With the impending phasing out of the furlough scheme in the UK, 40,000+ registered recruitment agencies of all sizes in the UK are facing a very real threat to their existence. Ravaged by the aftermath of the first wave of Covid, millions losing their jobs, organisations slamming the brakes on all hiring, Recruiters have had to re-consider their business model and how technology can help them not only survive, but succeed in these challenging of times.
Traditionally way behind the digital transformation curve, the adoption of digital innovation in HR and recruitment has been lagging in comparison to other industries and is still weighed down with manual time-consuming administrative tasks. 1
Particularly in the recruitment agency sector, speed to market to win placements faster than competitors has propelled agencies forward to digitise key recruitment processes to improve productivity and most critically, their bottom-line.
Trend or Necessity?
Forced by Covid-19 lockdowns to employ remote work practices, from video conferencing solutions to employee collaboration and engagement platforms to business process improvement tools, agencies started to look at how they could apply incremental changes for the better, to the way they worked.
“During this COVID-era, most businesses have been forced to analyse their digital capabilities,” Mark Oldfield, Director, Phoenix Resourcing Services, a leading Built Environment Recruitment agency based in London. “For us, interview processes required a rapid shift to digital to ensure we could continue placing candidates where they were needed the most. To achieve this, we utilised a video technology platform, which went a long way in helping both us and our clients adapt processes in the timeliest manner.”
The world over pivoted to communicating using video. Zoom VC manufacturer saw revenues increase many fold. Team collaboration tools like Teamwork and employee engagement platforms like WorkVivo saw an upsurge in sales, driven by an absolute need for organisations to support remote employees to work more effectively and efficiently.
“The shift to remote working further reinforced our team-focused approach, Oldfield explained. Before lockdown, we already offered flexible working via a four-day work week which has helped to improve productivity and boost staff morale. During these uncertain times, increasing levels of communication between clients, candidates and each other has been critical, so we’ve prioritised video conferencing over voice calls and emails where possible.”
Communication, collaboration and engagement sorted, the next challenge for recruiters has been how to improve bottom-line process productivity, to work leaner and faster. How best to digitise key recruitment processes like CV reformatting? With teams furloughed, working remotely, outsourcing a clunky option, how would agencies sort through the deluge of candidate CVs and quickly get the most promising CVs out to their clients?
“We have always strived to produce a tailored curriculum vitae for each candidate to aid both our brand recognition and more importantly, to reflect the capabilities of the candidate presented, in an easy to read, consistent format to clients. This traditionally was an exceedingly labour-intensive task but with the adoption of Allsorter, we have reduced both Consultant’s and administration teams’ time, allowing them to focus more on client requirements.”
Automation vs Human Touch
The benefits that digital transformation can bring to the HR and Recruitment industries are immense. Digitization will move HR from a primarily administrative function to a key strategic element of organisations and free up teams to allocate more time to relationship-building activities that will add greater value to both candidates and clients alike. In fact, ROI has been found to be 50% higher when a business digitizes their processes before their competitors. 2
“While PRS will always implement digital solutions that help us improve communication and automate certain processes, we’re a people-first business and will continue to only utilise technology that supplements the skills of our employees, not replace them,” concluded Oldfield.
In general, larger agencies with ATSs in place benefited from an already high degree of automation and ATS vendors like JobAdder have regrettably seen agencies furlough staff and are focused on supporting those same agencies to achieve more with less.
“With JobAdder, a reduced team is still able to be efficient and productive, commented Kimberly Groat, JobAdder UK. Tools such as Activities and FormAdder help ensure recruiters can be consistent in their hiring processes across the business while expediting the more manual aspects of their role.”
But what about most smaller agencies and independent recruiters in the UK working without an ATS? How could they win on time and productivity?
“As an independent Recruiter, time is critical and potentially spending up to 1.5 hours manually reformatting a CV from a .PDF, is not only painful but just not the best use of my time,” Andy Dunne of First Hand Recruitment, an agency based in Leatherhead, specialising in the Defence, Engineering and High-Tech sectors.
“Agencies like mine, in general need to look at where they can gain incremental time benefits and adopt smarter ways of working, explained Dunne. For example, using video conferencing to save commuting time or automated administrative solutions for CV reformatting, can really help me win back time, and as you know, time is money! ”
According to Deloitte’s 2019 Trends in Human Capital, 81% of HR departments planned to allocate funding to digital transformation projects over the next 2-3 years. 3 It seems 2020 and Covid-19 has accelerated that trend and nowhere more obvious than in the Recruitment Agency sector. Automation clearly has benefits and in a people business like Recruitment, agencies of all sizes can benefit from more of the human touch.