Special guest Maurice Fuller and our own Chris Hesson dive into staffing technology trends and best practices as well as insights into embracing disruption and acquiring higher margins in 2021 and beyond.
Introduction – Maurice Fuller of StaffingTec, Stackvantage, and the new podcast: Staffing Technology with Maurice Fuller
We’re incredibly excited to have Maurice Fuller with us for Crelate’s November webinar, to speak about macro trends in staffing technology and digital transformation. The presentation is followed by a fireside chat interview with Chris Hesson about practical applications of emerging recruitment technology and process change to scale your business and drive profitability.
Maurice is the founder of StaffingTec and StackVantage, and he’s a technology management consultant to the staffing and recruiting industry. He works with staffing and recruiting firms to modernize their tech stack, accelerate digital transformation, and select the best staffing platforms for their business.
Maurice brings more than 25 years of experience in the staffing industry, and he’s been leading staffing and recruiting technology initiatives for more than two decades.
Previously, he was a vice-president at Wimmer Solutions, an IP staffing and consulting firm in Seattle, where he led large scope of work programs at Microsoft, as well as continuous improvement initiatives. Before Wimmer, Maurice was executive director of operations for CompuCom’s $150 million contingent IT staffing division, where he led multiple functional areas, including IT and marketing. Maurice has an MBA and MSEE degrees from NYIT and the university of Washington
Maurice and Chris had a chance to connect over a 2020 StaffingTec virtual event and presentation around process automation in staffing, and today we finally bring them back together.
Chris, thank you so much. I really appreciate the opportunity to be here today. We have a lot to cover, so let’s just get started. Here’s a little bit of information about myself. Again, I’ve been in the staffing industry for a long time. I really understand this industry from the ground up. I started as a recruiter and I rapidly became involved on the leadership side. And I felt for a long time that technology is such an important driver of performance and results and I started focusing in on this area over 20 years ago. And I love staffing technology so much, I founded a conference called StaffingTec which was 2018, 2019 – I brought together key leaders that are involved in staffing technology. I also launched a site called StaffVantage, which is a search engine force for staffing technology.
We have a podcast now called Staffing Technology with Maurice. We have many episodes that are recorded, and you’ll see that rolling out in the weeks and months ahead. So if you’re interested in hearing high-level conversations about the direction of staffing and recruiting technology, check that out.
So you’re staffing businesses is becoming a technology business at the core and I want to focus in now on just the staffing technology and recruiting technology trends that will be relevant for us for the next three to four years. These are those trends – and I’m going to go through them individually and provide some color around each of them starting with hyper automation.
Hyper Automation in Staffing
I mentioned before that it’s a massive trend toward automation. Well, it’s coming to our industry as well. Already many staffing / recruiting firms are becoming increasingly automated. And what that means is that more and more things that we do, within staffing – whether you’re a recruiter or in sales – are being handled through automation.
So when you think about the life of a recruiter, we spend a lot of time talking to candidates. We spend a lot of time updating records and sending out emails, but the value of the work that we do can shift very, very rapidly. So when we’re negotiating with a candidate, you know, in those minutes, we might be making a thousand dollars an hour. But when we go back to doing data entry, we’re back to doing low value added work. So the more of this work that can be automated, it raises the value that we can operate in the value that we can bring to our clients, the value that we can bring to our candidates and our employees. So we want to automate more and more of the routine activities that enable us as recruiters to do the things that we love. We love to engage with our clients. We love to engage with our candidates. And so automation is a really, really great thing for our industry. And one of the fantastic things about Crelate is that many of the automations that we need to do our jobs are built in directly into Crelate. So you simply have to enable them and configure them and they bring significant efficiencies to our daily lives. All right, let’s move on to the next trend, which is:
This is the idea that more and more your staffing recruiting firm is almost like a software product and the way that people, candidates, and clients experience your company is through the software and especially through mobile devices. And so you want to make sure that everything about the engagement and the experience is optimized for mobile devices since the majority of your stakeholders are engaging with you through mobile devices. So constantly making sure that mobile is easy, whether it’s on your website, the onboarding experience, mobile text messaging, et cetera.
Applied Machine Learning
This isn’t really something that you can buy directly, but it’s a layer of software that is being built into more and more pieces of staffing technology which enables us to make better decisions faster and operate more efficiently. So you’ll see that everywhere at different levels.
Basically technologies that enable us to converse through texting, through emails – even through voice communications with candidates with employees – we’re seeing more and more of that because that’s what we’re in the business of working with people. And so if we can streamline some of that through bots, we can definitely accelerate our ability to work with our clients and get more work done quicker; and make more placements along the way.
Digital Engagement in Staffing
Traditionally we’ve engaged by phone, email – everything was done by human beings, basically driving those communications – but more and more communications are being automated. When you think about Amazon, for example, it’s a great example of digital engagement that just happens automatically. And we feel good about our relationship with Amazon because we know where things stand. We know what we’re buying and no humans are involved. And so more and more routine activities are simply being digitized. And it works fantastically well, too. It saves us time and it keeps everybody in the loop and so I like to say that what we want to do with our business is we want to maintain that human element – that high touch element that we bring to our clients and our candidates – but we want to do it through technology to streamline our business.
I love this mantra of being “high touch with high tech.” So automation is a part of that, digital engagement is a part of that. And having tools and technologies that enable you to realize that vision is essential. So digital marketing is really becoming an important part of how we now engage with our clients and with our candidates and having that digital marketing function is paramount to success.
Enterprise BI for Staffing
Your data that you have within your staffing / recruiting business is becoming more and more valuable. And so what we’re seeing now is more and more applications that connect into your ATS, or have just data within your ATS, but you have other applications that interface with the ATS that have data themselves. And so we want to bring all of that data together and have visibility into that data so that we can manage our businesses as efficiently as possible; but also more and more, we want to create value out of that data that we have and use that value and bring that value to candidates and clients. And then the last point on this is this idea of data enrichment. So more and more, we have services that can enrich the data that you have and make sure that it’s current. So no longer do you necessarily have candidates’ records within your systems that are out of date. More and more, we’re going to be enriching that data and trying to keep it current.
Next Generation Programming for Staffing Firms
What I’m seeing is that more and more staffing / recruiting firms will be automating their businesses and even using tools to provide automations and software applications that provide efficiencies, but also bring differentiated value to our clients using low- and no- code software tools. So it’s a very exciting area as a way to separate your firm from others.
This is idea the idea that placements are made autonomously without recruiter involvement. And so we’re seeing more and more of this – this is an area that’s growing very rapidly. So how do you make a placement without a recruiter? Essentially at the beginning, a recruiter might be involved in qualifying a candidate, but once the candidates fully qualified and is set up within the system, the automation takes over and engages with that candidate through either mobile apps or through texting and placements are made. So we believe that by 2030 one out of three placements will be made autonomously. And we’re well on our way to getting there within the staffing industry.
Total Experience in Staffing Technology
This is the idea that everything about the way that you engage and connect with the world – through digital engagement, through your software – is focused on that experience and providing an excellent experience, not just for your external stakeholders and users and customers and clients, but also internally. Your recruiters and salespeople, operations people, should absolutely love the software that they’re using. And the more they love the software, the more productive they’re going to be. So the experience is really important. Thinking about your staffing business from the outside in, and how people perceive that, and the experiences that they have, is really important.
Metaverse and the Implications for Staffing
Now a lot of investment is going into this area. And what does this really mean for staffing and recruiting? For the first few years it could mean that you might meet with candidates out in the metaverse somewhere. You might find candidates in the metaverse, but they’re also staffing firms today that are using virtual reality to help project to candidates what a job might look like – you know, put on these virtual reality goggles and experience what it is like to be a forklift driver, for example, or experience what it’s like to wander our campus and engage with people. So it could be a really great sales tool to help bring more candidates into your company.
Cybersecurity for Modern Staffing Firms
This is becoming more and more important. I know now of many staffing firms that have been hacked and have been victims of ransomware and have paid anywhere from $20,000 to over $2 million to have their, their data and their systems brought back to life. So it’s a very real threat, especially the mid to larger sized staffing firms – they have a lot of data and oftentimes they have weak security postures. So it’s something to pay attention to. So again, this is the world that we’re moving into very rapidly in the next few years – hyper automated, mobile focused, machine learning, making our jobs more and more efficient, bots supporting our operations, digital marketing to more efficiently go to market and engage with our clients and candidates, “high touch through high technology,” programming, custom programming, and automations to further streamline the business. More and more focus on your data as a source of competitive advantage. Total experience being sure you provide a really great digital experience to everyone that you work with. Autonomous staffing – so staffing placements that happen without recruiter intervention. The metaverse and then of course, cybersecurity.
So now I want to get into the next part of which is really the digital transformation of staffing and what that means. It’s not complicated – simply a shift from human beings, driving all processes, to increasingly automated data and algorithms in the cloud driving processes within your staffing and recruiting firms. Now, I’m not saying that your entire staffing firm is going to go to this, but you’re certainly moving away from what you see here on the left with humans doing every part of the process. Technology is taking on more and more, especially the lower value added activities and enabling us to really focus on being the best that we can possibly be in terms of bringing value to the folks that we work with. Your staffing firm – your staffing platform in the future – is highly automated, driven by data and algorithms and mobile app is as a key part of that. It runs 24/7 with machine learning everywhere. So this is sort of a vision to keep in mind to move toward as you evolve your tech stack for your company.
When I do assessments of staffing firms, I look at different stages of digital transformation and where staffing firms are, and rank them from one to five. One is staffing firms that are resistant to change. You would be surprised how many staffing / recruiting firms continue to work today using spreadsheets I’ve worked with many of these firms and it can be effective, but it can also be a real drag on productivity. So I always recommend to staffing firms – if you’re on a spreadsheet, you have to be on an ATS. It will make your firm much more efficient. If you’re at a level two, that means you’re embracing technology. You may have different point solutions as you’re engaging with more and more digital engagement, but you may not necessarily have a vision for where you want to take your firm from a digital transformation standpoint. Level three means as a digital follower, you do have a vision for your where you’re taking your business. You have an innovation process within your firm for improving the operations of your business. And more and more digital is enabling core activities. Level four means you’re highly automated, such that you’ve been able to lower the cost of operations through your automation, scaling through technology. And you’re really focused on digital engagement with candidates and clients. And then a level five is digital disruption. These are firms that are really bringing significant change to our industry through innovative technology. Often these firms have built their own tech stocks.
No matter where you are on your digital transformation journey, culture, processes, and technology are pillars of your organization. But what many firms I see are lacking is a clear digital vision, and really thinking deeply about what digital means for your staffing and recruiting business. It’s so important that you think about all these trends and you start to envision how you can go digital and where you can streamline and automate and make processes faster and where you can apply technology to get there. So this journey that you’re on – this digitization, this digital transformation journey – has a lot of different elements to it. So we mentioned the vision; it starts with a vision at the top and a commitment to making investments in digital transformation knowing where you want to invest, how much you wanna invest, making sure your shareholders are on board with what you want to do. Make sure that your leadership team is savvy. So it’s about investing time to learn about these digital technologies and learn how you can apply these to your business and grow revenues faster and increase profits.
Talent development is about proactively preparing the folks within your team to be digitally savvy. So training is a big part of that – anticipating the kind of skills they need to have in order to facilitate and lead the digital transformation and proactively training them in these areas of automation, digital marketing, the various tools that you have, et cetera. So more and more of your KPIs that you’re using for managing your business are going to shift towards a new set of digitally oriented KPIs and KFIs. You’re going to be managing more and more autonomous processes, so overseeing these processes is key.
Having a digitally focused tech stack is really the foundation of all of this. If you don’t have a modern tech stack, you certainly can’t digitally transform yourself and take advantage of where the industry’s moving.
Integrations with marketplace partners is essential. Governing that experience – we talked about providing a great experience to everybody that touches your company or engages with your company and paying a lot of attention to that. Having a clear strategy for automation and governing all these automations, having a pipeline of automations that you want to build, cybersecurity, mitigating the risk of being attacked, having a very strong security posture. Data we manage – we’ve mentioned data before and why this has been so important. In the past we’ve just kind of thrown data into our ATS systems, but in order to do automations in order to run machine learning, your data has to be really clean. And so focusing on that and thinking about ways to leverage your data – to bring value to your different constituents that you work with is becoming more and more important. Agile innovation – so having at the very core of your business, a weekly or bi-weekly process for continuously improving everything about your business – I think is really, really important. Cultural transformation – your business, as it becomes digital, will transform internally and become more and more of a digital culture. More and more of a culture that resembles a software company.
I just want to make this point here that you own the digital transformation of your staffing recruiting firm. Nobody is going to help you get there. You have a lot of help though; all your technology partners are continuously improving their products, they’re making the products better and better. But you need to bring that vision into play and you need to drive that and bring that leadership to moving your business forward and continuously improving all these different aspects of your business, knowing that our businesses are becoming extremely automated in the years ahead.
If you send me an email, I’d be happy to send you this poster, it’s the Staffing Technology Stack poster which has all the different technologies for the different phases of the staffing process. And with that, I’d like to thank you for listening to me. And now Chris and I are gonna talk a little bit about some of these some of these topics.
Absolutely. Maurice, thank you so much, I really appreciate you giving us that overview. I think if you look at it, this decade in front of us as recruiters, is a decade of change. A lot of the firms I’ve consulted with and worked within in the past – I think there’s often this natural human condition to resist change, even if it may make things better on the other side. So what would you say to a recruiting firm or an owner or recruiter that’s been around and looks at this and says, “wow, that sounds scary.”
Well, it is a little bit scary. Because if you’ve been doing staffing / recruiting in a certain way for years, if not decades, looking at this is a significant change from how things have been done in the past. And you’re thinking about your competition getting better and adopting these technologies and the risk of being left behind, and the fact that this is hitting us so quickly. But it’s two things – you’re driven by the opportunity to grow faster and to improve your top line, improve your revenues, but also to operate more efficiently with fewer people to improve your bottom line. The flip side of that is if you don’t move forward with this, it’s the risk of being left behind and becoming irrelevant. So we must move in this direction and there are significant benefits, significant financial benefits.
But it’s also about making the business just more fun. It’s simply more fun to be within a business that’s more digital that takes care of some of these lower value activities and automates a lot of things within our business. It’s easier to run a business like that than one that is highly manual, that is really fundamentally a lot more complex and a little bit more unpredictable in terms of being able to consistently operate in a certain way.
No, I appreciate that, and I think that change is necessary and staying relevant is going to be an enormous part of this business for us as recruiters and really going to change the hiring landscape as a whole. One of the things you said that really resonates with, I think, my philosophy on recruiting is if you look at technology in a business, it is less of a “technology thing” and often more of that “culture and operations thing.” And I think that’s really what it boils down to, especially for a lot of, you know, smaller firms. So if you were to take an organization that was maybe on the level one tier of they really haven’t done much, what’s some advice you would give to them? What should they start doing as they look to prepare for this next decade of change?
Really the transition from one to two is fairly straightforward. If you’re a level one it’s either about adopting an ATS or adopting a more modern ATS, bringing in some marketplace partners, talking to vendors, learning about the available technologies that are there, talking to other others in the staffing recruiting industry that are currently using technologies, and just building that comfort level that it will bring a significant improvements to your business by making even some basic investments in the right technologies.
Absolutely. Another thing that kinda came to mind, and I’m sure there’s going to be some people with questions on this, is that high touch is going to be incredibly important as we keep that human element. So as we look at things changing over the future, what are some of those specific activities that you don’t see technology able to automate or take away? You know, what should a recruiter as a human really hold on to?
That’s a great question. So I like to say that if you’re a recruiter today, you can absolutely be a recruiter for your entire career, but your job will change significantly over the next few decades. So to me, the things that when I was a recruiter (and I did this for multiple years), the things I really enjoyed the most were being able to help my candidates with their careers. I enjoyed helping make a significant impact on their career trajectory, getting them into jobs that they loved. I enjoyed negotiated with them. I very much enjoyed working with my clients to understand their requirements and where they’re headed and then making those matches, you know? And so, the technology found fundamentally enables us to do those type of activities better and spend more of our time engaging directly with candidates, directly in conversations with our clients, and bring significant value to what recruiters do. And so I’m actually really, really excited about what technology brings to our profession and how it’s going to improve the lives of everyone that we work with and how it will make this job so much more fun.
Excellent, thank you. I actually had a question – one of the things that, you know, I’ve had my personal view on, I ran a desk for a long time – I’ve worked with a lot of firms – is that as automation increases, a lot of the low hanging fruit activities that I think some firms have historically relied on, that’s going to be automated. That’s going to be outsourced. I really look at relationships being something that can’t be automated. What are your thoughts on that long-term kind of human interaction and how that will play in with the digital transformation.
Yeah. So the best way to think about that is how you interact with Amazon, where you have a certain shopping experience. There’s a lot of information on Amazon, but as soon as you something, they’re in touch with you through your mobile app, through emails, they stay in touch with you concerning delivery, and ask for your feedback. So a lot of those routine things about getting interviews set up, reminders – that will absolutely be automated. Those are low, low value-added activities and more and more of your time will be spent in interviews, in coaching with your clients, and less and less time directly spent just moving data from one place to the next.
Yeah, and I think the relationship piece is so big with what recruiters do. And I love the idea of getting rid of those manual tasks that really take you away from what’s going to make and grow your business. So automation, I think is really exciting.
It really is.
Yeah. So if we look at the landscape of technology, there’s so many cool, shiny things to really jump into. I know you had mentioned ATS, but if you had maybe a top five list of what should a firm start looking at, what would be in your top five?
That’s a great question.
So look, your ATS is the single most important decision that you will make. It’s paramount that you have a really great ATS to support your business and starting with a great ATS makes all the difference.
So if you have that in place, then the next thing that you want to start thinking about are some of the marketplace partners that connect into that. Text messaging, communications, different ways of engaging with your candidates. Thinking about that entire tech stack and sort of a collection of technologies. And then over and above is the digital marketing side. And that really starts with your webpage. Having a very state of the art webpage that represents who you are, that candidates can engage with to effectively search jobs, et cetera, I think is also paramount. So at a very basic level, those are really the top five to look at. But you know, many of the clients that I work with, they have 50 or more, 50-75 pieces of software technology now to run their businesses. And it’s growing very rapidly.
Yeah, I look at where we’ve come. My first gig, I think I had spreadsheets and a stack of 150 LinkedIn profiles on my desk, and that’s all I had. So we’ve come a very long way and I think we have a very long way to go as we continue on this journey.
Perfect. I did have a question, someone wanted to know if you would I think you had a slide with your email address. They wanted to out and get a copy of your poster, which I think is a pretty cool thing. Perfect. If you wanna leave that there for a minute everybody makes sure you write this one down reach out to Maurice, request a copy of that. And that’s something he’ll be able to get over to you.
So if we look at having a myriad of tools and the number of tools is going to continue growing, how do you think a firm is going to best be able to maintain that usability, be able to really keep up with all of it? What would you recommend to someone as they look at just the number of things and start to question what that future is going to hold?
Yeah, so there’s the leadership part where really the person or persons at the top of the organization need to be increasingly digitally savvy. So you can’t just delegate this and say, “Hey, team, let’s go through this digital transformation.” You need to really understand that and bring that vision and the commitment to it – and understand what that means – because for every firm, it’s going to be a little bit different in terms of how you execute on that and digitally transform your business based on the competitive dynamics of your market, how you want to bring differentiation to your clients, et cetera.
With that in mind, I strongly believe in having an agile innovation process at the core of your business – just like software companies have weekly stand up meetings and they have sprints for innovation. You should bring that into your own staffing and recruiting business where you have weekly or bi-weekly meetings, where you review specifically innovation within your firm.
And simultaneously, having a backlog of initiatives that you want to pursue.
Often I see staffing firms, recruiting firms that don’t have enough things in their pipeline. They have a handful of things, but they really should be exploring many, many, many opportunities and then narrowing that down to a handful of technologies. So for example, just last week I spoke to the CEO of a very rapidly growing firm. She said she sees demos of software on a very regular basis. And I think that’s one of the ways that we keep on top of what’s happening in our industry, is seeing what’s out there and then trying to relate that to our business – but then also being willing to take some risks. Sometimes we invest in technology that doesn’t necessarily play out exactly the way we had hoped, but we have to be willing to try things and see how they play out.
And I think if you wait until everybody else has adopted a piece of technology and it’s a hundred percent certain that there’s zero risk, you’ve probably waited too long. So it’s about keeping up, making investments, trying things, and doing it on a very consistent, very regular basis, and that will lead to a digitally transformed firm that will drive more revenue and more profitability.
I think for a lot of firms that are first making this foray into expanding their tech stack, a buzzword that continually hits them from every angle is AI – artificial intelligence. And I’ve worked with firms in the past that, they hear it somewhere, and “Hey, tell me about this AI thing.” It’s kind of where SEO was like 10 years ago from the marketing side. So how would you define AI in the recruiting world today and where do you see that specifically having a role as recruiting technology continues to evolve?
Yeah, so really it’s machine learning, which is a subset of AI, and we’re starting to see kind of a layer of machine learning that’s being introduced into more and more software products. It’s very, very early on – and I agree, Chris, it’s very overhyped.
We hear a lot about it, but I’ve seen in some applications – I occasionally see glimpses of the potential for machine learning. And when I see it, it’s amazing, but it’s in very specific applications. But it’s definitely not a broad at this point, but it’s something that will definitely emerge this decade. It’s not something I would focus on if I were selecting products at this point, you know, it’s there, it’s built into the product. But it’s not like you can just go off and buy a machine learning. It’s more, you buy a particular solution. So for example, a conversational system or a bot at the core of it will be some kind of machine learning, oftentimes. But you’re really buying the conversational system – you’re not buying the machine learning part of it. So it’s something to be aware of. It’s something that we’re going to see a lot more of, but we’re in the very, very, early, early, early stages of machine learning.
I think that’s important because AI is such a nebulous term and it really is broad. So I appreciate that, that definition behind it.
I remember working with a firm and I had the owner come to me and say, I just want a tool that when I copy and paste the job description, it will search through my database, identify the top 50 people, put them through a sequence, automatically reach out to them, coordinate and scheduling of meetings – I have one call with them, then send them over to my client.
And my response was: “First off, it doesn’t exist. But second, then why would your client need you? You’ve just sourced yourself out of a job.”
And that’s why I think that relationship side is so important. Now, AI is not at that point. You’re completely right when we’re in the infancy of where that’s beginning to impact our world, but something a computer won’t be able to do is build that relationship, have that connection with someone. And I really see that being a huge value add that you can continue to layer on top of all of these tech initiatives that will just make you better and more efficient at what you do.
I totally agree. Now imagine you as a human being through what you do – phone calls, text messages – but then it’s augmented by the support of automation that takes care of other messages that just go off automatically. It makes you a more efficient, more capable human being that’s bringing significantly more value to everybody that you work with. So that’s what enables you to make more money.
Absolutely. And ultimately, I think revenue is where it comes down to. As a recruiter, as an owner of a staffing firm, you’re in here to generate and grow your business. And technology is going to be a fantastic way to continue that. Keep in mind that it is an investment – but just like you invest in hiring people, technology is that initiative. And sometimes it’s a longer term. I look at making that transition from legal pads and pen and an Excel spreadsheet – it takes some culture change. Sometimes there can be some pain going through that change in order to digitize your process, digitize your environment. But I think the long-term benefits are absolutely incredible.
Yeah. Sometimes it can help if you bring people into the organization that that have that point of view and they can help lead that. So how you staff the organization can also accelerate your digital transformation. But I can’t stress this enough – it really starts at the top and having that vision, that commitment, and also the willingness to make these investments.
Absolutely. Maurice, I wanted to thank you again for your time today. This was fantastic. I’m so glad that you and I were able to reconnect as well. I hope we are able to do this again in the future. And that is everything I have. So I appreciate everyone’s time. Thank you everyone for joining. We will have a copy of this recording out for you all as well. So you’ll be able to digest this on your own, share it with your friends, your colleagues, and hopefully you’ve got some good takeaways.
Thank you, everyone.