Building an integrated total workforce solutions tech stack delivers a solid foundation for a modern hiring process.
By Marta Chmielowicz
As the unpredictability of COVID-19 continues to test organizations’ ability to adapt to change, many employers are turning to contingent labor to fill their talent needs. According to Gartner’s 2020 Future of Work Trends Post-COVID-19 report, 32% of organizations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers as a cost-saving measure and 12% are hiring contingent workers to fill labor shortages due to illness.
But while a more varied workforce mix offers greater flexibility and agility, the influx of contingent workers has exposed blind spots in companies’ talent acquisition strategies. Many organizations continue to leverage fragmented recruitment processes to hire temporary and permanent employees, introducing inefficiencies and damaging the candidate and hiring manager experience.
“As a growing number of companies have turned to contract labor as a strategic labor option, organizations cannot afford to sacrifice quality for cost savings by letting procurement teams oversee these initiatives,” says Jason Krumwiede, senior vice president of client delivery at Broadleaf Results. “That’s why there’s never been a better time for TA leaders to own the contingent labor process. If implemented properly, the right population of temporary laborers will be onboarded at the right time and at the right price point to deliver on business objectives. That’s the crux of total talent management.”
Beginning the Journey
In a remote world, adopting a technology stack that enables a continuous, efficient, and scalable recruitment process encompassing all types of talent is key. Total workforce solutions (TWS) or total talent platforms have emerged to simplify this process, breaking down data silos that cloud visibility into the workforce.
But building a robust tech stack that addresses the entire breadth of worker types can be fraught with challenges. To ensure a good result, organizations first need to take steps to evaluate the gaps in their existing recruitment process.
1. Understand candidate expectations. According to Steve Parker, co-founder and head of product and technology at QuantumWork, the transition to a new talent technology solution should start with a thorough examination of recruitment needs.
“The first thing HR leaders need to understand is number one, what services are we going to offer to candidates? Is it more of a white glove service that we’re providing or more of an automated service? That kind of feedback ties back to the talent segments. For example, high volume hiring requires a different solution than professional hiring or executive hiring,” he explains.
By examining the level of service expected by each talent community, organizations can better identify any critical, must-have capabilities in their technology suite. For example, companies that engage in high volume hiring for permanent or temporary talent might benefit from a sourcing tool that can help them find a large volume of candidates and stack rank those individuals based on certain criteria, Parker says. Once the most relevant candidates are identified, they can be added to the applicant tracking system where they will engage directly with a recruiter.
“The process of hiring and retaining top talent requires a high level of attention, so the more you can offload the non-critical tasks through technology, the more efficient and the more successful organizations will be with employee satisfaction, employee engagement, and overall retention,” says Joshua Smith, senior vice president of Advantage xPO.
Chatbots that pre-screen candidates and schedule interviews can also offer an advantage, streamlining highly repetitive tasks so that hiring managers can focus on engaging qualified candidates.
But Kathy Auld, global product director of the Recruitment eXperience Outsourcing (RXO) Innovation Lab at Pontoon Solutions, has one critical recommendation: “If you have a chatbot, give it a way to allow candidates to connect with a human as a point of escalation to maintain a genuine human connection within the hiring experience.”
2. Conduct a gap analysis. Once organizations have a general understanding of the services they would like to offer in their hiring process, they can conduct a gap analysis to identify any inefficiencies or pain points in their existing recruitment technology stack.
“The biggest challenge organizations face is finding their secret inefficiencies. It’s easy to chase the flash of new technology, but transactional, often hidden inefficiencies are hard to identify and solve for. Once discovered, these are major areas of opportunity for reducing friction within your processes, decreasing cycle time, and impacting business success,” says Auld.
Parker recommends a design thinking approach where HR leaders go through every step of the hiring process with a fine-tooth comb, seeing it through the eyes of a candidate and a first-time internal user.
Krumwiede agrees, emphasizing that organizations should start by applying for a job on their own careers site. “How easy was the process? What communication did you receive upon applying for a position? Ultimately, leaders need to work through end-to-end user acceptance testing to ensure that the application process is operating properly—one that begins with the creation of a job order and ends when a candidate is onboarded,” he explains.
Data can also offer clues into the flaws hidden within a hiring process. Smith says that patterns of drop-off or excessive volume at certain stages of recruitment can expose deeper issues. For example, attrition at the post-offer stage can indicate onboarding issues while disproportionate volume at any stage can highlight the need for automation.
Smith says that while these bottlenecks may vary significantly based on the type or caliber of individual being recruited, organizations are likely to find issues in three places.
- Application process. Significant fall-off between candidates who start versus complete the application process could indicate the need for mobile-enabled, easy-apply technologies that candidates can navigate with minimal effort.
- Interview process. A drop-off in candidates who receive an invitation for an interview versus those who accept and follow through can reveal a cumbersome process with a poor user interface. Chatbots and automated interview scheduling modules may be a good solution for companies struggling at this stage.
- Onboarding process. Antiquated and manually driven onboarding processes can slow the integration of new employees, causing bottlenecks that damage first impressions. A platform that is easy to use, efficient, and simple for the user may be needed.
3. Seek out feedback. While an audit of the recruitment process can reveal critical inefficiencies, it won’t tell HR leaders the full story.
“I also think it’s important to talk with the teams—the end users—and help to identify pain points or steps that they find redundant or unnecessary in the process,” says Smith. “I think that can come from either end-user hiring managers or potential employees that moved through the process and ultimately become employed with the organization.”
One of the easiest mechanisms to do this is through periodic surveying. HR leaders can poll TA leaders, new hires, and candidates who ultimately didn’t get hired to learn about the good, the bad, and the ugly in their recruitment experience. Visitor questionnaires can also be leveraged to better understand what candidates like and dislike about the hiring experience.
“As time passes, the hiring process itself will continue to need to evolve. So, it’s important to constantly keep that on a radar, and not only be inclusive of HR or TA leadership but also encourage leaders throughout the business to participate, to provide feedback, and to offer recommendations to create an easier process,” adds Smith.
The Road to Implementation
Once organizations have their pain points in hand, they can begin to reimagine their talent acquisition process and introduce new technologies to fill the gaps. But tech adoption is more complex than it seems; to avoid integration and adoption issues, HR leaders need to develop a clear plan and communication strategy that cushions the impact of change. Here are four best practices to keep in mind.
1. Adapt the operational model. Significant changes in the talent acquisition process need to occur simultaneously with changes in the operating model—especially when transitioning to a TWS. Because the contingent workforce and full-time workforce are traditionally run by different teams, Krumwiede recommends that organizations build oversight of temporary labor into the talent acquisition part of the business rather than relying on procurement.
“That’s where most of the tech solutions fall down. Most people put in great tech, but they never do the change management and they never change the operational model of how their teams function day-to-day,” says Parker. “Then, when the new technology hits, those team members at the desk level either don’t adopt it or they don’t know what to do.”
2. Develop a clear process plan. Effective recruitment software adoption requires a robust road map very early on in the process. According to Smith, integration needs to be built into project plans from the very start, with HR leaders coordinating with existing service providers and individuals from different parts of the business on the front end and back end of the process.
“Consider your desired business outcome and the key problems you are trying to solve,” says Brannon Lacey, president of PeopleScout. “What is the total talent journey at your company? Where are the friction points and opportunities in context of your overall company goals? Technology is an incredible enabler, but there are often multiple ways to solve a problem with technology. Lean on your partners to identify the best options to move the needle as it relates to your business goals and challenges.”
Without solid technology integration, Parker says that HR leaders can harm the candidate and user experience, delivering a disjointed process rather than a single, connected candidate lifecycle. They will also be left with disparate pools of candidate data, robbing themselves of a complete picture of their talent pool.
But before assuming that every tool must be integrated, Auld suggests that HR leaders confirm the purpose and desired outcomes of their data flows, “right-sizing” their integration plan to avoid needless complexity.
“When scoping and requesting integrations, first differentiate between nice-to-have data and required data in the context of the integration goal to ensure the work is aligned,” she explains. “Also, consider the timing of data flows. Do you need real-time integration? How often does information change in a meaningful way? Data flow requires monitoring and support. Make sure data flows at the right rate in line with your organization’s ability to support.”
3. Choose a partner. Organizations should always be mindful when selecting a provider for their business needs, but this is especially important when it comes to total talent technology. A solid TWS platform should span the entire spectrum of the workforce, reducing as many manual steps as possible to provide a streamlined talent acquisition process for hiring managers and job candidates alike.
“You want to make sure you’re not selecting technologies that will create what’s perceived as a laborious or extended process as candidates make their way from applicant to hire,” Smith says. “The biggest thing is making sure that you’ve got integrated solutions that allow for single user sign on. When you’ve got hiring managers that are having to toggle between multiple systems around the hiring process, that can become cumbersome and that’s when shortcuts end up being taken and people find ways to circumvent the process.”
As companies navigate the selection process, they should keep their process road map top of mind. “I think as you meet possible vendors, it’s important that you keep your goals and objectives in mind so that you don’t become distracted by bells and whistles that are outside your key objectives,” he adds. “There’s some really cool stuff out there, but if it doesn’t drive towards your goals and objectives in optimizing and taking you toward a TWS, it’s just clutter.”
One option is to prioritize platform-based vendors that deliver an ecosystem of technologies and tools in a single holistic offering. While Auld warns that this approach may mean sacrificing some functionality, organizations may experience value faster as well as lower costs and significant benefits.
In many cases, HR leaders may find that their existing partners can expand their solutions to include capabilities that enable the full total talent approach. Auld says that collaborating with existing software partners can deliver an efficient and cost-effective way to address any new talent needs and challenges while avoiding major integration issues.
However, if choosing this approach, organizations need to ensure that their core platform of choice has a strong ecosystem of approved service and technology partners. Additionally, Smith warns that HR leaders shouldn’t automatically assume that service providers are equally qualified to manage contract and full-time labor.
Another option for companies that already have a suite of technologies in place are platforms that layer over existing ATS, VMS, and CRM systems, either by providing built-in integration or by engaging integration-as-a-service companies to enable the process.
“When you’re thinking about a technology, you need to have a pretty strong solution for how they integrate,” says Parker. “They may have built-in integrations themselves with a number of systems, so you have to see if the systems you have fit into that ecosystem. Or the more modern way to do it is a lot of organizations are looking at integration-as-a-service models. There are companies out there that focus on systems integration and they usually have things like pre-built connectors that you can utilize in that scenario.”
Parker emphasizes that any modern technology provider needs to have an open application program interface (API) concept—or connector architecture. This gives the platform the flexibility to integrate well with other systems.
Regardless of the type of vendor they choose, organizations should be mindful of their industry experience and demonstrated partnership with clients. “Consider the vendor’s track record and experience in the space,” says Lacey. “Are they a proven and recognized leader by the industry and analysts? Will they be a true partner to your team? Do they come to the table with recommendations and cutting-edge talent strategy approaches?”
Ensuring that the chosen service partner has relevant industry experience can avoid compliance issues down the line, offering assurance that the partner is adept and in-tune with legislative changes that may impact talent acquisition processes in the industry.
4. Test and communicate. Once organizations have their technology stack in place, they need to go through a rigorous testing process to ensure proper workflows and integrations. This should be paired with a strong communication plan to hiring teams conveying the value of the new technology.
“The biggest challenge with any new technology is the adoption and training. Each person who leverages the new technology needs to understand the short-term and long-term benefits in the context of their roles so that they can drive adoption within their organization,” says Lacey.
For best results, Krumwiede recommends that organizations engage executive sponsors to stress the value and benefits of the new recruitment approach. Proper end-user training is also critical to ensure the new process is fully understood and adopted by the TA team.
“I don’t think it’s ever a bad thing to overcommunicate when you’re looking at making a strategic change to your tech stack regarding how the recruitment process will look and feel from a hiring manager standpoint,” says Smith. “You want to have champions of the process, you want to make sure that it’s not being looked at through a single lens, and you want to make sure that you’re incorporating business leaders from different areas of the company.”
The transition to a TWS technology suite can be complicated, but by creating a strong process that accounts for setbacks, communicating openly with employees, and taking the proper time, HR leaders can ensure a successful implementation that will enhance their hiring outcomes for years to come.