With 2020 behind us, the staffing industry is emerging a lot smarter and tougher for the wear. We’re seeing companies use lessons learned over the past 12 months to move out of “the dark ages”—away from manual, in-person tasks—toward transformative digital technologies. As a result, everything from the candidate experience to compliance is changing for the better.

2020 took away the digital argument. With staffing businesses deemed as “non-essential” during the nationwide Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, the industry was suddenly forced to sink or swim. That meant pivoting the business model from in-person to online, something staffing companies have long resisted. Instead, many simply pared down operations and staff, and tried to cut corners and costs by forgoing technology and sticking with manual processes.

“Our candidates won’t do digital or emails,” was the standard argument from staffing companies, particularly those hiring for blue-collar jobs like light industrial. But, the truth is nearly everybody has a mobile phone or device these days, with 96% of Americans of Americans owning a cell phone and nine in 10 adults using the Internet.

Put simply, your applicants are consumers—like you and me—who use their mobile devices daily for everything from shopping to scheduling their Covid-19 vaccinations. They’re most definitely “digital” and, chances are, they prefer to digitally engage with your business these days versus visiting a branch office to complete an application and interview.

A recent LinkedIn study backs up the trend toward digital, with 70% of talent professionals saying that virtual recruiting will become the new standard moving forward and 81 percent agreeing that it will continue post-pandemic. Despite the upfront costs, staffing firms are banking on the immediate and long-term ROI associated with being able to seamlessly operate online and deliver an exceptional, “always-on” candidate experience.

PREMIUM CONTENT: US Staffing Industry Pulse Survey Report: March 2021 Selected Highlights

Don’t fear change; embrace it. Speaking of ROI, a PwC 2020 Global Digital IQ survey has been tracking digitally transforming companies for decades and offers insight into the tangible payoffs of going digital. The companies in this study are the digital leaders. They don’t fear change; instead, they embrace it as the only constant in business.

As staffing companies contemplate the financial investment of going digital, here are ways it’s helping digital leading organizations, identified as “transcenders” in the PwC study.

  • They survive major business disruption(s) and emerge stronger. This point is particularly salient for the staffing industry, given the struggles of 2020 and the forward-looking direction the industry is now poised to take. Digital will play a business-critical role.
  • They don’t fear business extinction. With a mindful, business-specific approach to digital technology, staffing businesses can continuously innovate and stay ahead of market trends—not behind them.
  • Cross-functional, cross-collaboration is their standard modus operandi. By exchanging siloed, manual processes for shared, digital workflows, staffing companies can gain real-time visibility into user experiences (candidates, recruiters and vendors) and business performance across the organization, down to the branch level.
  • They report 17 percent high profit margins over three years. Staffing companies took a massive hit to the bottom line last year. Integrating digital technology into the business model can help streamline and simplify recruiting and onboarding processes, so businesses can “do more with less” and rebuild their bottom line, faster.

Compelling as it is, this list barely scratches the surface of what’s possible with today’s digital technologies. In Part 2 of this article, I’ll share three strategies staffing companies can use to modernize their business, create a better, more “socially-distant” candidate experience and much more by going digital.

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