Today marks the start of the Staffing Industry Analysts’ Executive Forum 2018 event in Miami. The theme of this year’s conference is “Future Forward”, and conversation will center around “challenging the staffing industry to take a long-range view of how to stay competitive and successful in the future.” Several members of our team are attending this year, and we have to admit: We’ve definitely been looking forward to it.

Why? Because at EmployStream, we’ve been thinking a lot about the future recently… especially the “future of work”. This is a term with which many of you are likely familiar, and likely brings to mind images of telecommuting Millennials, side-hustling entrepreneurs or international coworkers connecting to one another digitally from across the world. It’s a vision focused on employee flexibility, technology-enabled collaboration and the ability to tap into the abilities of top talent more easily than ever before. It’s a rosy-sounding vision, to be sure, but it’s also a vision wrought with potential challenges for those who aren’t ready to adjust to new realities.

First of all, there are a couple obvious reasons why some staffing firms will struggle to meet the needs of disparate candidates in the future if they’re behind the times with their technology.

  • The more remote a workforce, the less efficient paper-based or in-person processes become, and the more a staffing firm will need automated, digital onboarding processes.
  • As more companies make it possible for employees to work remotely, job candidates will find they have more options, and competition to attract the best prospects for each job will grow fierce. An attractive job board and strong promotions will be a must.

In either scenario, firms that haven’t embraced a strong onboarding and talent acquisition platform may well suffer. Perhaps more concerning to staffing firms, however, should be the threat of poor candidate engagement in the “future of work”.

Our founder and CTO, Rob Sable, will be giving a talk entitled, “Engage or Die: How to Win the War for Great Talent” at SIA’s Exec Forum tomorrow on this very topic. The fact of the matter is we’re already facing a reality where job seekers find the hiring process impersonal and cold (as 69% of Americans say the job search is too impersonal) and the more we rely on automation and long-distance interactions in the future, the more we risk exacerbating the problem.

The future of work is going to require staffing firms to rely more on technology to facilitate touchpoints with candidates, but those candidates still want to feel like they’re not just a number. Finding work can be an inherently stressful process, and for candidates to feel engaged, there must be some sort of personal touch. Today, 35% of staffing firms make no attempt to engage with candidates between assignment acceptance and their start date, and only 16% automate pre-start communications. These numbers must change is candidates are to become brand ambassadors for the staffing firms they use.

The staffing companies that adjust best to the future of work will be the ones that make technology work for them, not against them, with regard to candidate engagement. They will train their people, adjust their processes and adopt technology to provide high-touch, personalized experiences from the moment a prospect enters the job funnel through the day they start their assignment. Specifically, they will:

  • Provide constant engagement to prevent candidate drop-off during applications
  • Measure satisfaction throughout the onboarding process and ask for regular feedback
  • Send reminders and scheduling notes around interviews and job start dates
  • Find promoters, asking for referrals, and understand detractors, controlling damage
  • Deliver friendly messages to welcome candidates and encourage them on their first days

We live in a digital age, and as we embrace the “future of work”, we’ll only rely on our digital tools more and more. You just can’t forget the power of a “human touch” in the process. The paradox of having more connectivity capabilities is that people often feel more disconnected in the process, so be sure you’re thinking “future forward” by putting people first in a sometimes impersonal industry.