I see staffing firms trying this and that to find one more candidate that they can offer to a client. While we certainly need to take action, I always advise my clients to start at the beginning — with strategy. As Simon Sinek so aptly put it, you must always “Start with Why.” What always follows why.
I am a former staffing entrepreneur and executive and grew a company from a start-up in 1987 to nearly $400 million in 2019. I experienced several economic downturns during that time, which gives me some credibility in addressing this issue. I have written extensively about our current labor challenges, and I keep returning to two general themes:
Staffing firms must realize that their B2B marketing model that helps them win new clients is utterly ineffective in reaching candidates. Candidates have suddenly become “consumers,” given all the choices they now have, which means that a B2C marketing model is the appropriate way to reach and engage them.
Rather than trying to fill their sales funnels with “employer of choice” clients, staffing firms instead need to become the employer of choice.
Two Very Different Marketing Approaches
B2B is business marketing directed to other businesses. B2B buyers are information-driven and make their decisions based on the data they obtain. These tend to be rational decisions and rely less on emotional factors. B2C, on the other hand, is business communications to consumers. And as I already mentioned, consumers have choices. They tend to make their decisions quickly and based on how they feel about the company, the brand and the people behind the brand. Staffing firms have been talking to candidates the same way they do to prospective clients: “I have a job. You need a job. Let’s go.” This approach needs to shift because even though the candidate decision can come quickly, the path to that decision typically takes time. This requires having a conversation with the consumer rather than asking them to decide immediately.
Employer of Choice
During my time building a large staffing firm, we always attempted to find the employers in each market that everyone wanted to work for. If we could land them as a client, we would have a recruiting advantage over our competitors. And it worked. But that was then, and this is now. The challenge for our industry has always been about working towards continuous improvement of its reputation — or, stated another way, about openly embracing the fact that staffing firms are employers. Yes, staffing associates may be working at a client location, but the staffing firm is the employer. Becoming the employer of choice means stepping up and acknowledging that fact. Then it involves doing the things that will elevate perception such that consumers willingly choose to align themselves with the staffing firm.
Solving this recruiting deficit will come partly from improvement and balance in the economy, which will take time. The rest must come from the leaders in our industry. The pandemic has permanently altered the world of staffing and sourcing, recruiting and placing staffing associates. There is great opportunity hidden in all of this if we see it and become determined to get out in front of this powerful wave.
Get your team together. Decide your strategy. Adopt a B2C communications approach with the candidate market and determine what you need to do to move from being just another staffing firm to a place where this generation and the next generation choose to join. If you can do that, the tactics will become crystal clear.