As has been the case with many vertical markets, the staffing industry has been shaken by the ever-increasing take up of technology and automation. This impact is not reserved to specific parts of the process chain but to all components of the staffing companies’ value delivery.
To pick a few examples we can observe that, from a sourcing perspective, new online classifieds sites, call center applications, internships, etc; have redefined how people attract personnel. Similarly from a application management perspective, innumerable tracking systems promise to keep tabs on candidate processing at all time. Even processes such as on-boarding and induction supported with online training and other HRIS systems and ATS software.
The effect of technology on how the staffing industry delivers to its clients and candidates is therefore undeniable. What is worthwhile considering further is if these repercussions have all been positive, or if they ‘fell short of the promise’ in specific areas of the value chain.
The positive impact areas for technology:
- Dealing with volumes; technology has certainly enabled scale to levels perhaps unimaginable a few years back; contact management systems, mobile applications, etc. all allow say a longer candidate reach whilst also producing efficiencies in the value chain
- Coping with demands for speed; whether it is email, SMS or IM on your Blackberry; immediacy is now a business as usual that would have been pretty unusual in the age of the hardcopy memo and snail mail
- In replacing what needed to be kept ‘human’. The staffing and recruitment equation has people on both sides (clients and candidates); the workflow still requires entities having face to face or even phone conversations. As in other industries, to talk to a consultant is qualitatively better than to deal with an answering machine
- In the creation of artificial elites, which supports the belief that staffing industry companies with ‘superior’ technologies will by default produce superior results in the eyes of its customers and clients. In practical terms, niche players who work the phone and their outlook directory can indeed derive profitable results for themselves and higher client and applicant satisfaction
- When the process is kaput; technology will not fix broken value chains. As a crass example, if a candidate report is still required for a two-day assignment as a personal assistant, then there is no system that will produce one quickly enough to beat the competitor uses the phone to close the same requisition.
- Technology does not repair twisted business fundamentals, whether they relate to the company culture, its reward systems, go-to-market approach or its internal organisation. There is no candidate relationship system that will make up for a commission-based pay structure that offers higher bonuses for the larger number of transactions without it being indexed for a client satisfaction or quality component. It can be seen that in this case, technology can even exacerbate the issue for the firm’s stakeholders
Does this mean that technology as other progress ‘forces’ produce benefits and compromises?