Secrets of Staffing Software Success

Automating a complete paper-based system or improving a poorly implemented computer system in a staffing services company will reap many benefits besides just finding files faster and reducing the paper clutter. Since StaffVision has been automating staffing companies since 1983, we have been able to observe and document just what works better when recruiters and managers use staffing automating tools correctly. The following are a list of benefits that are achieved with our systems, training and guidance.

Reduce your dependence on paper

Notice the word is "reduce". There is no way we can eliminate paper altogether. We still need paper contracts and application forms with signatures, and hard-copy employee government exemption forms and we still get resumes on 8-1/2 x 11's. But you must reduce your dependency on paper by helping you organize where the information on those paper documents is kept and available at a recruiters desktop PC instead of on someone's desk, filed away or worse yet, lost.

A recruiter is only making money while they are at their desk on the phone

A well-known staffing firm once did a study on how much time a recruiter actually spends at and away from their desk. They placed one of those double-timer chess clocks - one clock to time when the recruiter was at their desk and one clock when they stepped away (for work). Remarkably, despite the type of recruiter (temp/perm) or industry (admin, IT, executive search, etc), recruiters typically spend 40-50% of a day away from their desk.

Every time a recruiter has to get up from their desk and look for something; a client's file, a resume, an applicant's phone number, they are not at the place where they are most productive - at their station making money by doing what they do best - recruit, or dealing with a client.

Information needs to be centralized

Centralization of information is essential in order to maintain consistency within an organization, provide the identical timely information to all users who need the latest updated files and allow uniform distribution of data between recruiters, sales people and management.

A staffing automation solution is essential to organize the wealth of information required to run a staffing services firm in the manner that any type of user, from recruiters to branch managers to owners, can get the most up-to-date picture of what everyone is doing.

Business Disaster Security

What would happen to your business today in the event of a major fire? Even if you aren't directly affected by a major disaster but your office building or premises is damaged or inaccessible and you aren't able to get to your files for even a short period of time? You wouldn't be able to serve your clients, call your applicants or run your business. Since all vital data in a staffing automation system is in electronic form, you must ensure that a complete backup is performed every night on rotating daily backup media or CDs and at least once a week a copy be kept offsite. It doesn't have to be in a vault underground at Fort Knox, but it should be off the premises and accessible in the case of an emergency. In this way with this backup and a server and a few PCs easily rented or purchased and networked together, you could get your core business "up and running" again at another location in the unlikely event that you do have access to your premises.

Fill Orders Faster

The cause and effect are clear. The less time a recruiter wastes trying to find information, the faster they can deal with the task at hand - filling orders. Whatever takes the recruiter away from spending time in person or on the phone with clients or candidates should be carefully examined.

Today the competition for good candidates is fierce

The good candidates are not hovering around your front door waiting for your recruiters to recognize their superior skills and excellent references in order to submit them to a paying client. The competition for these top candidates is hot. If you don't get your candidate to your client's attention and work with them, your competition will. It is vital to treat your candidate's information as your valuable inventory. A candidate that applies to your firm and receives no reply or their file or resume "cannot be found" when they call will probably not call you first when they see another opportunity, assuming you didn't "need them" then so why try again.

Stop losing information

How many times have you or your recruiters lost a piece of information (a resume, a phone number, a client's file, a job-order, etc) and were not able to to complete the task when needed because you did not have the information at hand? And how much did the business you lost cost or the credibility with the client or candidate cost you in your reputation? The fact is that you may not even know how much the loss of information or the lack of its availability costs you every day.

Reduce your advertising costs

You know that you have qualified candidates resumes on file to fill that client order. Somewhere. But instead of looking, recruiters find it easier to pay for a new ad and interview fresh candidates than to search through paper or badly organized resumes. Not withstanding the delay in placing an ad and waiting for responses are the costs involved in the ad itself. Studies have shown that it costs an average of approximately $125 to bring in EACH new candidate through your front door (these costs includes advertising, interviewing, test, registering, qualifying, filing, etc). This cost is supposed to be an "investment" to which you expect to recuperate. So every previously-interviewed candidate's file that you have lost efficient access to, has cost you $125 to which you are not going to a return on your "investment".

You need easy access to key "non revenue-generating" information

Frequently you are called upon to provide detailed information that will not go towards earning you income from a client. This includes employee information for litigation, unemployment or workers comp claims, proof of employment, taxes, etc. If the information is not electronically organized to be easily accessed, it costs you time and money compile this data.

Eliminate recruiter's "boring tasks"

Many companies require their recruiters and sales reps to complete call logs or status reports each week. Understandably these are essential so that a manager can track recruiters progress, spot marketing trends to follow, avoid dead-ends, coach sales people, etc. However, to be able to react properly, sales and contact activity has to be thoroughly documented. Many companies don't bother requiring their people to note what they are doing (and of course they do not have any activity to track besides the bottom line). Some companies suggest that recruiters spend 20-30 min per day documenting. This adds up to 2-1/2 hours a week (and over 10 hours a month) that a recruiter is writing instead of working with clients and candidates.

The best of all worlds is to not require the recruiter to spend any additional time doing these activity reports yet management should still get complete call history, logs, results of callbacks, interview feedback, etc. A good staffing automation system should provide thorough activity reporting from the activity itself. For instance, as the results of each client or candidate contact or other activity is done and entered into the associated candidate and/or client's file, the system will automatically have everything it needs to provide detailed recruiter and sales rep activity reports. The hidden motivation for recruiters and sales reps to properly document their actions is that they will receive the proper credit in an automated weekly activity report.

An image of 'consistency' as an organization

It is important as a supplier of services to your client, that your staffing company appears as a team and provide information to your client in a consistent manner. This means that no matter who your client speaks to in your company everyone must answer their questions or respond to their needs with the same information. With a centralized, well-documented system, everyone pulling up a client's file has access to the same history and notes. That means that you represent yourselves as a cohesive team.

How many times has the client called to give or receive information, but the person that they normally deal with is not there, out for lunch, sick or on vacation. They try to speak to someone else however without proper access to past activity history, they will not get the level of service they are used to dealing with as they are accustomed. The customer is frustrated - they don't want to be on your schedule, they just need answers. They see their relationship with your firm as their relationship with their main contact only. Not getting the information they need when they need it is annoying at best but their frustration may just drive them away.

Service now, now, now

Today in our society, everything is 'fast, fast, fast'. We want instant airline reservations, 30-minute pizzas, 1 hour dry-cleaning. Even '1 hour photos' have gone the way of the instant gratification of the digital camera. And customers are expecting the same from you, their supplier. We know the complex staffing industry is far from just a commodity, but clients need answers to their questions, requirements filled, a list of qualified candidates waiting to be interviewed, etc. They put their suppliers under the gun because they themselves are also under the gun. This is what they call 'service'.

And the famous word 'service' is a 'perception'. We always hear people boast that they have the 'best lawyer and the 'best caterer' and the 'best travel agent', etc. Truth is that that lawyer can probably prepare a writ as good as the next, the caterer as good as preparing food as many others and the 'best' travel agent has access to the same flights as they all do. So what stands out to them being "the best"? Chances are they are the best at returning client calls, getting back to them in a timely fashion, responsive to a client's needs. So 'the best' means they get the best perceived 'service'.

In the staffing industry, you have access to the same candidates in the city as the staffing firm down the road, you can call the same clients as your competitors, and fill orders as effectively as any multi-national or independent around the block. However, clients deal with you because they want to. What puts your firm ahead of the others is the level of service, the responsiveness, rapidity of action and quality information you can give your client over and above your competitor.

Don't waste your client's time

Your sole source of income, your bread and butter, the secret to your future success, your client is a very busy person. It is one of the reasons that they are looking at outside staffing firms to fulfill their personnel needs. Besides being responsive, you must be able to provide accurate information to them when they call. Besides the recruiting end of things, clients call to find out the name of the candidate that worked for them last summer, the billing rate of the admin you provided last February or how many hours has your current temp worked to know if they can offer them a permanent position.

Normally this type of question has to be directed to the 'billing department' and after a groan and some time, they eventually get a callback with the data they need. As busy as they are, they have to wait for an answer to a normally trivial request. But what if you can provide that information to them while they are on the phone and be able to end the call with the client's inquiry completely dealt with? Could they just be thinking as they put down the phone '...and that's why I deal with them..". An effective automated system is vital to making your clients feel well 'serviced'.

The Bottom Line: Cash Flow

Account Receivable is the Pandora's box of the staffing business. No amount of business can keep you in business if your invoices are not getting paid on time. It is very obvious that the key to profitability (and even existence) in the recruiting business is 'cash flow'. This industry requires temporary staffing providers to float a lot of money. Employees must be paid this Thursday but clients somehow don't think twice letting their invoices stay outstanding 20, 30 or even 45 days!

There is no magic wand to get clients to pay faster. But two facts are obvious to improving cash flow: 1) getting an invoice into your customer's hands faster will inevitable result in it being processed faster and 2) the invoice must always be accurate.

Your pay/bill system must print out an accurate invoice and get it into your client's hands soon after the timesheet is processed, and even before the employee's pay is due that week. Simply improving your billing cycle by 2 days each week will usually have an effect of getting your invoices paid 2 days sooner. This is not trivial. Look at your weekly billing dollars. These 2 days over the course of the whole year represents a tremendous increase in quicker payments and reduced interest charges (if you are borrowing to finance your payroll).

Accuracy is the other hidden wrench in the system. Customer disputes of invoices represent many of the best staffing company's over-30-day receivables. A client who receives an incorrect invoice rarely calls immediately to call your attention to it, but may wait until the 30-day collection call comes. The pay/bill system must be as error-free as possible to reduce, if not eliminate incorrect invoices and your Accounts Receivable system must be sharp enough to detect an unpaid-invoice situation before it gets out of hand. In the case that a correction must be made, the system should allow you to quickly recall the erroneous invoice, correct it and re-send it quickly.

The difference is ...because you "look good"

There is no doubt that a responsive and well-organized company exudes a professional image to your clients. You clients like to be dealing with vendors who are professional. Don't you?

Professionalism is contagious

We must never forget that temporary employees and placement candidates to your clients are a reflection of your organization. Just as recruiters have to be responsive to their clients, they must be as effective in providing information (and services) to their candidates. The employees and candidates you have out there are your ambassadors on your customer's site. They talk to fellow employees and your client as to what they think of dealing with you. If you appear as a fumbling disorganized loose collection of disassociated individuals who just barely got them that position because you were just "lucky enough" to slip in their resume when the client needed someone, then that is their view of your organization.

An effective staffing automation system must be able to make the candidate feel well taken care of - that their resume is in your system, that their skills are tracked accurately, that their payroll questions can be answered quickly..

If they are a temporary employee, you want them to always work for you and be your image to each and every client you send. And if they have been placed at your client, they my soon be in the position one day to need a staffing service firm to supply them people. And you know they want to be proud of who they call.

You help them...and they will help you

It may sound obvious, but a candidate who knows that their vital information is in your computer system and can be recalled by anyone at your form in a matter of seconds, will be more inclined to keep you up to date on their latest skills, courses, accomplishments. You want them to be proactive and call when there is a need to update their files with you.

"I'm too busy to be organized"

Every recruiter and sales person has their own level of being organized. A good staffing automation solution should make it easy for everyone to be organized when it comes to documentation, client and candidate interaction, quality control, etc. The system should make it effortless to be organized.

A good staffing automation solution should reduce the stress levels at least about fumbling around to find information.

Give us this day...our Daily Planner

The heart of a good recruiter 'to do list' should be the 'Daily Planner'. A recruiter's work day is too hectic to rely on every 'i' being dotted and 't' crossed. And if you mix up and cross your 'i's, you might need stronger contact lenses. An automated system should be just that, 'automated'. It should be intuitive and work like a silent assistant in the background.

As daily events take place and promises made, meetings scheduled, etc - there should be an easy way to see it all in one place. Enter the 'Daily Planner'. The Daily Planner is any system should organize all the results of all the hectic events in the past in a neat concise manner to help the recruiter follow up all those activities in the future.

For instance, if a note is entered that a client call resulted in that client's desire to be called back, this should be a future entry in the planner. Same goes for candidate call backs, arrival calls scheduled on the first day of an order, extension calls near the completion of an assignment, and a quality control call somewhere in between. If a recruiter schedules an interview for a candidate next week, that event should only be entered once. That note should automatically appear on the job order, candidate file, client file and a follow up call instantly scheduled on the Daily Planner one hour after the interview starting time for timely follow up.

A recruiter should be able to start a new day by opening up their Daily Planner and seeing all the events they have to do, one click access to bring up the phone number, and then easily allow the results of that call.

Promises are meant to keep

Promised callbacks to clients and candidates are essential. As important as it is, it must be as easy to do. 'nuff said.

Make More Money Now

Even though we speak of a '40 hour' or '35 hour' work week and we typically work more than that, the hours that we can actually generate revenue are more limited. Clients have a window in the morning where they can be contacted, are usually difficult to reach during lunch time and afternoons are even shorter. Studies show that there may only be a 4 or 5 hour "hot time" to speak to clients and therefore generate revenue. That small window of time must be the most efficient possible. If time is wasted searching for that elusive file or lost resume or phone number, that means less time is available in which to generate revenue.

It may sound simple, and it is. The more that a recruiter or sales person can actually do at their desk in a day, will mean higher productivity, more effective communications, the true perception of outstanding service to clients, more time to fill job orders, happier clients, increased loyalty by both candidates and clients and ultimately increased revenues with less costs.

This will result in a better bottom line for the recruiter and the staffing firm.