[Podcast] Industry Spotlight | Tom Erb – President at Tallann Resources – Proactively Planning for Success in Any Market Cycle

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Show notes

On this episode of The Full Desk Experience, we dive into the current state of the job market and how staffing and recruiting companies can navigate the uncertainty. We discuss the importance of not getting conservative during times of adversity and the need to stay aggressive and manage finances wisely. Additionally, we look at the effectiveness of communication methods and why phone calls remain the most effective means of communication. Tom Erb emphasizes the importance of building relationships and networks in the staffing industry, and the problems with overreliance on job boards for recruiting. Tune in to learn more about the current state of the job market and how talent companies can stay ahead of the curve.

About Tom Erb: Tom Erb grew up in West Virginia and went to college at West Virginia University and later he pursued a career in the staffing industry. After getting his MBA, he landed a job at Olsten and worked his way up from interviewer to area director. He then spent ten years at Spherion, where he discovered his passion for sales, before becoming a Regional Vice President. Tom went on to start his own company, Tallann Resources, which offers consulting and training services to the staffing industry. Over the past 13 years, he has worked with over 1000 staffing companies and continues to love what he does.

*Introduction and Guest Speaker [00:00:27]*
Kortney Harmon introduces herself and the guest speaker, Tom Erb, and provides a brief overview of his background and experience in the staffing industry.

*Tom Erb’s Background and Journey [00:01:59]*
Tom Erb shares his journey in the staffing industry, from starting out as an interviewer to becoming a regional vice president, and ultimately starting his own consulting and training firm, Talent Resources.

*Current State of the Economy and its Impact on Staffing and Recruiting Firms [00:05:00]*
Tom Erb discusses the current state of the economy and its impact on staffing and recruiting firms, including the overcorrection of hiring and layoffs in some industries, the changing definition of “open jobs,” and the ongoing challenge of finding enough qualified candidates to fill positions.

*Adapting to the current climate [00:08:45]*
Speaker 2 asks how staffing offices can adapt to the current climate change and continue to grow their business. Kortney Harmon suggests that companies should not swing to extremes and should focus on both sales and recruiting. She recommends building relationships with clients and connecting with more candidates.

*Common mistakes during a market softening [00:13:49]*
Kortney Harmon discusses common mistakes that staffing firms make during a softening of the market, such as giving up and making bad decisions around internal staff. She advises companies to stay aggressive and capitalize on their competitors’ mistakes.

*The future of the staffing industry [00:16:20]*
Kortney Harmon predicts that the staffing industry has green pastures ahead and great opportunities due to the high demand for workers and the low supply of people in the workforce. She believes that the industry will continue to grow exponentially in the next 40-50 years.

*The Future of Staffing Industry [00:17:15]*
Tom Erb discusses the future of the staffing industry, including the impact of technology and the changing nature of work.

*Maximizing Relationships with Candidates and Employees [00:19:20]*
Tom Erb emphasizes the importance of maximizing relationships with candidates and employees, rather than relying solely on job boards.

*Sales Tips for Staffing Leaders [00:23:35]*
Tom Erb shares his top sales tips for staffing leaders, including the importance of phone calls and networking.

*Building Relationships [00:26:04]*
Tom Erb discusses the importance of building relationships in the staffing industry and suggests making phone calls and in-person networking to build a presence in front of potential clients.

*Overcoming Adversity [00:29:13]*
Tom Erb shares his success story of overcoming adversity during the recession of 2008-2009 and growing his business despite the industry dropping by 30-40%.

*Qualities of Successful Staffing Leaders [00:33:51]*
Tom Erb talks about the qualities that successful staffing leaders should possess, including being a people connector, building networks, and taking responsibility for their own training and development.

*Leadership and Growth Mindset [00:34:14]*
Tom Erb discusses the importance of empathy and accountability in leadership, and how leaders can help their employees grow and improve.

*Resources for Staffing and Recruiting Leaders [00:37:02]*
Tom Erb recommends various resources, such as podcasts, books, and mentorship, for staffing and recruiting leaders to improve their skills and knowledge.

*Staying Ahead of Future Trends in Staffing and Recruiting [00:39:31]*
Tom Erb advises firms to get involved in associations, pay attention to technology, maximize their ATS usage, and focus on internal talent to stay ahead of future trends in staffing and recruiting.

*Common Mistakes to Avoid [00:42:12]*
Tom Erb highlights common mistakes to avoid, key factors to consider, and other influences to help succeed in the staffing industry.

*Assessing Your Current Position [00:42:12]*
It is crucial to consistently assess where you are today and if you are on target to be where you need to be in the future amidst economic changes.

*New Mini-Series Announcement [00:42:12]*
Curate is dropping a new mini-series called FDE Express, exploring specific topics related to growth blockers around people, processes, and technologies in a quick and concise format.


Tom Erb (00:00:00) – Are you in a job or are you in a profession? Are you a professional? Are you a professional recruiter? Are you a professional salesperson? A professional salesperson, or a professional recruiter is always working on getting better. They are taking it upon themselves. Don’t wait for others to give you training. Don’t wait for others to send you to a conference or whatever. Take it upon yourself to get better all the time. And if you do that, you will have success for your entire career.

Kortney Harmon (00:00:27) – Hi, I’m Kortney Harmon, staffing and recruiting industry principal at Crelate. Over the past decade, I’ve trained thousands of frontline recruiters and I’ve worked with hundreds of business owners and executives to help their firms and agencies grow. This is the full desk experience where we will be talking about growth blockers across your people, processes, and technologies.

Kortney Harmon (00:00:56) – On today’s episode, we’re going to talk with Tom Erb. Tom’s staffing and recruiting career spans over 25 years, and he’s established himself as one of the industry’s top subject matter experts. He is one of the most highly sought after national speakers in the staffing industry, presenting to a variety of industries and organizations, including American Staffing Association, the National Association of Personnel Services, tech Serve Alliance, and dozens of state and regional staffing and recruiting conferences. Tom, also the author of Winning the Staffing Sales Game and writes the monthly column Recruiting Today for a’s Staffing Success Magazine. He’s a former president of the Ohio Staffing and Search Association and Human Resource Association for Central Ohio, and is the past chair for the National Association of Personnel Services and former chair and current member of As a’s Professional Managerial Section Council. Tom, that’s a mouthful. That’s a lot of wonderful things. Yeah,

Tom Erb (00:01:57) – I always think I should shorten that intro.

Kortney Harmon (00:01:59) – It’s great. I love it. I am so excited to have you here so our audience can learn more about your experience in the staffing industry and beyond. So thank you so much for joining us today. We’re so excited to have you. We’re good. So my first question is always really the same is I would love to learn about your background and how you got started in our talent industry, really your journey and where it’s led you today with your company at Talent Resources, and be able to tell us a little bit about that as well. Sure.

Tom Erb (00:02:26) – Yeah. Well, just like everybody else in the staffing industry, I always wanted to be in the staffing industry as a little boy and you know, went to college for it. I went to school at West Virginia University, grew up in West Virginia, and, uh, went to undergrad and grad school there. Had a mba, didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. Thought I wanted to do something that was HR related, but didn’t really know. And, uh, ended up getting an interview with Olson at the day, which Olsten is, there’s still a few franchises around, but for the most part is, has been swallowed up by a, Adeco years ago. Anyways, got the job. I started out as an interviewer, so all I was doing was interviewing people and then moved into different roles, was a recruiter and account manager and an onsite, and then a branch manager and a area director, and did that for a while.

Tom Erb (00:03:16) – Went to, um, Spherion, spent 10 years at Spherion, was a, um, did all sorts of things there, but I did, that was my first foray into sales, realized that I was a salesperson that just didn’t know it and loved sales. Did large account sales for a few years, then was a regional sales director and then ultimately became a regional vice president over, um, the mid east market and had about 35 offices rolling up and across four states and, and did that until, um, 2010, decided I wanted to break off onto my own and do something different. And so for the last 13 years that I’ve been running Tallann Resources and we do consulting and training to the staffing industry, and we’ve worked with well over a thousand staffing companies in the last 13 years and do a little bit of everything. So we help, uh, just about anything that a staffing company needs help with. We’ve helped with multiple times. So, so that’s in a nutshell, that’s what I,

Kortney Harmon (00:04:11) – I love it. And I love how you said, well, I was a salesperson and I just didn’t know it yet. I love that, that you said that.

Tom Erb (00:04:16) – Yeah, I just never, you know, at Olsten never had the opportunity or never even really thought about, like I said, I thought I wanted to get into HR when I was first starting out. And so then I, I just always realized that, yeah, I like this, but it’s not, I don’t love it. And got into sales and just loved that and, you know, continued to do that and then did random market and loved doing that as well.

Kortney Harmon (00:04:37) – That’s awesome. I love that. It’s amazing. And you’ve worked with obviously boots on the ground, thousands of offices. That is so amazing. And I think that leads me to my first real question based on our previous conversation. We really talked about the current state of the economy. So give me your thoughts on the current state of the economy and really how it’s truly affecting staffing and recruiting firms today and what you are seeing and what they’re coming to you with.

Tom Erb (00:05:00) – Yeah, the funny thing about it is that it’s, we’re never happy with where we’re at nine months ago. Everybody was going, why would I sell? I’ve got so many positions that are open and I, I can’t find anybody to fill these jobs. And then now all of a sudden it’s, why would I call my candidates? Why would I go recruit? I don’t have jobs to fill. It’s also, we’ve really quickly changed the definition of what open jobs is. You know, it used to be that if an office, if a branch office had 15, 20 orders to work on, that was pretty good. Well, now it’s like you got 80 orders and the recruiters are saying, I don’t have anything to work on. Right? Because they’re all of a sudden they became very used to having 500 orders. And so it’s interesting how we’ve changed that.

Tom Erb (00:05:48) – We’re always looking for reasons not to do certain things. Oh, I can’t recruit because they don’t have enough jobs. I can’t sell because nobody can fill my job. So we’re kind of in this in between area where, you know, people are going, are we in a downturn? Are we going into a recession? And nobody knows the, you know, the economists can’t agree on it. Uh, the economists are wrong all the time. What I would say is that I think we’re in this overcorrection, I think we’ve been going so fast, people have been hiring like crazy. It’s kind of like the, the run on toilet paper during Covid. Nobody needed all that toilet paper. It’s the same thing with the employees. People didn’t need all those employees, but they go, oh, there’s a shortage of employees. Well, let’s keep recruiting. And then they realized, oh, well now it’s softening a little bit.

Tom Erb (00:06:38) – And so now you’re seeing companies out there like Facebook and, and Google and others, a lot of the tech companies that are getting a lot of publicity for laying people off. But they, every single one of them have said, we’re sorry that we have to do this. We overhired. So that’s an overcorrection, right? They’re correcting, it’s not necessarily a slowdown, but an overcorrection. And then we’re also seeing that you’ve got this trickle down of companies that are at this, at the highest level that are going, it feels like we’re slowing down, so we’re gonna slow down. And then that translates down to the next level of the companies that support them. And they go, well, they’re starting to slow down, or It feels like they’re slowing down, so we’re gonna slow down. It keeps going down to the staffing companies. Well, we may actually be seeing a slow down because of what’s going on at these levels.

Tom Erb (00:07:31) – What we’re also seeing is that these clients of ours, they’re starting to see a little bit of a softening of the talent pool. They’re starting to get more applicants of their own. We’re all seeing that it’s fairly common across the US and across verticals. And so they’re getting overconfident and they’re going, oh, you know what? We needed your help there for a while, but the talent has come back like we thought it would and we’re good. And either they’re taking it back in-house or they’re consolidating those six or 10 or 20 staffing companies down to a, to a number. It’s all short-lived. It’s, we have not solved any of the macro problems that we have, which is we don’t have nearly enough people. And I’ve already started having conversations this week with my clients where they go, you know what orders are starting to pick up again. And are we at the beginning of that? I have no idea. And it’s different for every market. It’s different for every vertical. It’s, it’s different for every company, but, but I do think that we are in just this period of overcorrection that either now or relatively soon is gonna come back. At the end of the day, we don’t have enough people to fill jobs. We continue to have baby boomers retiring at record paces. So we’re having less and less people and we’re just, we’ll be all right as an industry. We’re gonna be just, I

Kortney Harmon (00:08:45) – Love that. And I love that perspective that maybe it’s just an overcorrection, not, not a recession, not the sky is falling. Everybody panics, right? So I do love that. But I think that leads me to the question that offices that might be listening might be asking. So with that being said, how can these staffing offices or leaders adapt to this current climate change whenever they wanna think about growing their business? Right? So everybody thinks, oh, it’s a market turn. I need to grow my business. What can I do? How can I do better? Yeah, we may feel a little bit comfortable, but they want that growth. So from your perspective, what do you think that they can do to continue that growth?

Tom Erb (00:09:20) – By the way, if all of that I just said is wrong, we wanna delete this, right? We, we perfect months from now, we’re in this recession, then please let’s let’s this episode. But the first thing we want to do is to stop going to the extremes. And we had so many companies that over the last several years stop selling. Or they didn’t put the emphasis on selling, or they gave all the sales reps a pass because they said, well, we feel sorry for you cuz you’re bringing in business, but we’re not able to fill the jobs and so well, we’re really not gonna manage YouTube metrics and KPIs and and accountability. Well now we’ve gone the other way and now we’re seeing people go, well I’m gonna stop recruiting and now we, let’s just focus on sales. I gotta, I gotta stop recruiting folks on sales.

Tom Erb (00:10:09) – What we need to be doing is both all the time. And so we also need to realize that sales is not something that we just correct in a couple of days. We don’t just go and do an hour long phone blitz where we get everybody on the phone and all of a sudden we’ve got tons of orders. So we need to do short-term things that address what we need to do now to get some business in if the business has dried up. And then we need to look at long term what’s our sales strategy and really, really commit to that long term. Even if and when, which we will, I shouldn’t say if, when we go back to this, this major talent shortage and lots and lots of open jobs we still need to be selling because lots of those jobs aren’t any good and we can always fill good jobs, is what we can’t fill are the mediocre or bad jobs.


Tom Erb (00:11:00) – And so sales helps us on the recruiting side. We’ve gotta keep selling. So right now people need to say, Hey listen, let’s not do this wide swinging pendulum of now we’re gonna sell. Now we’re gonna recruit, now we’re gonna sell. We need to, to do it all in the short term. The best way to sell is to go back to all your clients and develop relationships. A lot of us, most of the industry has gotten out of the habit of in-person sales of going to lunch and breakfast and having meetings with our clients in person. We’ve gone to this whole remote relationship with them and now what we need to do is go, this is an opportunity for us to get back with them and build those relationships. In a lot of cases, if the client is not giving us orders, it’s not because they don’t have orders, it’s because they’ve consolidated down suppliers and we didn’t make the cut.

Tom Erb (00:11:54) – So we’ve got to go back and do that. That’s the number one. That’s the low hanging fruit is to go to these clients of ours and go and see if we can build that back. Those relationships, build ’em stronger and then get more opportunities. The other thing to do too is say what really, really good talent has all of a sudden become a little bit more available because there is a softening in the market. There is concern over job security. So some people who weren’t interested in talking to a recruiter before may be more open to it. How do we still go out and connect with ’em and be able to skill market them? Most placeable candidates go up and sell a skill, whatever you call it that’s also low hanging fruit. So that’s the short term stuff to do. And then the other thing is, is talk to everybody. You don’t have to have a job to talk to candidates. Now’s the time to talk to ’em so that when you do have the jobs, then you can be even more productive and faster. So, um, those are the things I recommend doing. Right. I

Kortney Harmon (00:12:55) – Love that it’s truly about the human element. All of the technology that we’re getting in our industry, it makes it just so easy to forget about people or not follow up with people or be able not to develop that relationship. So I’d love that you said that. I think that’s probably one of the biggest hardships I saw during coaching was the idea of, well I just, I need to go focus on this job order. I don’t have time to sell today. So I love that you like that balanced desk. We can’t forget about that. That’s going to be something that really drives our success long term. Yeah.

Tom Erb (00:13:22) – Otherwise we’re always just catching up one way or the other. We’re always just trying to catch out.

Kortney Harmon (00:13:26) – The industry is hard enough alone, um, to react to everything. If we can move anything in a proactive sense, we need to try to do so, so I love that. Right. What are some common mistakes that you see staffing firms making during a softening of the, of the market right now? Like mistakes like yep, you’re doing just what this office did and this office did. What are those, identify those and how can we avoid them?

Tom Erb (00:13:49) – Yeah. I always tell the best way to gauge if you’re doing something right or not is go, would my competition want me to do this? And what the competition wants you to do is to give up, throw your hands up in the air and say, there’s nothing I can do about it. Panic, make bad decisions. Primarily around internal staff. You know, oh, let’s hold off hiring that person. Oh let’s, you know, let’s go into hunker down mode. We hear that you know where we’re gonna bat in the hatches. I hear that from time to time go. That’s exactly what your competition wants to do. By the way, when I went through the, the great recession of 2008, 2009, that’s what I was hoping every single one of my competitors was doing cuz I’m gonna go take their share. That’s the other thing that we don’t realize is that first of all, most staffing companies are not big enough to be impacted at a high level.


Tom Erb (00:14:43) – We have such a small piece of the pie, you know, we are a fraction of a fraction of the industry. So yes, if you’re the 10 billion staffing companies, then it’s hard when there’s a slowdown. But if I’m a smaller company and I’m still aggressive, then I can still gain market share cuz I take ’em from others. Cuz during adversity is when our competitors make mistakes. And so we wanna capitalize on those mistakes. We want to stay aggressive through any kind of a downturn. And the analogy I always like to use is the Tour de France, when they’re riding along on flat ground, everybody’s all bunched up, everybody’s doing fine, everybody’s within reach of the leader. It’s when you go up that mountain that everybody falls off and you’ve got a couple of liters that are up there. Well that’s what we wanna be. Those guys don’t slow down and say, oh geez, this is getting hard. Now they say, this is where I separate myself. And that’s the biggest mistake that people make is that during adversity we tend to get conservative. We actually need to be more aggressive. Obviously you have budget constraints that you have to take into consideration. You wanna manage your, your money and your cash flow and all that. Well, but it’s not a time to get real conservative. I love that.

Kortney Harmon (00:15:58) – I love that answer. Obviously you mentioned the previous recession, how the staffing industry has really evolved over the past few decades. What do you think, yeah, you kind of alluded to this a little bit, but what do you think the future holds for our industry? How should people and leaders in our industry sit and think like start that conversation of what they should be thinking? What might the future hold? We’re gonna delete it if it’s wrong. Remember

Tom Erb (00:16:20) – ? That’s right. Yes. Yeah, Tom was completely wrong. It’s like a, the, uh, Jim Kramer on, uh, you know, CN B C or MSS N bbc. Yeah. There’s video of everything that he’s ever said wrong. , what I see, I think I, I actually think I’m pretty safe in saying that the staffing industry, uh, has just green pastures ahead of us. We’ve got great opportunity. There’s all these different statistics that point to the fact that we just don’t have enough people. We are much better in a high demand market than we are a high supply market. And the high supply is not gonna be there for the next 40 or 50 years. We got 50 years of the US going below replacement level, which means we just have not made enough people to replace the people that are leaving the workforce. And during that 50 years, the economy has grown exponentially.

Tom Erb (00:17:15) – So we’ve got kind of a double whammy on that. So, but that’s all good for us. It is a great time to be in the staffing industry. If somebody’s listening and they are 65 years old, 45 years old, or 25 years old for the rest of their careers, the staffing industry is gonna be strong. You’ll, you’ll have little dips and valleys of course, but it’s one gonna be one of the best industries to be in for the next several decades. There’s a lot that’s going to impact us from technology standpoint, you know, and I think the way that we work is going to change in the industry. I think the types of jobs that we have, the ty, how we do things, this is certainly gonna evolve, but I love the prospects we have for the staff. Again,

Kortney Harmon (00:17:53) – I love that. And I’m gonna get into you, we talked a little bit about sales. I’m gonna get into that in a minute. But, so with that being said, I mean that’s the, been the common conversation and any podcast I’m listening to any conversation I’m having, we’re not gonna have enough workers. How can offices start to create a different mindset or think creatively to get ahead of that curve? Like so we’re not there yet, but how can we think positively to say, cuz it’s honestly gonna probably be creative in five years, 10 years from now is probably gonna be completely different than where we could have anticipated. But how can they think creatively going into this?


Tom Erb (00:18:25) – It’s about maximizing what you do bring in. It’s about getting away from this job board dependent approach. And I’m, I’m not bashing job boards. I’m not saying you don’t have job boards, but most of the staffing industry, their whole recruiting strategy is posting jobs on job boards. We call it post and pray. Right? And that will still be part of the, of the strategy cuz we want to have active applicants. But the problem is, is what happens is we post a job, that person applies. They become the most important, most valuable thing in front of us, right? We try and get ’em through the process and then we put ’em in our database and if we don’t place ’em on a job, their value drops by 98% with us. Right? It’s like, oh well now they’re in the database. Now they don’t exist anymore. And so a lot of it is about how do we maximize our relationships?

Tom Erb (00:19:20) – We’ve gotten a person to apply to a job or we’ve reached out to them through other recruiting methods and we’ve gotten them to engage with us and have some level of interest. How do we maximize that from the very beginning all the way through the entire life cycle of that candidate and employee? How do we take a look and say, I don’t wanna just put this person out on a job and forget ’em because odds are they’re not gonna stick around very long. I also don’t want to be just shoving them into a job cuz they need the job filled. I want to be candidate centric in my approach and go, okay, this is what you’re looking for. I wanna have a really good understanding of what you’re looking for and then I wanna be able to put you into the job that you’re going to have the best chance to success at.

Tom Erb (00:20:06) – And then I want to be able to maximize your time on that job. I want to redeploy you. If it’s not attempt to hire a job, I want to keep in touch with you, even if it is attempt to hire job. Because at some point you may, you will be available again. Right? And of course you gotta be careful about, you know, reaching out and, and talking too much with your client’s employees. But there’s ways to do that in, in a professional, ethical way. Just because they’re now working for a client doesn’t mean that we can’t have any kind of conversation with ’em, but we wanna maximize all of those different things. We wanna optimize our selection process so we don’t have 75% of our people falling off after they apply. So all of those things are the things we gotta focus on. I think the, I’m convinced we already have data on this.

Tom Erb (00:20:56) – We already see tons of it. The ones that are gonna win are the ones that are really the nicest to our candidates and employees and where the candidates employees want to work with them. They build this community, they build these relationships. And as much as that sounds to some people like, well geez, that’s just common sense that we would have nice people in the industry. You know, we run across people all day long every day in the industry that go, why would, why are you here? You don’t like people. This is a people industry. Wait, I don’t understand. We’re

Kortney Harmon (00:21:26) – People people. It’s what we do. I always say, I even say this. Yeah. Now my husband runs a fishing charter. He does musky fishing. He takes out people that I recruited 10, 12 years ago that we still have a relationship with. And I know that sounds corny, but it’s like we created such a relationship that I’m still talking to people that, you know, you talked to 10 years ago. Like, Hey, what do you think? Hey, give me your ideas because you again created that relationship in that environment. And number one, I always hear number one complaint about recruiters is they call too much. When they want something they call too much. Number two, you never hear from ’em again. Right.


Tom Erb (00:22:00) – And it’s all transactional and if it’s transactional you’re reinventing the wheel every day. Whereas if you’re more relationship based, then you’re building something and it’s going to pay dividends with you for years later. It’s just same thing with sales. Yep.

Kortney Harmon (00:22:14) – But you have to create that foundational process. And hopefully, and I’m not saying this just cuz I’m from Crelate, is to have a software that helps you enable to, to do that, that is definitely, absolutely key. Yes. All right.

Tom Erb (00:22:23) – Absolutely. That helps, you know, the, the right types of technology help you scale your efforts. Yeah. And all of a sudden, you know, you have a really good recruiter that has the right technology and of course a lot of the automation we’re seeing the AI and all that. Now we can take that recruiter and we can maybe scale what they can reach 4, 5, 6 times. Mm-hmm.  under the right types of circumstances.

Kortney Harmon (00:22:47) – Lauren Jones always likes to say, I hear or say it frequently, she’s like, it almost puts the superhero cape on you. Right. It puts the s on your chest. It just helps you do your job faster. AI is not gonna replace all of us because like you said, there’s not enough people to fill all of us, but it’s going to help us do everything at scale. I love That’s right. In your book you wrote winning the staffing sales game, you talk about the importance of sales in the staffing industry and really developing that framework around it. And obviously we talked right now, right now is where we haven’t had to flex that muscle of sales in the last two years. People haven’t had to think about it. Some of them are even going back to rebuild those foundational processes because they’ve added a tech, added something to their system and they’re not able to capture it. So can you share some of maybe your top sales tips for staffing it, those staffing leaders?

Tom Erb (00:23:35) – Yeah. The, the number one is nothing replaces phone calls. And it’s, as we’ve changed over the years from a technology standpoint, people have changed the way that they communicate. Not to get too into the generations, but I will for a second. I’m a Gen Xer. I used to go and pick up the phone that was attached to the wall. And in my really early days, I actually had to turn the thing like this and hope that I, my finger didn’t slip. And then I would call my friend and get their mom and ask if I could talk to them. That has changed over the years to, I’m texting everything. I’m sitting beside my best friend and I’m texting them, right? So it has changed a lot, but that doesn’t mean that all of a sudden that picking up the phone and calling people isn’t as valuable.

Tom Erb (00:24:27) – Texting is a great platform. I use texting. You know, it’s, I’m not saying you don’t do it. Not saying you don’t do emails. I’m not saying you don’t do social media, you do all those things. But at the end of the day, talking to a person face-to-face, talking to a person on video like we’re doing, talking to a person on the phone, we pick up all of the different things that we can’t pick up in text. And there are studies that show that, you know, 70% of communication is nonverbal. And so you, we wanna be, if we’re in front of each other, if we’re in person, if we’re on video, we need to have that kind of communication, texting or email. We get rid of 95% of what the real meaning of it is. So it makes it very hard to build relationships that way.

Tom Erb (00:25:13) – And we have data that shows over and over again in sales that the more phone calls that you make, the better the results are. And uh, it still is that way to this day. Even if most people would prefer to do texting and emails and social media tho some of those. So that’s one of my tips. The other tip is get back out and network. That’s an area that we have gotten outta practice with. We’re seeing that now that Covid is, is pretty well behind us. I knock on wood, we’re seeing that, that these organizations are all back in swing. We’ve been to lots of conferences, you’ve been to lots of conferences as well as I have. And we’re seeing just, you can’t replace in person with anything else. And so the phone calls, the sales activities are short-term to get us activity, to get in front of the right people.

Tom Erb (00:26:04) – The long-term activities are to build those relationships and also to be out networking and building our presence in front of the people and with the people that we’re selling to. And so those are the two things. Make phone calls and get out and do in-person networking as much as you possibly can. Obviously we have to have a good r o roi. I’m not saying you go out and do 10 networking events a week and eight of them are worthless. What I’m saying is go find good ones. HR associations, you know, different professional organizations that are specific to who you’re selling to. That’s where you need to get out and spend your sales efforts. I I

Kortney Harmon (00:26:43) – Love that. That’s great. Going back to the phone, that is, I don’t even wanna say it’s a pet peeve of mine, but we’ve gotten to the point that it’s like almost like an easy button. There are a lot of people, and I know you say generational, a lot of people think like, well, I don’t have to do those things. I still can make money. But just imagine if you did do those things, how much more money you can make. Right? And all of those things are great social, something that we have to do texting, but I think all of those things lead you to a conversation, or at least it should lead you to a conversation.

Tom Erb (00:27:11) – Well, yeah. And, and think about a text with a stranger versus a text with somebody you really know. Well, it’s a totally different situation, right? If I’m texting somebody that I don’t know, I don’t know, I can’t pick up on what their intent is. I can’t pick up on their tone. If I know somebody pretty well, they can send the same text, but because I know them, I know exactly how to take that message in the same way the other way. So it’s, you wanna have the other types. I’m not saying you don’t have the other types of communication you do. Absolutely. And I text my clients all the time and I do social media all the time. So that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that it, the relationships really are built on, in-person, on the phone, on video, those types of things where we, we can have better conversations mm-hmm. , and then you can enhance that and, and you know, have other types of communication to continue to develop those 100%

Kortney Harmon (00:28:07) – Human element. I love it. Yes. Can you share your favorite success story from your own career and staffing and what did you learn from it?

Tom Erb (00:28:16) – The first one that pops into my mind is from a while ago when I was doing sales. And some of the best successes I think come from overcoming adversity. I’ll give you a couple of things that I think are successes that I’m proud of. One is, at the beginning of the recession in 2008, 2009, I took over some markets that were struggling. They did some consolidating in markets. And I I, and one of the things when we started to realize that, hey, we weren’t coming out of this anytime soon, that recession went on for two years, pretty much people started to get frustrated. It was all the same stuff that you start to see a little bit now. And one of the things I said to him was, I go, our mantra is we’re not gonna participate in this downturn. And we said that all the time and anytime that somebody would start to get negative, start to have excuses about things, somebody, and after a while, it wasn’t even me, it was other people would say, we’re not gonna participate in this downturn.


Tom Erb (00:29:13) – And sure enough, we went out and we actually grabbed market share. We actually grew during that, even though the industry dropped like 30, 40% during that same time period. And so I’m proud of that, that we were able to not only overcome adversity at that time, but buck the trend and be able to, to grow. The other thing that I I’m proud of are some of the relationships that I build over time with clients that started out rocky, that started out, um, where they really weren’t open to me being a partner. They weren’t open. You know, I had to win ’em over. And the ones that are immediately friendly that are are warm that Yeah, they’ll go out to lunch with you right away. Yeah. You know, those are great. We love those. But those aren’t the ones that I think back to. The ones I think back to are the ones that wouldn’t take my phone call. The ones that, uh, we started out with issues that I had to overcome. And just being able to look back and go, Hey, listen, 15 years later I could still, I could text ’em, pick up the phone, call ’em, whatever, and they’re gonna respond to me. That’s what’s really fulfilling with all this. And this is a way we should kind of approach it. So I would say those are two of the biggest things. Those are

Kortney Harmon (00:30:24) – Good in your career. Those are good stories. And I love the mindset. It’s half the time it’s having the mindset to go into something mindset. It’s saying it enough times. Do you believe yourself? That’s

Tom Erb (00:30:34) – Right. All mindset.

Kortney Harmon (00:30:35) – Next question. What advice would you give someone just starting out in the staffing industry where, you know, times like this, people maybe think that, you know, they were laid off somewhere else, they’re like, Hey, I wanna start my own. I saw a lot of this with new franchise owners also at M R I, but I mean, this is something we’re seeing. So what advice would you give someone starting out in this industry?

Tom Erb (00:30:55) – The one thing I would look at is take a look at automation. Take a look at chat G P t and what it does and what it’s going to be able to do. Take a look at other types of, of artificial intelligence workflows. You know, ones that, you know, we’ve got the voice chat, AI voice chat out there. We’ve got sourcing AI that’s going out and, and sourcing candidates and attaching them to jobs and all that stuff. Look at all of that stuff and go, what can I do that can’t be done by ai? If all I’m doing is processing applicants, if all I’m doing is doing just transactional phone screens of people, all that stuff’s gonna get replaced. What you can’t replace are the relationships. What you can’t replace are the ability to build networks, to be a people connector. I was talking to my, my father-in-law a couple months ago, and he’s been in sales most of his life, and he made the comment that stuck with me, and I had never heard him say this before and, and it stuck with, I never heard anybody say this before.

Tom Erb (00:32:05) – He goes, I collect people. And I thought about that and I thought about him and I go, you know what? He’s absolutely right. He has a knack for collecting people. He builds these relationships that are decades and decades long. He’s got all of these people. He focuses on building relationships that go below surface level. And that’s really what I would recommend to people is get out there. The most valuable thing you can do is to build relationships, build networks. You do that. You’re gonna be successful forever. Don’t be that person that gets laid off and all of a sudden goes on to LinkedIn and starts sending invites to connect. You should already had those connections, right? You got to build your network of people. So that’s the biggest thing I would say is build those relationships. The one other thing I would say too is this is a fantastic industry to be in.


Tom Erb (00:32:59) – I’ve been in it for my whole career, almost 29 years. It’s gonna be an even better industry. Think about right now and in the future, are you in a job or are you in a profession? Are you a professional? Are you a professional recruiter? Are you a professional salesperson, a professional salesperson or a professional recruiter is always working on getting better. They are taking it upon themselves. Don’t wait for others to give you training. Don’t wait for others to send you to a conference or whatever. Take it upon yourself to get better all the time. And if you do that, you will have success for your entire career.

Kortney Harmon (00:33:34) – You speak to my heart, training and development is my thing. I love that  and I didn’t pay him to say that any either. So that’s wonderful. I appreciate that. Love, love, love. And I love that I, you know, you always hear people connector. I love people collector. That’s a pretty cool, that’s amazing collector.

Tom Erb (00:33:50) – That’s

Kortney Harmon (00:33:51) – Amazing. Yeah. Okay. With all of that being said, you just kind of talked about some qualities that leaders should have. So thinking about our industry, and a lot of times you see, okay, that’s people coming into this industry, but leaders, ones that wanna stand out, the ones that wanna continue the training, the ones that want to be successful. What are the most important qualities that those successful staffing leaders should possess?

Tom Erb (00:34:14) – The first thing is that you have to have empathy for people. You have to want people to get better. And you have to approach it. You can be a driven results oriented leader that does it in a way that your employees will love you and you get the results. It does not have to be an either or, and it shouldn’t be the way that you do it is you go, you know what? We’re going to have accountability. We’re going to expect high results, but we’re gonna show you the path to get there and it’s gonna be mutually beneficial. I think a, a leader really needs to be, you know, how can I, I, I’m a big believer in servant leadership. What can I do to continuously help my employees get better? Because if I can take the employees that I have and keep getting them better, more efficient, more productive, that not only helps me, not only helps the organization, but it helps that individual in growing as a person, growing as a professional, it’s more fulfilling to be good at your job.

Tom Erb (00:35:25) – It’s one of the, the, that’s how you get fulfillment outta job. One is you like what you’re doing. Two is that you’re good at it, right? And so those are the things that we real, really need to focus on. I’m a big believer in using KPIs and metrics as a path to success. So it’s not just about I need you to hit this gross profit number. It’s about we know that if you do this, it leads to this, and if you do this, it leads to this and that ultimately leads to the goal that you want to hit. But, um, leaders need to hold people accountable, but they need to help ’em get there. And we need to do it from the standpoint of it’s in everybody’s best interest. Not, I’m putting a thumb down on you because I don’t trust you to do it.

Kortney Harmon (00:36:08) – Yeah. So selfish, Katie will probably love this. Today, we actually dropped a podcast that we did two weeks ago for, it was about metrics and about how in our industry we really stay on this like k p I hamster wheel, right? And I love that you said that it’s not necessarily the do more mentality. It’s not about going out to make more calls, but it’s like, how do we make those people successful? What do we change? How do we develop them in a way that’s going to be beneficial for all of us? So I love that you said that and selfish plug that dropped on the 27th of April. So , thank you for leading into that. That’s great. So with that being said, you know, we’ve talked about tools, we’ve talked about ai, we’ve talked about technology, but there’s other resources out there. What resources or tools do you recommend for staffing and recruiting leaders to look at to improve their skills and their knowledge? Because they have to improve too. We can’t just want that for our employees. We have to want and do that for ourselves as well. So what other resource and tools are out there?

Tom Erb (00:37:02) – Yeah, there’s a variety of podcasts out there that, that you can take a look at. There’s, I know that for me in my career, if there was an area I wanted to improve on, I look for experts that could help me. So I bought a lot of books over the years and read those. I, I’ve listened to podcasts, I’ve subscribed to email newsletters and I’ve gone to conferences. You know, one of the best things that you can do to really elevate yourself is to be around others that are where you wanna be and to learn from them. And, and most people that have gotten to a certain level are happy to share with others. If, if we have people that are enthusiastic and want to grow and they reach out to us for help, a lot of us are going say, yeah, absolutely. I would love to because that’s, that’s what we wanna do.

Tom Erb (00:37:51) – And we’d like to see enthusiasm, we’d like to see ambitious people, we’d like to see people who are coachable and wanna learn. And so that’s one of the things I would take a, a look at doing. The other thing is to identify a mentor. And that can be informal, it can be formal, you know, it can be somebody that, that you, um, just really look up to and you just ask if you can pick their brain every once in a while, you know, if they’re local, can I take you for coffee or lunch and just kind of talk through some things? Can I reach out to you if I have certain things that I just need to bounce off of somebody? Again, it can be a formal thing, like through the American Staffing Association’s Mentor program. They have that, that’s a great tool. Or it can be a lot less formal. It can be where, you know, you reach out and say, I’m looking for a mentor, would you be one? Or it can be more informal where you just consider them a mentor. And a lot of times that’s the case. So there’s a lot of resources if you just look for it. But the important thing is just be very open to being coached and to learn and to, um, always be just trying to get better.

Kortney Harmon (00:38:54) – Again, back to that mindset concept, right? And you, you mentioned a lot of free resources, so it doesn’t take any extra money. Yeah. There you have that ability to do that. But I think that’s amazing and that’s awesome. So thank you. I am on my last question if you’re okay with that. So with that being said, all the stuff that we talked about today, what do you see the future of staffing and recruiting, essentially? We talked a little bit about that, but what advice do you have for firms to look, to stay ahead of any future curves? It could be the curve ball that we’re hitting now or the next, you know, whatever we’re going to experience next, but what advice do you have to those firms looking to stay ahead of any future trends that we’re gonna see

Tom Erb (00:39:31) – Get involved in associations? I think the, the fact that anybody listening to this has gone out of their way to learn. So, you know, we’re preaching to the choir a little bit, I think, but get involved in associations, uh, learn from others that are in the industry, pay close attention to technology. Technology is changing so fast and you know, just for example, we’ve touched a little bit on ai. We’ve been talking about AI for years. It was basically fancy workflows. We’re really getting to a time when AI really is here. You know, machine learning is really here, and I would say in the last six to nine months, I’ve seen so much AI focus services, tools, all this that’s really starting to impact the staffing industry. So it’s gonna blow right past you if you don’t pay attention to it and if you don’t get up to speed on it.

Tom Erb (00:40:25) – So look into all sorts of different technology, maximize your, your at t s You know, that’s one of the very first things to take a look at is when I go in and I do consulting with clients and we look at the ATS usage, they’re usually using a fraction of it. I’m preaching the choir with you, but they’re using, usually using, it’s just a fraction of, well, if you’re not using most of what your database has to offer, the rest of this technology doesn’t help because the rest of this technology is usually integrated into your ATS or is is utilized alongside of it. So that’s one of the first things to do. And then the other thing is just, um, focus on internal talent and just look at, at your internal talent and go, you know, are, do we have the best people? Do we know what we’re looking for when we hire new people? We need to hire friendly, likable, empathetic people because that’s the future. Um, and should have been the past, but it’s certainly the future of staffing. So I would say focus on those. I love

Kortney Harmon (00:41:26) – That. That’s amazing. And that’s only gonna help with retention. Uh, there are so many offices that you talk to that they have retention problems or, but all of the things that you’ve talked about learning, improving, being empathetic, the right hiring out of the gate, all of those things are gonna help you and your organization long term as well. Yeah. Well, Tom, thank you so much for joining us, sharing your valuable insights on the state of the market, how we can stay ahead of curves, how we can learn and flux muscles that we haven’t had to do in so long in some of our organizations and really just think proactively. So thank you so much for joining us today. Thanks Ryan. All right. As operation managers and leaders in the staffing industry, it’s important to keep in mind the importance of that strong foundation, making full use of your at ATS and the technologies you have at hand.

Kortney Harmon (00:42:12) – And to stay proactive in our industry as trends and market shifts affect our business and we have to pivot differently for increased efficiency and scale, Tom really highlighted some of the common mistakes to avoid, key factors to consider and other influences to help us succeed in our industry. So thank you very much, Tom. It’s also crucial to consistently assess where you are today if you are on target to be where you need to be in the future. After all, we’re all traveling that road of economic change. So just don’t overreact or overcorrect or pivot too much without keeping your eye on the prize. I hope this conversation with Tom has provided you with some actionable insights that you can use to lead your teams towards success in the upcoming year. I’m Kortney Harmon with Crelate. Thank you so much for joining us and stay tuned as we are dropping a new type of mini-series this month called F D E Express. In this miniseries, we’ll be exploring specific topics related to growth blockers around your people, processes, and technologies in a quick and concise format. Each episode will provide you with actionable insights that you can implement right away. Thanks so much for listening to this Month’s Industry Spotlight with Tom Erb.

Kortney Harmon (00:43:27) – I’m Kortney Harmon with Crelate. Thanks for joining the full desk experience. Please feel free to submit any questions for next session to Full [email protected] or ask us live next session. If you enjoyed our show, be sure to subscribe to our podcast wherever you listen and sign up to attend future events that happen once a month.

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