Today’s 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 organization’s 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.
“Since most people are familiar with our products, that makes us attractive as an employer,” says Jennifer McKaughan, Bose director of global talent acquisition. “But 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 they’ll deploy the best technology to find the right people at the best fit.”
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. “We’ve experienced this tremendous upsurge in HR technology to automate all the points of friction in the hiring process,” says Patrick McCall, Randstad’s chief sales officer for North America. “It’s the most prevalent staffing trend at the moment.”
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.
“The labor pool is so shallow, particularly for skills like software engineering,” says McKaughan. “A motivated MSP that’s dialed into who we are and what we need talent-wise and uses the latest technology to find it, ups the ante.”
Period of Experimentation
Leveraging the latest technology to secure talent involves some trial and error to determine which solutions are best for the task. “There’s so many tools out there right now,” says Brian Salkowski, president, managed services, at Bartech. “There 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. They’re all beginning to stand [in] for the army of recruiters that used to be the norm in past.”
However, this new battle force is “still shaking out,” he adds. “We’re seeing new players emerging all the time. Fortunately, we’re 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.”
Is there value in these newer options? “We believe the platforms we’re piloting now can deliver a specific set of candidates in a more efficient and cost-effective way,” Salkoski says. “I’m not saying we’re about to flip a switch and go to these tech platforms exclusively, but they are emerging alternatives that will help round out the field.”
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. “For many employers, this is no longer about filling talent gaps here and there,” says McCall. “The modern workforce requires strategic decisions that are fraught with both opportunity and risk.”
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 basis—in some cases dramatically.
Many companies today see tremendous value in employing a cohesive workforce bound by a shared work culture and philosophy—a workforce in which both full-time equivalents and contingent labor are stimulated by the organization’s leadership team, value proposition, brand equity, and purposeful work. “We’ve gone well beyond an applicant tracking system to find people to fill seats,” says McCall. “Technology is enabling companies to find the right people and then cultivate this talent.”
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.
“Such talent pipelines are so important today that we just bought a European company in the space called Twago to accelerate our clients’ freelance talent strategies,” McCall says.
Acro Service Corporation, another full-service MSP, has also canvassed the breadth of freelancer platforms in this growing marketplace, says Fred Lavins, Acro’s vice president, solutions design and innovation. “We’re pretty heavy on light industrial talent needs in the minimumwage space, so we’ve been a bit less aggressive than other MSPs,” he adds. “But we are now dabbling in it a bit.”
The opposite is the case with Acro’s VMS, which it employs vigorously as a key staffing tool. “It has made it exponentially easier for us to deal with the multiple staffing providers we use on our clients’ behalf,” explains Lavins, a former senior vice president of procurement at Citigroup. “Aside from capturing all the information across many spend categories, the VMS has been phenomenal in terms of the analytics we’re getting, making it so much easier and efficient to cost-effectively manage our clients’ spend.”
Are all employers interesting in using the MSP’s new tools and other hiring tactics? “Some 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,” says Salkowski, adding that one-third of Bartech’s 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. “Whereas we used to rely on 50 suppliers in past, we’re now finding that partnering with three or four increases the odds of placements and may provide some price opportunities as well,” says Salkowski. “Closer and tighter partnerships are simply better for our clients.”
He cites the example of one client, a large multi-state healthcare network. “We used to have nearly 100 suppliers filling their talent gaps; we’ve now consolidated it down to eight,” he says. “We have ensured each will have meaningful market share; in return, they agree to make the client their first priority.”
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. “More and more tools will be linked to what differentiates a client from a brand perspective,” he explains. “The MSPs that have the best tools in this regard will become even closer to their customers, becoming true business process outsourcing (BPO) providers.”
What does that mean for today’s MSPs? “Eventually, RPO and MSP—those acronyms will be irrelevant,” McCall says. “We’ll 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 client’s behalf.”
McKaughan agrees. “For us at Bose, this is more than just finding the best candidate; we want the hiring experience to increase the candidate’s confidence that our company absolutely is the right one for them,” she says. “Only the expression of an authentic brand can provide this assurance to them. That’s where an MSP becomes crucial.”
SIDEBAR: Technology Solutions
Looking for a little more information on how today’s tech tools can help manage staffing challenges? Here’s some insight to help.
• Vendor management system (VMS). A VMS is a web-based tool that enables businesses to acquire and manage third-party staffing services, whether they’re 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.