Best Practices for Implementing a New ATS or CRM in Your Staffing and Recruiting Business

You likely have a good idea of how crucial a good ATS or CRM is to your staffing and recruiting business. The right system can speed up your recruiting cycle, help your team reach their goals, give real-time insights into the health of your organization, and help you outpace your competition.

But, if you’re like many staffing and recruiting operations leaders, this holy grail of your tech stack working in perfect harmony to deliver operational excellence may have been doomed from day one. The cold, hard fact is that as many as 69% of CRM implementations fail. And if your definition of success includes accelerating growth, that number can shoot up to 90%.

A failed ATS or CRM implementation will cost you. It’s going to cost in lost revenue and lost time – from the funds sunk into the tech to the hours lost to training, setup, and migration. A failed implementation often drives recruiters to complicate workflows with ad hoc, out-of-system processes, causing inefficiencies to snowball, too.

But the most insidious cost of implementation failure is loss of faith in your business through both internal and external frustration. A disjoined ATS implementation disrupts the candidate and client experiences, lowers internal team morale, and leads to skepticism of change down the line.

So, how do you avoid these corrosive costs? The first step is to understand why so many implementations fail.

Why do so many ATS and CRM implementations fail?

Technology and strategy are not aligned.

Most people think of their tech suite as a collection of tools designed to fix problems. Especially in a people-first business like staffing, innovation and improvement through technology often take a backseat to the more pressing needs of candidates and clients.

Rather than choosing tech that serves strategic goals, leaders choose tech that puts out fires. But, this philosophy often leads to Frankenstein tech stacks, built from a hodgepodge of solutions, resulting in unwieldy monsters that your team battles day in and day out.

If tech choices don’t align with strategic goals, each step in a workflow can lead your team away from true North. For example, if one of your goals is for recruiters to build stronger candidate relationships, an ATS that lacks CRM and native communication tools like calls, email, and texting wouldn’t be a great choice. An inflexible ATS that locks recruiters into a regimented workflow can disrupt conversations, emphasize process adherence over outreach to talent, and hurt rather than nurture relationships.

Weak change management tanks recruiter buy-in.

Change can be stressful – even when it’s necessary. And when a system is as mission-critical as an ATS or CRM, recruiters may resist buying in to the new system for many reasons. Here are some common ones:

  • They don’t understand the reasons behind the change.
  • They doubt the new system will yield results.
  • They are anxious about losing the comfort or stability of the existing system.
  • They are concerned about the added workload from onboarding.
  • They’ve been burned by tech changes in the past.

Thoughtful change management can make the difference between a team that resists new tech and one that embraces it. Without it, your team’s misgivings may solidify into resistance, making it difficult for a new system to succeed.

Your team isn’t adequately trained on crucial system functions.

Like “quiet quitting,” ATS and CRM implementations can suffer from “quiet failure.” Quiet implementation failure is when all systems seem to be running smoothly. But you discover, weeks or months down the line, that your team missed key components of your new platform. 

Recruiters may know just enough to get by, but without the entire team aligned on the full host of your platform’s features, you’re losing time, money, and insight by having them work outside of the system. 

Maybe in moving to the new system, they’ve completely overlooked a standard credentialing step that could have been automated in the onboarding process.

Perhaps they never learned that your new system has a built-in report on sourcing-channel effectiveness, and they’ve been pouring all their energy into dead-end talent pools or using Excel sheets to gather and report performance data.

Maybe they never learned that your ATS integrates with their email, and you’re missing out on crucial candidate conversation history and response-rate insight.

These utilization and knowledge gaps are the red flags of a half-baked implementation process, and they’re especially common when training has been rushed, impersonal, or nonexistent. 

If recruiters don’t know the full extent of tools available, they may go outside the system to complete their workflow. Each additional click decreases efficiency, and each redundancy makes your data less reliable.

Quiet implementation failure can sneak up on you and undermine ROI, create friction for your candidates as well as recruiters, and otherwise torpedo a promising new ATS and CRM system.

Corporate HR Focused ATS/CRM systems can’t meet the specific needs of your staffing and recruiting business.

The staffing and recruiting industry is unique – your ATS and CRM need to work together so you can manage clients, candidates, job reqs, resume data, payroll, and more. It’s a lot more complex than traditional sales.

But, generic ATS and CRM systems created by tech-first folks often have these more straightforward sales-driven businesses in mind. These platforms may carry a dazzling list of features, but if your recruiters can’t find the proverbial needle in the haystack (which, let’s face it, is their job every day), all the bells and whistles are just creating noise.

Do's and Don'ts of ATS Implementation

An image outlining the best practices for implementing a new ATS or CRM in your Staffing firm

What are the industry best practices to ensure a successful ATS or CRM implementation?

Choose a flexible ATS/CRM that adapts to the way your team works.

As you can see above, ATS and CRM implementations often fail because a platform demands that your team change how they work to accommodate the tech. 

You want a system that fits your team’s workflow, not the other way around. A flexible CRM/ATS: 

  • Reduces friction throughout the recruiting process.
  • Facilitates faster connections with candidates. 
  • Creates a unified prosperity engine with robust ATS and CRM integrations.
  • Actualizes an ROI on your tech investment by increasing efficiency and boosting revenue.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you evaluate how flexible and customizable a new platform is:

  • Does the platform capture and highlight the recruiting and sales information that’s most important to our organization?
  • Does the platform integrate with our mission-critical tools? 
  • Does the platform incorporate communication and outreach automation in a way that compliments our recruiters’ workflows?
  • Can we customize our templates and automation flows to accelerate the processes that slow us down the most?
  • Can our recruiters easily move from screen to screen, capturing candidate information in an organic flow? 
  • How easy is it for recruiters to correct a mistake or add additional information after a candidate record has been created?
  • Can we generate reports on the metrics we pay the most attention to?
  • Does the platform help us continually measure and improve on our successes?
  • Will the platform help us create efficiencies at scale? 
  • Does using the platform create a sense of possibility?

When you narrow in on a platform that not only adapts to the way your team works but empowers you to improve processes, that sense of possibility will grow.

Align on how ATS/CRM processes assist recruiters in achieving goals and growing revenue.

You can have the best platform in the world, one that’s tailor-made for all your organization’s needs, but if you don’t articulate the benefits for your team, you won’t get that critical buy-in. Your new ATS or CRM will change how your team works, so implementation is your chance to get them excited about how the new system will help them succeed. 

To get buy-in, start with the goals your recruiters focus on the most. What gets your recruiters up early in the morning? What keeps them up at night?

Is your leaderboard tied to revenue per recruiter? Does your team watch it like it’s a World Cup match? Then introduce the new ATS or CRM in terms of how it will help them generate more revenue. Illustrate how your new system helps reengage talent, gives deeper insight into their time-to-hire metrics, and provides robust revenue reporting. 

Is your team focused on candidate satisfaction? Illustrate how the new system helps them nurture candidates, pulls in vital conversation information, integrates with your recruiter reputation software, and automates referral outreach to happy candidates

No matter what motivates your team, make sure they understand how your new tech will be their new superpower in achieving their goals.

Offer extensive training sessions and multiple learning opportunities.

While training is a key component to successful tech implementation, it’s often unclear what, exactly, training is. You know you need to teach your team the basic functions of their new ATS or CRM – how to run a report or track time or generate an invoice. But training on new tech also means communicating and aligning on the mission-critical processes that the new tech is built to support.

What leaders think is a training problem often comes down to a process problem. The most cutting-edge computer will be useless without programs to run on it. Before training your team on the functions of your system, clearly articulate the processes you want them to run through your new platform. 

Once you’re crystal clear on the what, you can move on to the how. Here’s what to look for in a powerful ATS or CRM training program:

  • Includes a mix of live training and an evergreen library of resources that your team can refer back to. 
  • Offers instruction on both basic functionality and higher-level use cases.
  • Includes bite-sized information so ongoing training doesn’t bog them down or impede their work.
  • Provides flexible training that accommodates different user levels, varying comfortability with technology, and different learning styles. 

Partner with an ATS/CRM company with industry expertise.

Imagine you have five minutes to explain the nuts and bolts of the staffing and recruiting industry to a team of software engineers. What would you say? How would you convey the knowledge and instinct that drive your best recruiters? The labyrinth that is compliance? The ups and downs of the job market? The strange combination of speed and empathy required to keep both candidates and clients happy? 

The fact is, it’d be hard to bring an industry outsider up to speed even if you had five entire days to do it. When it comes to your ATS/CRM, which hosts the heart and the brains of your organization, choosing a company that doesn’t get staffing doesn’t make much sense.

By partnering with industry experts, you can be sure your ATS is built for the data you need, providing insight into the entire applicant lifecycle and metrics on candidate engagement. You can be sure your CRM is built on an understanding of the connection between sales and fulfillment so that you can track new opportunities, won reqs, client relationships, and your recruiting pipelines, all from a single portal.

What does this mean for you? 

Whether you’re recovering from a failed implementation or looking to bring on your next ATS or CRM the right way, you can level up by prioritizing your team, articulating your processes, and spotlighting your strategy.

By getting clear on who you are, what you do, and where you want to be, you can choose the right ATS/CRM partner to help you improve efficiency, build better relationships, and increase revenue.

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