Part One – Covid, Talent Crisis, Technology.
In the final semester of my senior year, I remember a very brief class discussion sparked by this question from a fellow student to our professor; “How can we make plans for graduation when we do not know if we will get passing grades in all our final exams? Proving himself to be the professor, his answer was as heartless as it was brief. “One of the marks of maturity”, he slowly pronounced, “is the ability to live with uncertainty”. Not much help there!
As we begin our own third year of “uncertainty” because of Covid, our own “maturity” has already been tested to heroic levels, and yet, we still face the unknown.
What is certain is that the world of work is changing, worker attitudes are changing, options on how work is accomplished are increasing. Because many of these changes are more central to the staffing industry, i.e., always hiring, we need to be fully engaged in the answer to the question of “Where do we go from here?
Regarding the universal concern for the Pandemic, we can take some legitimate comfort in the current data. About the middle of last month (Jan 18, 2022) we hit a new nation-wide peak of 1,178,403 new cases. After that it has dramatically declined so that by the 16th of February 2022, the total new cases was 141,177. (Source New York Times Feb 17, 2022)
We can give some confidence to these figures since more and more people who have had the disease carry some immunity together with the increase in overall vaccination rates (67%), and an additional 42% have received boosters. Additionally, there are new and better direct treatments for covid available which will further reduce the hospitalization and death rates.
The Mayo Clinic reports that this latest major surge “Omicron” may well be the last of the major ones. They are looking at a “New Normal” with this disease where it will be more like the Flu. Vaccines will still be the best resource for dealing with it but for certain people (elderly, immune-compromised) masking and distancing will still be important during periods of outbreaks.
“Solving the Talent Crisis”
I borrowed this phrase from one of the two major topics that Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) will be covering at their annual Executive Forum February 28-March 3, 2022, in Austin, TX.
While our company (Bridgeware Systems Inc.) will be attending and doing some of the sponsoring, it is hard to manage our Expo Hall booth, Hospitality Suite, and attend the excellent presentations.
We do try to follow the major discussions especially in the Technology area (we build comprehensive Staffing Software) but, like many other companies we are also very interested in “Solving the Talent Crisis”
Most of us know the general outlines of the talent availability problem, “Good men and women are hard to find”! That has always been true, and the general shortage of qualified applicants only exacerbates the situation. But how to solve it?
My topic in this blog is “The Staffing Industry – Where Do We Go from Here?” and “solving the talent crisis” is obviously a key part of that journey. Without a steady stream of talent for ourselves and our clients, the industry cannot exist.
I am a great believer in the idea that learning all you can about a problem is key to generating solutions. I would apply that principal to “solving the talent crisis”.
For example, we know by studying Dept. of labor facts that 3 million more American workers took early retirements during the pandemic and that this was significantly enabled by an increase in assets (14.5% from summer of 2020 to summer of 2021) due to increasing stock prices (401K’s etc.) and personal real estate holdings (homes). From these facts we can infer with some confidence know that there is, or will soon be, a significant pool of talented workers who may well be looking or “open to” part-time positions to supplement their incomes.
Also, if we know from many surveys that millions working women with young children left employment altogether during the pandemic because, among other things, it gave them time to experience more time with their children and family activities, savings in child care and decided that this was more important to them than the chaos of managing a career. So, there may also be a pool of talented and experienced women who are looking for part-time flexible work.
Speaking of “flexibility” studies have shown that young people in general are looking for flexibility (working from home, more vacation time, etc.) and they want this more than increases in wages more than they are looking for higher wages! Very surprising.
We already know, by everyday experience, that because of scarcity, employment is now more of a “sellers’ market” than, let’s say, before the Pandemic. In this environment it does seem like staffing companies have a lot of selling points, especially for early retirees, women with children, and young people looking for greater flexibility in employment options.
We should also mention here a 2020 article in Forbes titled “The Secret to Winning the War for Talent”. As well as citing other good resources on the talent crisis, there is a good discussion in that article about “training talent” as an alternative to acquiring existing talent. This perhaps, should be in the mix of options available. A good staffing company is often an excellent training company.
Back in October (2021) we wrote a blog article, titled “Top Ten Reasons for Reluctance to Return to Work”. This might be a good place to continue looking at the current labor situation, worker attitude studies, etc.. This should help to develop a successful recruiting and retention strategy as we move into the future.
I am sure that the SIA conference (referred to above) will go deeper into solving the talent crisis. To confirm this, here is a link to SIA’s complete Conference Agenda.
No matter where the industry “goes from here”, technology will be there. Because we are a staffing software development company, we might like to say that “technology will be leading the way”, but that is only part of the story. The larger part is that software development ideas most often come from the staffing companies themselves.
For example, our company began over nearly 40 years ago selling and supporting a third-party accounting software. Our first client just happened to be a staffing company, “Stafkings” in Binghamton NY.
Shortly after we began, they pointed out that the hours paid to their contract workers, for any given client, was virtually the same as the billing hours for that client. Total hours worked for all clients was therefore equal the total billing hours for all clients. This provoked an idea and then a question.
So, one day they asked us “if it was possible, etc., etc.” and so was born the “single entry payroll/billing” feature and our beginning as a specialized software developer for the staffing industry.
Over the following decades we have developed hundreds of efficiencies that have enabled our users to serve their clients more effectively, professionally, and profitably.
From an industry standpoint, technology has been there since the very beginning when Russ Kelly bought 20 “comptometers” and opened the first staffing company in the late 1940’s. This was decades before personal computers and software began to revolutionize the entire business world.
Today, if you segment the staffing industry into three major components, Recruiting, General Staffing, and Gig platforms, major technology innovations are now, absolutely critical elements for each!
We all know about the new cloud-based gig platforms and their outstanding technology, but recruitment software, with its much talked about AI, is doing some of the most sophisticated searching and data analysis available anywhere.
It is also true that general staffing software is more than simply converging upon the vaunted abilities of the gig platforms, it is also creating whole new areas of automation to serve not only the staffing companies and their clients but increasingly to their contract workers.
So, wherever the staffing industry “goes from here”, technology will be an important player.
“Now” is always a good time to review your company’s software to make sure you are taking fuller advantage of all the capabilities you may already have within it. It is surprising how many users-requested innovations are not fully implemented, even when there is no additional cost.
Now is also a good time to make an appointment (Virtual or otherwise) with your software provider to review features. And do not forget to ask what additional and consequential capabilities are on the very near horizon.
(Note: “The Staffing Industry – Where do we go from here? Part Two” will include the topics: “New Work Arrangements”, Non-monetary Benefits, & Legal Freelancing.