Todayâs tools are helping staffing providers deliver key full-time and contingent talent to organizations.
By Russ Banham
Companies sourcing the best and the brightest candidates for both full-time and contingent-labor positions constantly compete for this talent, given the rapidly diminishing supply pool. To win the day, organizations are increasingly relying on managed services program (MSP) providers and their technology tools.
In the past year, the variety and number of hiring-focused technology platforms has exploded, altering the staffing industry in profound ways. The methods that companies use to go beyond just finding talent and taking the time to find people who are aligned to the organizationâs brand and value proposition have multiplied.
A case in point is audio equipment manufacturer Bose Corporation. The privately-held company based in Framingham, Massachussets leverages an MSP through Randstad Sourceright, for its contingent and full-time U.S. hiring needs. Armed with an enviable brand that conveys modern sophistication, Bose has little trouble finding job applicants. But even so, Randstad provided critical value by helping Bose attract the cream of the crop.
âSince most people are familiar with our products, that makes us attractive as an employer,â says Jennifer McKaughan, Bose director of global talent acquisition. âBut where Randstad makes a difference is that they really understand our culture. That helps them find people who are aligned with our culture and also have the skill sets we want. We trust theyâll deploy the best technology to find the right people at the best fit.â
Technology is not only assisting employers in hiring the right people, it is also becoming a key differentiator among MSPs and other workforce solutions providers. âWeâve experienced this tremendous upsurge in HR technology to automate all the points of friction in the hiring process,â says Patrick McCall, Randstadâs chief sales officer for North America. âItâs the most prevalent staffing trend at the moment.â
Other MSPs such as Bartech and Acro Service Corporation agree that technology solutions are proliferating and fast improving, including vendor management systems (VMSs), applicant tracking systems (ATSs), and predictive analytics solutions. Strides have also been made in ramping up third-party, cloud-based freelancer management systems such as WorkMarket and Upwork.
Although not every business will come out on top in their talent hiring plans, the employers that take advantage of superior tools to win over desired skill sets will have an advantage.
âThe labor pool is so shallow, particularly for skills like software engineering,â says McKaughan. âA motivated MSP thatâs dialed into who we are and what we need talent-wise and uses the latest technology to find it, ups the ante.â
Period of Experimentation
Leveraging the latest technology to secure talent involves some trial and error to determine which solutions are best for the task. âThereâs so many tools out there right now,â says Brian Salkowski, president, managed services, at Bartech. âThere are these freelance platforms like UpWork, tech-driven platforms like Hired that help you compete for specific IT skill sets, platforms for engineers, salespeople and creative candidates like Genesis, and all sorts of crowdsourcing platforms. Theyâre all beginning to stand [in] for the army of recruiters that used to be the norm in past.â
However, this new battle force is âstill shaking out,â he adds. âWeâre seeing new players emerging all the time. Fortunately, weâre also seeing more customers willing to experiment with the new platforms and other ideas instead as an alternative or adjunct to more traditional uses of temporary staffing providers.â
Is there value in these newer options? âWe believe the platforms weâre piloting now can deliver a specific set of candidates in a more efficient and cost-effective way,â Salkoski says. âIâm not saying weâre about to flip a switch and go to these tech platforms exclusively, but they are emerging alternatives that will help round out the field.â
The added options are needed for reasons other than efficiency and cost. Over the past decade, there has been an extraordinary increase in the volume of contingent workers, whom the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates to represent approximately one-third of the American workforce. âFor many employers, thisÂ is no longer about filling talent gaps here and there,â says McCall. âThe modern workforce requires strategic decisions that are fraught with both opportunity and risk.â
The opportunity for employers is a greater ability to secure the services of top-notch engineers, software developers, and creative people, such as writers and artists, who prefer to work on a contingent basis but can be hard to find. The risks associated with hiring such individuals and other contract laborers are the regulations governing non-employees in the U.S. and Europe. These laws differ on a state-by-state and country-by-country basisâin some cases dramatically.
Many companies today see tremendous value in employing a cohesive workforce bound by a shared work culture and philosophyâa workforce in which both full-time equivalents and contingent labor are stimulated by the organizationâs leadership team, value proposition, brand equity, and purposeful work. âWeâve gone well beyond an applicant tracking system to find people to fill seats,â says McCall. âTechnology is enabling companies to find the right people and then cultivate this talent.â
As an example of how to find the right people, McCall points to the growing trend of building talent pipelines that encompass retirees, freelancers, interns, and other desirable workers. Talent pools should be cultivated over time through close contacts to assume newly open positions or those created by retirements and promotions.
âSuch talent pipelines are so important today that we just bought a European company in the space called Twago to accelerate our clientsâ freelance talent strategies,â McCall says.
Acro Service Corporation, another full-service MSP, has also canvassed the breadth of freelancer platforms in this growing marketplace, says Fred Lavins, Acroâs vice president, solutions design and innovation. âWeâre pretty heavy on light industrial talent needs in the minimumwage space, so weâve been a bit less aggressive than other MSPs,â he adds. âBut we are now dabbling in it a bit.â
The opposite is the case with Acroâs VMS, which it employs vigorously as a key staffing tool. âIt has made it exponentially easier for us to deal with the multiple staffing providers we use on our clientsâ behalf,â explains Lavins, a former senior vice president of procurementÂ at Citigroup. âAside from capturing all the information across many spend categories, the VMS has been phenomenal in terms of the analytics weâre getting, making it so much easier and efficient to cost-effectively manage our clientsâ spend.â
Are all employers interesting in using the MSPâs new tools and other hiring tactics? âSome companies want to be the first adopters, others are fast followers, and then there are those who prefer to wait and sit on the sidelines to see how things flush out,â says Salkowski, adding that one-third of Bartechâs customers fall into the first two categories.
Impact and Progression
The explosion in new technology platforms and tools is reverberating to impact other staffing trends, such as the consolidation of the marketplace, resulting in large staffing companies growing even bigger through acquisition and organic growth. âWhereas we used to rely on 50 suppliers in past, weâre now finding that partnering with three or four increases the odds of placements and may provide some price opportunities as well,â says Salkowski. âCloser and tighter partnerships are simply better for our clients.â
He cites the example of one client, a large multi-state healthcare network. âWe used to have nearly 100 suppliers filling their talent gaps; weâve now consolidated it down to eight,â he says. âWe have ensured each will have meaningful market share; in return, they agree to make the client their first priority.â
Down the line, McCall projects that employer branding will emerge as the most important trend for companies to win the battle for the best and brightest. âMore and more tools will be linked to what differentiates a client from a brand perspective,â he explains. âThe MSPs that have the best tools in this regard will become even closer to their customers, becoming true business process outsourcing (BPO) providers.â
What does that mean for todayâs MSPs? âEventually, RPO and MSPâthose acronyms will be irrelevant,â McCall says. âWeâll be in the BPO business with a great number of services under the BPO umbrella, constantly progressive and actively looking to disrupt the status quo on our clientâs behalf.â
McKaughan agrees. âFor us at Bose, this is more than just finding the best candidate; we want the hiring experience to increase the candidateâs confidence that our company absolutely is the right one for them,â she says. âOnly the expression of an authentic brand can provide this assurance to them. Thatâs where an MSP becomes crucial.â
SIDEBAR: Technology Solutions
Looking for a little more information on how todayâs tech tools can help manage staffing challenges? Hereâs some insight to help.
â¢ Vendor management system (VMS). A VMS is a web-based tool that enables businesses to acquire and manage third-party staffing services, whether theyâre looking for temporary, permanent, contract, or contingent placement services. These software solutions move all third-party-staffing transactions, including coordinating interviews and job offers, onboarding, billing, and collecting applications to a single online platform.
â¢ Applicant tracking system (ATS). An ATS operates in much the same way as a VMS, but these systems are mainly used for full-time employees. Common features include individual applicant tracking, automated resume ranking, pre-screening questions and response tracking, requisition tracking, and customized input forms.
â¢ Freelance management system (FMS). A FMS is a cloud-based workforce solution that enables organizations to track and manage independent contractors and freelancers. This tool can mitigate risk by maintaining labor compliance and it provides organizations with the ability to build talent pools of specialized workers.
â¢ Predictive analytics. Predictive analytics tools use a series of statistical methods from predictive modeling, machine learning, and data mining to analyze recruitment data and predict future outcomes. Predictive analytics can help companies make better hiring decisions by analyzing candidate data and survey responses to determine the most effective interviewing techniques and employer branding strategies.