In this episode of The Staffing Show, David Folwell, the President of Staffing Hub, interviews Vinda Souza, VP of Marketing Communications at Bullhorn, about the staffing industry’s diversity problem, the power of reskilling, and growing a company culture based on dignity, respect, and humor (just call it the anti-Dilbert method).
Here’s the transcript of the episode.
Staffing Hub: So today we have Vinda Souza, who’s the VP at marketing communications at Bullhorn. She handles public relations, content marketing, and social media. Thank you so much for joining us today, Vinda.
Souza: Thanks for having me.
Staffing Hub: To start off, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and about your path to becoming the VP of marketing communications at Bullhorn.
Souza: Sure. So, I like long walks on the beach, uh no. So I started out in tech PR, that’s what I specialized in early in my career, and I spent many years at a tech PR agency. So, I worked with a variety of high-tech clients, and I realized that I wanted to specialize in just serving one company as opposed to many at once and really become a master of a specific area.
So, I went client-side around eight years ago, and I first explored advertising technology, and then been having conversations with the guys at Bullhorn, especially Art Papas and Andrew Hally, who was the VP of marketing back then. And, I realized I just absolutely adored the culture and the team. So, I jumped over to Bullhorn to run a product called The Fit, which was a candidate psychographic matching service, which was amazing, but a little ahead of its time, and so that really didn’t take off. But, then I managed marketing for Bullhorn Reach, which was a social recruiting product — that was also ahead of its time.
I was running public relations here and dabbling in content in social media, as well. And that eventually evolved as we grew as a company into global PR and an institutional analysis relations program and eventually to encompass marketing communications in its entirety, along with more recently content marketing and social media about leadership strategy.
Staffing Hub: Well, that’s amazing. That was a great background and sounds like a good fit with Bullhorn. So, jumping into a little bit to some of the initiatives I noticed with Bullhorn, I noticed that you guys recently launched your 2019 Staffing Trends Survey. Tell me a little bit about what the survey’s about and any of the lessons that you’ve had from previous annual reports.
Souza: Absolutely. This is a really special topic for me. So, our trends reports are well over a decade old. We’ve been doing them for as long as I can remember. Certainly, as long as I’ve been with the company.
Early on in my Bullhorn career, I was in charge of not only executing the survey, but writing all of the reports. So, I would sit down there and write these 40-page reports for North America, the UK, and Asia Pacific. I just remember it was a very, very dark and cold January because I would walk in a room just writing, writing, writing. And I’ve always loved what we accomplished with these trends reports.
Our customers are why we do everything that we do, and these trend data reports tend to provide a tremendous amount of value to our customers in helping them figure out where they should invest in their business, figure out if they’re meeting expectations, and more.
And so, we wanted to make sure that we maintained the value of the trends report but also try to take it in a direction that was more reflective of how people today want to consume content. So, one of the things that we’re doing differently for 2019 is instead of making it a static tome of a report, which is many, many dozens of pages, we are creating a global trends microsite, which is going to have agile information that is easy to digest, customizable, interchangeable. You can drill down into data that’s relevant to your segment’s sector, region, area of interest, the role, numbers of years of experience, et cetera, and really find the information and data insights that match what you’re looking for, for your own business.
It will be probably a lot better received by our customers because it will be so customized to who they are and what they’re focused on. Not to mention that the fact that I think it’s going to be tremendous of fun for the team to work on because anytime you have a beautiful, visual representation of data, there’s just an inherently high-interest level there. So, we’re pumped.
We’ve launched the surveys and we’re wrapping them up. North America, Asia Pacific, the UK, mainland in Europe, Germany, and the Netherlands, and so far, so good. The trends that I’ve already seen are incredibly interesting, and it should make for a very cool report, all things considered.
Staffing Hub: Any preview into any of those insights?
Souza: Sure. So one of the things that we wanted to focus on this year as well is with shortening the survey. It used to be a very, very comprehensive metrics-based survey that would go 40 or 50 questions deep, which is great if you have somebody who’s really willing to take the time to answer all of them, and potentially collaborate with other members of their team to get the answers that they might not know off the top of their head. But that’s a strange and unlikely circumstance.
So, by drilling down into just 15 questions or so, we were able to focus the survey more on the outlook for the industry.
- Do recruiters and leaders at staffing agencies think that the talent shortage is insurmountable?
- Are they investing in reskilling efforts?
- How big of an impact is VMS is continuing to have on their business?
- Do they feel optimistic about some geopolitical shifts that are currently surrounding us?
- Is there anything that in particular keeps them up at night around challenges and business growth?
- And do they feel like this might be the year for a profitable exit, whether that’d be through a sale or through something more organic?
There are a lot of different things that we’re trying to assess, and it could be very compelling to see where people swing on that pendulum. One issue that I’ve already seen is that awareness is a tricky concept sometimes.
We’re getting somewhat optimistic answers about diversity and gender parity and empowerment within recruiting as an industry specifically. We’re getting some feedback that it’s not an issue, that recruiting is doing a good job internally with that. But, the data that we have externally does not support that conclusion.
So, it’ll be interesting for us to put the pieces together when we do our analysis to say we’re thrilled that we feel great about where we’re at as an industry, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that there is room for improvement.
We don’t always know what we don’t know.
Staffing Hub: I think that’s amazing, and it’s great to shed light into that and help staffing firms see the reality of the situation. Sometimes I think we can feel good about the way things aren’t quite as accurate as they’d like.
With that, you mentioned that readers will have access to this. Is there anything special that any of our core of listeners, what do they need do to make sure that they get access to the report or that they’re able to view the report?
Souza: Absolutely. Well, first of all we encourage everybody to take the Trends Survey, if you’re not in North America because the North American surveys is pretty much wrapped up. And in addition to that, if you just go to bullhorn.com/resources and you sign up to be on our mailing list, you’ll absolutely be notified as soon Trends is ready to go. And you’ll be among the first to receive that notification. So, that’s the easiest way to do that.
Also, following @bullhorn on Twitter is a great way to stay in the loop about new content and research projects because that’s always where we all debut them.
Staffing Hub: Fantastic. Fantastic. Thanks. And also one of the other initiatives that I came across while going through your website was the Staffing Speaks Out. It looks like it was recently launched, and I just wondered if you could share a little bit about what you hope to achieve with that and how that’s going so far.
Souza: Absolutely. So Staffing Speaks Out is a fabulous initiative that was launched around Labor Day, and it’s the brainchild of Katie Tierney, our content marketing director who worked very closely with Alex Barca, Jeremy Ott, and Bob McHugh, on our marketing team to put that into action.
So, Staffing Speaks Out is a repository of mostly video, but also some blog content that is targeted towards small and mid-sized recruitment businesses that are doing really, really interesting work in the industry and moving it forward collectively. And it was formulated as somewhat of a compliment to another repository site that we support at Bullhorn called the Recruitment Innovation Exchange, which was started a year and a half ago.
And RIX, as we call it focuses on enterprise thought leaders and recruitment and giving them a showcase for their ideas and discussions and collaboration. And it’s proven to be quite successful, but interestingly enough, Staffing Speaks Out has already eclipsed RIX as far as leadership and viewership. And I think that’s testament to how incredible the team is at pushing that content out.
Also, it’s compelling for SMB staffing and recruitment agencies to be able to have this resource that is so strategically oriented around empowering what we call the voice of the leader or voice of the customer, where the recruitment agency practitioners themselves are able to talk about what’s important to them. And discuss solutions for driving the industry collectively forward.
We’ve already had in literally the two months or so since it’s been in existence, 50 thousand views of the Staffing Speaks Out launch video on social media. We’re seeing a ton of customers and staffing professionals tagging their colleagues and commenting about how excited they are to see their colleagues and friends represented.
So, prominently we also used it as a starting off point and an outlet to interview staffing professionals about their experiences and have received dozens of emails from staff and professionals asking to participate and share their thoughts.
As far as how people are engaging with that Staffing Speaks Out content specifically, it’s doing very, very well. It has a much lower bounce rate than the industry average for content consumption and a much higher time on page. So interesting enough also quantitatively viewers of Staffing Speaks Out videos and blogs are twice as likely to view another page on the Bullhorn website after checking out something from Staffing Speaks Out.
And they’re also spending twice as long on the Staffing Speaks Out site and interacting with the content on there than they would be if they came in through other channels. So it’s very compelling. It speaks to the value and promise of video as a content format.
The success of Staffing Speaks Out also speaks to the importance of making sure that we, as navigators for the recruitment industry, showcase the practitioners and leaders within this industry because this is a people industry and people want to see people.
Staffing Hub: I think that’s fantastic. When I went through the site I always notice that there’s a lot of video content, which I personally enjoy, and I know that’s a major trend in digital marketing. I’m a little bit of a marketing nerd here myself. But some of you guys have made a big shift to that and I just love some of the content. And I feel that for all of our listeners if you get a chance, both the report and also the Staffing Speaks Out offer a lot of insight into best practices for how to run your staffing firm. And it’s some really, really great content I think is worth checking out. You’ve done a fantastic job, I’m happy to hear that it’s as successful as you’ve mentioned.
Souza: Thanks. It’s all the team I had absolutely nothing to do with it. But I’m certainly glad to talk about it.
Staffing Hub: I love how the staffing industry as a whole is pretty open and the fact that people are willing to share best practices to move the entire industry forward. I think that’s just a great aspect of this industry as a whole.
Souza: And it’s actually interesting you mentioned that, too. Because we were at Engage London, which is our European recruitment conference in early September, and we had a conversation with Phillip Ullmann who is the Chief Energiser at Cordant Group, which is a very famous international recruitment agency. And Phillip is just an absolute delight. And he was speaking about the need for coopetition.
We’re finding coopetition to be increasingly relevant for staffing or recruiting as a whole with such an incredible time that we’re living in right now, where demand for talent is greater than the supply of talent because unemployment is so unprecedentedly low.
We need to work together instead of competing blindly apart because it simply is an unsustainable strategy to assume that everybody is going to be able to tap into completely unknown talent pools. There aren’t enough human beings for that to make sense. So, we all have to be working together to leverage the same pools of talent in different ways. Whether that’s through upskilling, reskilling, or engagement with underrepresented groups.
Staffing Hub: That’s fantastic and that makes complete sense. I know that the talent shortage doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. And what we’re seeing in the market, and it sounds like you’re experiencing the same thing, is major shift towards how can we do alternative sourcing or what ways can we do to leverage talent in ways that we haven’t before?
One of the other things, so I noticed that earlier this year you interviewed with Caitlin Delohery who’s the editor in chief for Staffing Hub. And you talked a lot about AI and helping humans be more human. What other major trends do you see in the staffing industry moving forward into 2019?
Souza: I would say the one that’s really sticking out right now is around reskilling. And Art Papas, who’s our founder and CEO, spoke about this extensively at our Engage Boston conference and at Engage London as well.
We know what the core issue for recruitment is currently, at least in the United States, and arguably in many regions around the world, because they’re all kind of dealing with this at the same time.
So, one of the add-on effects of a protectionist economy right now in the U.S. at least is that obviously immigration is lower and domestic talent access is being overly strained. And so unemployment is low but demand for jobs is growing. While the advent of more actionable and practical artificial intelligence solutions and intelligent assistance is promising, we haven’t seen the same trajectory of growth within that to do a one-to-one compensation for the lack of human talent currently available. At least domestically.
So how do you address that, right? You need to either identify talent that was previously completely unknown, which is very unlikely, or to leverage the talent that’s already at your fingertips or within your grasp and kind of work with that talent so that they are relevant and applicable for the roles you have opened. And the way to do that is primarily around reskilling and investment in education.
And there are, I mean contrary to belief, it’s not that there simply aren’t any talent that we haven’t seen yet.
It’s just that we’re not moving particularly fast at leveraging underutilized groups. There are huge talent pools of veterans, returning mothers, neuro-diverse and differently-abled candidates that for whatever reason agencies and hiring managers may not be pursuing as often as they should.
And ultimately the only way to combat the talent shortage is to pursue these candidates, engage them, and invest in providing them the education they need to increase their skills or change their skills to match the needs of hiring managers.
So, there are the online education sites that are ubiquitous in addition to…I know Adecco invested by acquiring General Assembly a while ago and that’s a great example of a phenomenal way to turn people who had no technical background into serviceable coders and programmers. There are a lot of ways to invest in training people to be able to fill the roles of the future. There just needs to be some insight and forethought put into that.
Staffing Hub: Yeah, I think that the whole reskilling concept is really incredible and something that I see it as kind of being the future in many ways.
How is Bullhorn or is Bullhorn doing anything specific with the product or any of the future releases that will help in kind of identifying those who need to be reskilled or anything that will kind of help move this trend forward?
One of the best sources of incredible talent, as we’ve proven year after year in our trend reports, are the candidates already within your ATS.
So, for the staffing and recruiting agencies that use Bullhorn, revisiting the candidates already in the ATS and figuring out which ones can be either redeployed for temp and contract positions or reskilled to meet a position that maybe would otherwise be considered slightly outside their reach.
Those are both incredible initiatives to invest time and resources into.
We’re very committed to furthering and expanding the promise of the workforce solutions ecosystem as a whole. As a company we invest very heavily in corporate philanthropy around empowerment and bridging the opportunity divide because while talent is distributed equally, opportunity is not.
So, we support organizations like Career Collaborative and Year Up and Prosper 4 Group. We have created a website, bullhorn.com/skills, where any agency or anybody in any agency really can take a look and find some easy resources to help them in their reskilling and upskilling efforts.
But beyond that, the first recommendation is to better leverage your ATS. We find that the firms that use their ATSs and really have high adoption rates within their ATS tend to do a lot better as far as their fill rate percentages because they simply have a better grasp of the candidates that are already in their pipeline.
And it generally just leads to better outcomes. So that would be our first recommendation.
Obviously there are plenty of AI and automation and process improvements solutions in the works that are part of our product roadmap that will help to merge the machine world with the human world to ensure that recruiters are not only more productive but ultimately can do their jobs in a more satisfactory fashion by allowing human recruiters to focus on their own skills and kind of harness hidden talent that aren’t so dehumanized by wasting time on manual data entry and the like.
Staffing Hub: Absolutely. And so just switching gears a little bit, you mentioned Bullhorn’s company culture a couple times and I also know Bullhorn is one of the leading ATSs that have been growing rapidly for quite a while now. What are some of the challenges? If you can give me a little bit of insight into the culture at Bullhorn? And also what are some of the challenges that you faced as you guys have scaled up?
Souza: That’s a great question. So, what’s amazing is that for a 20-year-old company, almost, 19 years, the culture has always remained pretty consistent. I’ve been here for seven years now and it’s amazing. Every year I feel like the company is different, like my job is different and what we’re doing is ever so slightly different. But it’s always fun, it’s always energizing, and the team is always just great and easy to work with, fun to spend time with. I have never before been in a job where I am really excited to wake up in the morning, where I don’t feel any sense of even comical dread. You know sometimes it’s just fun to just be like, “Oh man, I don’t want to go to work today.”
I really don’t feel that.
I couldn’t even lie to my husband and family and say that I dread going into work because I don’t. And I actually, as much as I hated ending my maternity leaves, I was still super excited about going back to work. I missed it that much. Our culture has always been one where it’s not okay to be an asshole.
Staffing Hub: I love that. I love that.
Souza: It really isn’t. I mean it seems like it’s something that you should take for granted, but it’s remarkable that that’s not always the case at a lot of companies. And it’s really not…I mean, the credit goes, and he would never take credit for this, but the credit absolutely goes to Art for creating a culture and investing in a leadership team that absolutely values being a decent human being. There is something to be said for putting people first above a lot of other things.
And my dad used to have, well he didn’t have a saying because he’s not some great philosopher, though I love him. But he would say like, “Look, if you always hunt for money and money is your focus you will be pretty amateur at everything that you do. If you find something that you love and that you’re good at and you just work at it no matter what it is, inevitably success will follow you. Whether it be immediately or five to ten or twenty years from now, at some point, you will be, by all accounts and measures, a success because you pursued something that you truly, truly loved and had a passion for.”
And I feel like Art and the leadership team bring together a group of individuals who are motivated by that.
We are motivated by serving our customers, by making them happy, by solving challenges and problems and by doing it in a way that’s humorous and with dignity and with a deep respect for each other.
And we have these core values that Art and the leadership team put into place around speed and agility, being human, service for your coworkers and customers, accountability.
And these core values are so important and indelible to everything that we do and how we operate as both individual contributors but also as a collective team because it’s not cool to be disingenuous. It’s not cool to leave people waiting. It’s not cool to say no for the sake of saying no. That’s not something that we aspire to do. This isn’t Dilbert. Right?
We are actually here because we want to be here and we want to do good and we want to do right. While that isn’t always possible in every scenario because we’re not living in a beautiful technicolor utopia, at the same time, we should always strive for it. It’s unacceptable to act any other way.
Staffing Hub: I absolutely love that. I have to say, I don’t have a ton of interaction with Art, but I did watch him play in his band at the Executive Forum a couple years ago. At that moment, I had the feeling that this would be a great company to work for and it seemed like you guys have a great culture. That’s fantastic.
Jumping back a little bit back to the product side of things, with Bullhorn, I know the marketplace is something that I actually, with my interactions in the staffing industry, I frequently hear that as being a differentiator for Bullhorn in terms of the add-ons that you can put in place and the number of things that you can plug into Bullhorn. Will you tell me a little bit about the marketplace and how that helps staffing firms?
Souza: One of the things that we pride ourselves on at Bullhorn is the extensibility and scalability of our platform. The fact that it’s so open and it can absolutely grow with any sized business at any growth trajectory and any chronology is really what sets us apart.
Back a few years ago, we were working with some institutional analysts firms and we were on The Forrester Wave for mid-sized CRM and they had ranked us a 4.8 out of 5 for platform architecture and security. The only other company that got a 4.8, that was the highest possible score of anybody that year, was Salesforce, which is one of the two platforms that we support as a business. We support both the Bullhorn platform and the Salesforce platform. That just speaks volumes about how seriously we take the strength and sanctity of our platform.
What’s wonderful about the marketplace partner program is that it’s these integrated partner applications that work seamlessly with Bullhorn to extend the power that every agency has to encompass the whole 360 degrees of the tasks and workflows that they need to be successful.
Obviously we are primarily an end-to-end recruitment system, but there are aspects of that that we are not going to focus on because there are so many companies that do a great job of that already, so background screening and drug testing and things of that nature, and some very, very high level and consumer-centric candidate engagement and things of that nature.
By partnering with our marketplace partners, we’re able to extend the value and the power of the Bullhorn platform to encompass a whole array of processes that staffing agencies need in order to really reach their maximum potential as far as productivity and financial results.
We are unlocking the power of the platform and we are unlocking the power of people by nature of how robust and expansive our marketplace partner program is.
What’s even more interesting is in the past couple of years, we’ve launched the developer program which encompasses thousands of integrations wherein even a mom and pop shop with just one software developer in a single room can create an integration with the Bullhorn platform for a solution that he or she finds to be of use to the industry and will provide the support and facilitation to make that happen.
We are very, very committed not just to partnerships with these huge companies like Monster and CareerBuilder and companies of that sort, but also to any developer who thinks that they have an idea that could have a positive impact on our roster of customers.
Staffing Hub: That’s fantastic. That’s fantastic. You mentioned in your response there, you talked about how you guys support Salesforce as well and I know you have a couple major acquisitions with Jobscience and Talent Rover. How is that impacting your customers and how do you see Bullhorn supporting the Salesforce, the two different platforms? How do you see that being supported going forward?
Souza: The genesis of wanting to support the Salesforce platform is that we saw in many cases that our customers wanted choice. They wanted the choice to invest either in Bullhorn platform, sure, which obviously we adore and it’s core to who we are, but at the same time a lot of, especially in larger size customers had already made the decision to invest in Salesforce. That was how they were running their business. We wanted to make sure that for those customers who had made that choice, we wanted to be able to offer them the best possible recruitment solution front office to integrate with that. That’s what we found when we looked at Talent Rover, Jobscience, and Connexys. We thought these are some amazing solutions and they have very similar cultures to ours around customer centricity and customer service and these are great teams of people. Let’s bring these guys together. Let’s bring us all together. The more the merrier. Let’s add some power to this.
It was able to help us see that we could support so many more businesses in such a rapid timeframe by bringing companies together as part of the Bullhorn family. I like to use the analogy of language. Sure, our native language may be English but we understand that there are a lot of people in the world whose native language is not English. Their native language is French or Spanish. While we may not necessarily have grown up speaking those languages, we see the value in having people who are part of our core unit who do and who think and dream in those languages. Now we can communicate with so many more people than we could communicate with before.
Staffing Hub: I love that. That’s fantastic. That actually wraps up the questions that I had for you today. I just wanted to know, just one last question, if there’s anything else that you’d like to share with our audience today?
Souza: Well, I would say one thing is, as I mentioned before, Bullhorn is committed to unlocking the power of people. What we mean by that is understanding how each of us can be more effective at our jobs and in our lives and part of that connection.
While I do run content and so I’m clearly biased around interacting with our reports and our videos and what have you, there is something truly magical about a face-to-face connection. We have plenty of opportunities for that face-to-face connection, but the two most powerful are inevitably our Engage conferences. That’s Engage Boston and Engage London. Engage Boston is taking place June 12 through 14 of 2019 and registration is already open. Not only is Boston in June a beautiful place to be, but it’s a wonderful opportunity to get together with the Bullhorn team.
I am privileged to work with an amazing team that puts together the content and logistics for that event. That’s pretty much run by the Bullhorn marketing team. We all really bust our buns to make sure that’s an event that’s so valuable and enjoyable for our customers, prospects, just anybody in the industry. We encourage people to come to Engage because without fail, if somebody attends Engage, they have a positive experience. We have not ever really run into a situation otherwise. It’s three days of incredible networking, strong content.
We focus on sessions and speakers who look beyond the obvious around how to grow your business and how to think about macro trends that you maybe weren’t thinking about before or think about it in different ways.
It’s just a phenomenal group of attendees and leaders and practitioners who get to collaborate and socialize and learn and grow from each other. It’s just a wonderful opportunity for Bullhorn customers and non-customers alike, just anybody in this industry to see what’s on the forefront and what’s coming down the pike for all of us.
I encourage everybody who’s listening to register for Engage Boston or Engage London at your earliest convenience and we’ll see you there.
Staffing Hub: I can second that. I attended this year and I’d say that the education team was fantastic and I really love what you guys are doing at Bullhorn in terms of moving the entire staff industry forward and educating and ensuring best practices. Thank you so much for joining today. I really enjoyed the conversation and hope you have a good one.
Souza: Great. Thanks, Dave. Take care.
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