By Tom Sarach | Wednesday March 1, 2012
Online technology has revolutionized just about every industry in the past 15 years, and staffing is no exception. Between email, the Web, texting and social media, we’re able to communicate more quickly, serve more people and do our jobs more efficiently than ever.
For most staffing firms, the ability of candidates to apply online has made a major impact in their capacity for serving both candidates and clients. When staffers no longer have to enter information written onto paper applications into their database, they can spend more time focusing on placements, screening and business development.
Similarly, technology that parses resumes can shift staffers’ efforts from mind-numbing data entry to the real work of staffing. This not only makes your firm more efficient, it lets staffers focus on what they probably got into staffing to do: help people. And that results in more job satisfaction and lower turnover.
Marketing to clients has been revolutionized by email. Now entire campaigns can be organized to reach hundreds or thousands of prospects within minutes. Email can be used to offer benefits to potential clients directly (“click here to request one of our associates”) or to establish your firm with prospects before your sales reps call them.
Email also lets you keep in touch with candidates, both individually and through “autoresponders” that contact candidates automatically when they reach certain milestones in their placements. This repeated contact can help reinforce that you’re a strong ally to candidates.
While texting is more telecommunications than online technology, it’s still an incredibly efficient way to reach your candidates. This is especially true for industrial staffing candidates, who are less likely to use email than other segments of the staffing market and tend to use their phones for all forms of communication.
And while social media has allowed a much more individual reach for all companies in their marketing, its biggest innovation is that it allows customers to talk back to companies on a fairly equal footing. Social media isn’t just a marketing channel, it can be a great way to get feedback from candidates and clients, and to offer customer service immediately if there’s a problem.
All this technology has allowed staffing businesses to run more smoothly, target their marketing, focus on staffing, reach candidates quickly, track their efforts, plus countless other improvements. However, as with any new development, there are some potential downsides.
The biggest threat posed to staffing by online technology isn’t that it will replace staffing firms; we’re busier than ever. But automating so much of our business does put us in danger of losing our personal connection, especially to candidates.
Our candidates often see us as a lifeline to employment, and if they feel distanced or dismissed by the technology we use, that can damage the trust-based relationship we have with them. Candidates can also be frustrated by the technological system we have in place, which can make them feel adversarial to our entire hiring process, further damaging the trust.
The best way to make sure your technology doesn’t come between you and your candidates is to walk through your processes as a candidate would. If you use an online application, be sure to apply online yourself. You might discover that the process is confusing, unnecessarily long or broken in places (for instance, it might ask them to upload a resume which then disappears into cyberspace).
Any time you’re sending a candidate a link to something, make sure the link works and that it’s accessible from any device, including a cell phone. And if you’ve got large email or social media campaigns going, make a point of including a feedback survey or an invitation to comment so you’ll have a better picture of what your audiences actually want.
The most important part of keeping the human touch, however, is to train your staff to call or reply to candidates personally. Don’t let a call go unreturned or an email unanswered.
In a time when so many job-seekers apply for jobs only to hear nothing back from the company they applied to, let your staffing firm be the exception. The beauty of technology is that it can make us better humans, not that it makes us more like machines.