through three to five answers before you get the information you need.
And this type of AI functionality, it’s just giving you the answer. And when it gets it right, and you trust it and you believe that it’s getting it right consistently, why do you need the other answers now? Which is kind of an unbelievable concept coming from a content marketing background, how this is going to shift marketing, how this is going to shift how we gather information and just get questions answered. It definitely will have a big impact and probably shake things up.
Fuller: Yeah. And then to your point, I know Bing has already committed to incorporating ChatGPT into their tool, and Microsoft made a billion-dollar investment into OpenAI. So I think we’re going to see that emerge sooner than later. And it’s also going to drive up productivity. If you’re a software engineer and you need to build an algorithm, you tell it, “Hey, just create this algorithm for me.” You can bet there are teams at Microsoft in their development group that are working on connecting Visual Studio to some subset of ChatGPT to make developers even more productive kind of like a co-pilot-like paired programming where you have a programmer paired with someone else. Well, maybe the pair is an AI like ChatGPT to help you become more productive.
Folwell: I’m not a developer, but I’ve heard, my fiancé is a data scientist, and she was saying that you can put code in there and it will actually tell you what’s wrong. You can say, “Check this code for errors,” and it will go through and check your code. Or you can say, “Write code in X for X,” and it will do that for you, which is really, really amazing.
So last topic I wanted to jump into before we get into the speed questions. So we’re still sitting in a spot where there’s some economic uncertainty. I think a lot of staffing agencies are still pushing forward and seeing a lot of growth. Others are a little bit uncertain of what’s going on. The Fed is raising interest rates continually. Where do you see things going or what’s the sense of the market and the impact that’ll have on the staffing industry going forward?
Fuller: I’m certainly not clairvoyant. I don’t know economically where all of this is headed. I don’t know if we’re in a minor recession or we’re heading into a big recession. I mean, if you talk to 10 people, you’ll get 10 different points of view on what’s going to happen next. But fundamentally, we are in a really, really good spot in the staffing industry right now because of the demographic shifts that we’re seeing. There is going to be a tremendous demand for talent and for labor the rest of this decade. And staffing firms are extremely well-positioned to help our clients satisfy that need. So now is really the time to gear up for our next wave of significant growth within our industry. But again, success is going to be driven by having state-of-the-art systems and processes in place. And a lot of this is driven by technology. So investing in technology now is imperative. And also not just the technology, but also the people and the processes to support that and be successful with the technology. I have a lot of clients that have the right technology, and now it’s a matter of working with them to take full advantage of what they have to propel their firms into the future.
Folwell: I couldn’t agree more. Who knows where things are going, if we’ll have a short recession right now or not. Or as many people I’ve talked with have said, we’ve already gone through it, we’re already in it. But I do agree with you completely that the fundamentals of staffing, which is labor shortages and not enough people to fill the positions that we need, that’s not going anywhere. So I do think from the staffing industry’s perspective, things look very positive.
With that, we’re going to go ahead and jump into the speed questions. Got a couple questions to round it out. What advice do you wish you were given before entering the staffing industry?
Fuller: Yeah, that’s a great question. I wish somebody had told me when I got into the staffing industry that I would never leave it because I love it so much. That’s what’s happened. I mean, I’ve just had such a great experience working within the staffing industry and it’s evolved and it’s grown. It’s always been exciting, but honestly, today is the most exciting time to be in the staffing industry.
Folwell: Awesome. And in the last five years, what new belief, behavior or habit has most improved your life?
Fuller: Yeah, I think over the last few years, personally, I’ve become better at just the fundamentals of life, getting more exercise, eating better, getting more sleep. And that combination of really focusing on the fundamentals in my own life, I’ve really noticed it has made a difference. So I think we can’t underestimate the importance of just paying attention to what our body needs in order to function well.
Folwell: That’s great. What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? Could be an investment of money, time, energy, et cetera.
Fuller: I would say my MBA degree. Previously I have a master’s degree in engineering and I love engineering, and I love everything about technology. But really having that big picture and all those tools to make sense of the business world, all those skills that I picked up through the MBA program, I would say was one of the most worthwhile investments I ever made.
Folwell: Love it. Last question I’ve got for you. What is the book or books you’ve given most as a gift and why?
Fuller: There’s one book that I really love, and it’s called The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch. What I love about it is that it helps us understand that not all forces in the universe are created equal. There are some forces that really have a major impact, and there’s some that don’t. So if we look around, we think about our world, everything kind of feels linear, but in fact, the world is anything but linear. It’s extremely non-linear. And so paying attention to those forces that have a really high impact can make a difference. So for example, we talked about automations. You might have 200 ideas for automations, but maybe 20 of those automations are going to have the vast majority of impact, and that’s where we want to focus in on first. So using that 80/20 lens and thinking about the world from an 80/20 perspective I think is a really powerful way to approach life.
Folwell: I love that. And lastly, do you have any closing comments for the audience? Any takeaways?
Fuller: Again, this industry is constantly evolving. It never stands still, but think about the fundamentals of what we’re doing. We are bringing value to our clients, we’re bringing value to our candidates, we’re bringing value to our employees. If you think about our staffing firms kind of as a black box, everything within that black box can change: the people, the technology, the processes, accountability, the financial aspects, but fundamentally, the way that we bring value to our clients, everything needs to continuously improve. We can’t stand still and continue to bring value to these stakeholders the way we did 20 years ago, 10 years ago, or even five years ago. We need to be thinking about how are we going to be bringing value to our customers in the future because the bar is constantly rising, and the way that we can keep up I think is going to be through more and more investments in technology. And I guess the last comment is your staffing firm is becoming increasingly a technology business, which is providing staffing services as opposed to a staffing firm that’s delivering services primarily through human beings.
Folwell: I think that is a great closing comment and something that’s deep and interesting to think about for staffing agencies that are listening to this is looking at which staffing agencies are moving forward the fastest and really what is at the core of that. Maurice, really enjoyed having you on today, some really great insights. Thank you so much for joining.
Fuller: Yeah, thank you, David. I really appreciate the opportunity.