Opportunity beckons – achieving growth in 2022
The staffing industry has faced a lot of challenges in recent times but there are some positive signs that agency growth is expected to continue in 2022. Looking ahead, there are many reasons to be optimistic, even with the apparent inaccessibility of talent, and skill shortages being reported.
All key internal FastTrack metrics and the recent HHMC Global Business Intentions Survey suggest that current conditions are ‘particularly good’ and that agencies are planning for continued growth on the back of a quicker than expected recovery towards the end of CY21. However, some agencies are better prepared than others to take advantage of these conditions – and that raises the important question, “What do staffing agency managers need to do to ensure they can capture that forecast growth during 2022?”
In a recent webinar, ‘Overcoming barriers to recruitment agency growth’, Rod Hore from HHMC Global and I examined exactly this, looking at the results of the HHMC Global Business Intentions Survey and drawing on what we are seeing and hearing from the market. The good news for staffing agencies is that there is strong consensus that 2022 will be a positive period of growth for the ANZ staffing industry…if you are ready!
And whilst there are many business factors that will determine whether your business is able to grow or not in 2022, Rod and I narrowed our focus to three fundamentals we believe staffing agencies will need to get right to be successful: Productivity and Process; People; and Technology.
1. PRODUCTIVITY AND PROCESS
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly affected the way work is done – but the jury is still out on whether staffing agencies are truly being productive and have well-defined business practices and processes in place. Our use of technology to enable remote working has increased significantly but it seems that according to the HHMC Global Business Intentions Survey, not everyone is playing by the rules – with only 56% of companies ‘most likely’ to report their client and candidate interactions within a system or database. This lack of focus on database compliance is certainly a concern, but there may be some underlying reasons for this.
Remote working led to us using more technology for work, particularly to manage internal and external communications. Core business functions were being recorded across multiple systems as the need to communicate ‘faster’ intensified, and channel-based messaging platforms became the new norm, allowing us to chat, meet or collaborate virtually in real-time, drawing us away from the traditional database. From that perspective, once everyone knew where to go for information, it is possible that database compliance went out the window.
Tighter system protocols, training, and auditability are critical to business success and if you are expecting to grow your organisation, you need to accurately record information and find new ways to interpret it.
Additionally, as job descriptions and job locations changed so quickly, it became more challenging to find the right candidates if you did not have strict qualification, onboarding, and information recording practices. There is a fundamental need to get back to basics – to stay in contact with people, to listen to them intently, to establish relationships, to record their responses, and importantly; to think creatively when investigating opportunities to fill roles.
“Any recruitment agency who has not adjusted their processes or become more agile is probably missing the best candidates” – Rod Hore
With information coming at us from everywhere – via third-party integrations, our website, AI (Artificial Intelligence), chat bots, a call, or text –firm rules and processes around the management of your database will be paramount to success, and growth.
The HHMC Global Business Intentions Survey clearly indicates that the pandemic had a greater negative impact on people’s personal lives than their professional lives. And although this may seem obvious, the fact people were less impacted professionally is a good sign for our industry going forward, but also advocates that we must stay close to our people.
During the pandemic, our priorities changed quickly, and the balance between work and wellbeing became significantly intertwined. This may explain in part, the lack of experienced consultants available in our industry and the time taken to get consultants productive.
According to the HHMC Global Business Intentions Survey 73% of respondents recorded internal recruitment vacancies, so staffing agencies are now looking to hire outside of the industry and are backing-in their ability to onboard talent and upskill them to meet the market.
However, Rod Hore warns, “Agencies may need to look at their learning and development program and understand whether they can onboard people from outside of the industry – not everyone has that organisational capability.”
A commitment to ongoing learning and development programs, obtaining client feedback based on performance, and a compelling employee value proposition seem to be the strongest indicators to attracting and retaining the best talent. Another interesting data point from the HHMC Global Business Intentions Survey was that management would like more time to work on the business. There are likely to be many reasons behind this desire when you consider the past two years of remote working, employee management, staff issues, the sheer volume of work, and the lack of available talent. Managers have had to devote their time and energy to a range of issues and compliance obligations they could not have predicted.
As leaders, I hope we don’t lose the desire to be close to our people and we don’t lose the personal touch that we have built over time.
Bold decisions by staffing agencies to commit to technology adoption prior to, or during the pandemic are certainly now returning a significant productivity dividend. Despite the uncertainty, many staffing agencies responded boldly to Covid-19 and over the past twelve months there have been a considerable number of staffing agencies who have changed, or are in the process of changing, their core technology. The make-up of an agency’s software ecosystem has become crucial to running business as usual in the world of ‘the new normal.’
The pandemic certainly sped up the adoption of digital technology and automation in a way that I have not seen for many years – and therefore productivity has been boosted and accessibility to talent has been at a premium. Over the past six months, FastTrack has noticed a 50% increase in the number of new jobs being created by its customers and a 35% increase in total timesheet hours, so the data supports the acceleration of growth and plenty of upside for agencies.
One of the biggest challenges we are witnessing during this growth surge is the capacity to manage technology projects due to increased business demands. This is an ongoing problem for the industry and one in which FastTrack is constantly looking to provide solutions. To compensate for such resource challenges, FastTrack now offers clients a rapid deployment model of our FastTrack360 software, called ‘Fast Lane’, in which FastTrack’s own resources do much of the heavy implementation work for clients.
During the height of the pandemic, people suddenly realised they needed greater technology to support their business operations and their ability to grow. However, the HHMC Global Business Intentions Survey indicated that 40% of respondents reported either a rudimentary level of integration or no integration of their technology stack. At FastTrack, this is our way of life, but for many agencies, they run the everyday risk of: the extraction of data; fraud; non-compliance; and payroll and billing errors. Ouch! These are all growth inhibitors that need to be addressed if you have disparate systems and a myriad of single-point sensitive, manual processes, and workarounds.
For sustained growth, as an industry, we will need to continue to review our productivity and processes, people, and technology. Do not wander too far from consistent processes and measurable performance and look inwardly at your management style if needed. We all need to stay open to change and close to our people…and some good integrated technology will not go astray either.
This article was written by Jamie Killmier FastTrack Director of Sales, with insights from Rod Hore, HHMC Global Recruitment Industry Advisor and featured in the latest edition of FastTrack’s In the Fast Lane newsletter.
FastTrack is proud to collaborate with Rod Hore on the 9th HHMC Global Business Intentions Survey. Produced six monthly, the survey provides an accurate snapshot of the recruitment industry’s business intentions across Australia and New Zealand. Download your free copy here.
HHMC Global’s Rod Hore and FastTrack’s Jamie Killmier explore anticipated barriers to growth in detail and discuss how businesses can address them by focusing on productivity and processes, people, and technology. View the webinar recording here.