Squeezing more hours out of employees is increasingly unsustainable. What to do?
By Brian Cotter
As the economy and businesses rebound, many organizations are looking to rebuild their recruiting capacity with an eye toward becoming as cost effective and flexible as possible. In the current economic landscape, staffing and recruiting organizations have three common options:
• Ask current staff to work longer hours, or simply work harder.
• Better use currently owned technology, or adopt new technology.
• Use offshore support to augment their internal team.
It’s no secret that companies regularly look to current employees to fill the gaps, which is a key reason job growth is again lagging gross domestic product growth as we emerge from the recession. Unfortunately, this approach typically doesn’t produce sustainable results. It can actually work to some degree in the short term, and employees who take on extra responsibilities and larger workloads sometimes feel more invested in their employment. However, over time this solution will typically lead to burnout, low morale, and high attrition.
If longer hours isn’t the answer, then what should companies do to get more out of their current workforce? The most successful answers tend to be technology and offshore support.
Technology has long been a preferred method of expanding productivity with good reason. The successful adoption of technology by businesses is often cited as the leading driver of the largest productivity gains the United States has seen over the past several decades. This makes sense: Imagine doing your job today without the Internet—a technology that was a novelty just 15 years ago.
A company can go about expanding technology usage in a few basic ways. The most common approach is purchasing new technology. While it can be a worthwhile investment, expanding usage of currently owned technology can sometimes be a faster and less costly way to get productivity gains.
Get more out of your current technology. Almost all recruiting operations have some sort of technology they’ve invested in, even if it’s simply an applicant tracking system (ATS). And almost all recruiting operations aren’t getting all they can out of those tools. Most of the leading ATS providers are adding new features every year, and many of those features are included in the current pay structure. A simple call to your rep might go a long way toward getting more out of what you already own. According to The Standish Group, an information technology consulting firm, 64 percent of the features in enterprise software are rarely or never used. While certainly some of these features won’t lead to huge productivity gains, most companies have technology that is paid for and in place that they can do a better job using. Compared to a new enterprise software implementation, it’s worth looking here first.
Adopt new technology. In addition to what you already own, new offerings from established recruiting technology companies, and new entrants into the market who are continually pushing the envelope, there are plenty of ways a technology investment can help you get more out of your current team.
Here are two examples:
• There probably isn’t a technology company that’s more prevalent in the recruiting industry than Monster, with a slew of new products, a number of which involve its 6Sense technology. When you search with 6Sense it doesn’t just look for keywords—it understands concepts and context—and returns matches based on relevant experience, skills, and education. This allows a user to get better results with less effort, which lets a company get more production from its employees. It’s a little like Siri on the latest iPhone—it tries to understand what you are thinking, instead of blindly following keywords.
• Another Internet-based technology company that’s gaining traction is Broadlook. Broadlook is really a suite of ten different Internet-based tools that help automate portions of the recruiting process. These tasks include scraping names from industry association web sites, identifying missing phone numbers of candidates, and compiling company directories. This is all work that a company could easily do internally, but Broadlook automates these time-consuming and monotonous tasks, letting an employee do more strategic work.
Take Advantage of Our Flat World
Offshore outsourcing has become more and more viable with the “flattening” of our world. Outsourced staff can never replace an internal team, but they can help you significantly increase the productivity of your team, and the cost effectiveness of your business.
Most likely there are parts of your recruiting process that require a skillset that you can only find with an experienced internal employee. In all likelihood there are also parts of your process that aren’t as complex, and those are tasks that you can outsource at about half the cost of doing it internally. This work typically fits into two buckets:
• Recruiting related. This includes the more basic tasks of the recruiting funnel, such as candidate sourcing and initial phone screens.
• Support related. This includes all of the work that supports the recruiting process, such as reference checks, job postings, and interview coordination.
Take the example of a mid-sized IT staffing company located on the East Coast. Prior to the recession, this company had an internal research team that provided its recruiters a steady pipeline of candidates—which allowed its recruiters to spend more of their time speaking with, and placing, candidates. With the recession’s reduced hiring demand and intense cost pressures, the firm greatly scaled back the team at the beginning of 2009. As demand began to pick up again in 2010, the company decided to bring back the role.
However, they wanted to find an alternative to hiring full-time internal resources, and decided to partner with outsourced recruiting company PSG Global Solutions to staff the team. This allowed the company to again enjoy the increased recruiter productivity the researcher role had previously brought, but with two distinct additional benefits:
• Cost savings. Once the company added in payroll taxes, benefits, bonuses, etc., PSG resources were 50 percent of the cost of hiring someone internally (not including additional savings from technology costs, office space, etc.). With 12 PSG recruiters staffed, this results in the company saving $400,000 per year, which drives the bottom line.
• Ease of Management. As company managers no longer have to recruit, onboard, train, and manage internal staff for the role, they can devote more management time to growing their business.
While most of us have at one time or another stretched our teams to grow capacity without growing headcount, for more and more companies technology and outsourcing are proving to be smarter alternatives.
Brian Cotter is cofounder and president of PSG Global Solutions.