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Getting Automation Right: A Primer for Staffing Firms

This article was written by Pankaj Jindal.

Bill Gates once said — and we paraphrase — that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency manifold. Applied to an inefficient operation, it will magnify that inefficiency. The observation is spot on!

Automation seems to be the buzzword for staffing firms in 2021, particularly in a post-Covid world—and no one could be more excited than we are. Staffing firms are increasingly turning to automation to reactivate their database, improve the efficiency of their recruitment processes, free up recruiters’ time and engage better with their talent pool.

Yet, simply deploying an automation tool — however powerful — is not going to be enough to reap these benefits. To get automation right, staffing firms need to do some solid groundwork before and during the engagement.

1. Set Up for Success

The first step is, as they say, to get your ducks in a row. In other words, establish clear objectives and a strategy. Get the major stakeholders into a room, including your recruiters, and ask the basic questions.

  • What parts of the talent lifecycle do you want to transform through automation?
  • How do you want to engage and re-engage candidates?
  • What touchpoints matter most?
  • What KPIs will determine success?
  • What tools and resources does your team need?

The core team involved at this stage is very important: you want them to ask the right questions, bring clarity, share perspectives from the ground, and offer insights. Plus, you need their buy-in to make the automation a success.

Use the answers gathered from these early conversations to map out the next steps and brief your automation partner.

2. Engage Candidates at the Right Time, on the Right Channel

When it comes to finding the best talent, timing is everything. The best candidates are often already employed and logging onto job platforms during their off-hours — which could also be the off-hours for your recruiters. This is where tools like Sense Messaging can help. It integrates with industry-leading ATS platforms, such as CEIPAL, and plays the role of a 24*7 digital recruiter, interacting with job seekers via text or chat, whenever they are available.

In fact, two-way texting can be deployed to engage candidates at every stage of the hiring cycle. Take the instance of ghosting, which seems to be on the rise according to a survey by Indeed. 77% of job seekers say they have been ghosted by companies; 76% of companies say the same thing about job seekers and both parties feel this has increased since the pandemic.

What does this broken communication result in? Bad candidate experience and damaged employer reputation. The thing is, ghosting is rarely deliberate. It happens when there is no system that facilitates easy communication, sends reminders or does follow-ups; the messages just fall through the cracks.

A texting tool like Sense can solve for this, offering an impressive 51% response rate, 3x faster responses, and in turn, up to 30% increase in productivity for staffing teams. Advanced Group, the parent company of three unique staffing brands uses Sense Messaging to interact with their talent pool.

“The projects I’m working on are moving at lightning speed to meet demand, and with the Sense app, I can communicate in real-time to get back to candidates at any time of day. During working hours I can resolve a problem with a candidate while I’m doing something else — which is amazing, which I love,” says Heather Dula, Clinical Recruiter at Advanced.

3. Craft Compelling Content

Aequor Healthcare Services has been in business for over 20 years and grown 3x in the last few years. For a long time, they prided themselves on their ‘old school approach’. Says Executive Vice President William Klabo, “We did a lot of mass communication, emails, and things like that, in the past and we just couldn’t get results. We would be flagged a lot.”

The biggest communication mistake that businesses make is talking about what they want to say, be it a new feature or stats or an update. But why would the readers care?

The focus should instead be on sharing what readers want or need to know. These can be interesting, useful, even entertaining. In crafting such compelling messages, it’s a good idea to involve your recruiters: after all, they are the ones who know talent psychology the best.

The beauty of automation tools is that triggered communication can be personalized at scale and changed in real-time. With them, you can easily run A/B tests, observe metrics and tweak the messaging to get the best responses from candidates.

After attending a live session by Sense at the SIA Executive Forum conference, Aequor decided to up their communication and engagement game by deploying Sense Engage. “It just completely delivered when we needed it to,” says Klabo. “We had direct communication with extremely high bill rates and we were able to plug into the new technology we were using to capture more talent, and then we got referrals from them. And we’re then off to the races.”

4. Establish Strong Feedback Loops

Who does not want to be heard? Job seekers are often in a vulnerable position, dissatisfied with a new job, unhappy with a previous employer who treated them badly, or uncomfortable with certain workplace conditions. In a completely human-run setup, it is not always possible to hear them out. (Think about this: post-pandemic, job seekers outnumber recruiters 2x.)

Automation allows staffing firms to nurture a continuous feedback loop in multiple ways. One, collect candidate feedback and gauge their sentiment in real-time. For example, a chatbot could trigger a conversation on Day 1 of work with every placed candidate: “Hey, how is your day going? All well?” Response rates are extremely high for such messages. Similar follow-ups can happen at multiple, crucial touchpoints.

Two, resolve issues quickly. If a candidate is facing a problem, a continuous feedback loop gives early warning and firms can step in and resolve the problem before it escalates. Such timely intervention plays a big role in reputation management.

Three, capture true NPS in real-time instead of quarterly or annual surveys. Armed with such data, you can go back to your clients with tailored and timely solutions.

5. Don’t Forget the Human Touch

AI-powered automation is a term that stirs up uncertainty: will jobs be lost? being the foremost question on everyone’s mind. We believe that automation is NOT meant to replace recruiters but rather to empower them. AI can free recruiters from mundane, repetitive tasks like screening and scheduling, and enable them to focus their time on building meaningful relationships with candidates.

Chatbots too are NLP-based, emulating human conversation and keeping the experience positive for candidates. That said, staffing firms must not miss out on the human touch. All messaging that is part of the automation workflows should be crafted by real humans who understand job seekers, not picked-off templates. Sign-offs should be done with real names. And while chatbots may do the routine conversations, recruiters must be ready to step in and field questions or reach out to a candidate when necessary.


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