Jay Mattern

Thinking About 2021

Here we are in 2021. Despite all of the challenges we faced during 2020, we found a path around and through it all. The question on everyone’s mind now is “what can we expect in this new year? How do we plan for 2021?” 

The U.S. staffing industry was forced to make critical business decisions in the early part of 2020 as COVID-19 spread throughout the country. One of those key decisions was how to find talent to fill the client requirements that came rushing in during the second half of the year. As a result of the growing pandemic, a wave of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders forced staffing firms to transition into various forms of remote work. We now see, as a fairly standard practice, staffing organizations offering remote interviewing and onboarding across all verticals.

But back to our original question: “How do we plan for 2021?” This question, like many, is easier to ask than it is to answer. First, let’s look at some of the unknowns:

  • COVID-19
    • Will the vaccines that are rolling out right now actually be effective in curbing the spread of the coronavirus? Will they be effective against the new strains of the virus we are now just beginning to find?
    • Will the vast majority of Americans choose the vaccine?
    • How long will it take to vaccinate everyone?
    • At what point does the virus infection rate curve begin to bend down?
  • Economy
    • Will the economic recovery continue to gain momentum as it has over the second half of 2020?
    • How will GDP perform?
    • Where will the unemployment rate settle at?
    • How will the considerable federal debt impact the overall economic outlook?
    • Will some of the more severely affected industries such as travel, hospitality and food and beverage find a way to recover? If so, how long will it take?
  • Politics
    • Will the new Biden administration push forward aggressively on its agenda of higher taxes, increased regulations, climate change pressures and police reform?
    • What other legislation, such as single payer healthcare or minimum wage increases, can be expected? If so, how quickly?
  • Market Forces
    • What can be expected in terms of a permanent shift in consumer behavior from brick and mortar shopping to online?

What is the takeaway from all of this? It comes back to the two important factors that have always separated successful staffing firms from everyone else — clients and candidates.

Client Care

Now more than ever, client care takes center stage when it comes to day-to-day operations in your staffing office. The pandemic caused massive shortages in workers who were ready and willing to return to work. Concerns about health and safety, along with increased unemployment compensation, made it tough for the orders to get filled. Clients, faced with not having enough people, turned to calling in multiple staffing firms in order to try and fill their orders. This makes the competitive landscape look much different and requires a rededication to the relationship with your staffing clients. Everything matters, and the winners and losers will be defined by their attention to the “small stuff.” The details always matter, but even more so now. 

Candidate Compassion

Nothing has changed since the pandemic rolled into the U.S. as it relates to sourcing talent. Prior to COVID, unemployment was under 4% and full employment was considered to be 5%. The war for talent was well underway prior to March 2020, but it became even more of a challenge once nearly 30 million people lost their jobs over the course of 60 days and then were asked to come back to work over the next 60 days. Candidates continue to have many options when it comes to employment opportunities. Engaging with candidates at a high level is a must; survey after survey indicates that today’s talent seeks a unique experience that supports their interests and workplace requirements. They want to be part of something bigger — part of a community. Staffing organizations must improve their interaction with candidates and provide a well-rounded process that engages them and develops relationships, much like the process of developing relationships with clients. Making it easy for a candidate to complete the hiring process and get to work is also important in today’s fast-paced economy.

What Now?

There are three clear strategies that should become the primary focus:

  1. Define and consistently communicate your brand.
  2. Emphasize your unique value proposition.
  3. Take advantage of the present economic uncertainty and use it to your advantage by employing bold and effective marketing efforts.

Staffing firms must recheck their focus and make sure they are spending more time and attention facing clients and candidates — not on internal company issues that are not critical to the immediate success of the organization. It is easy to get bogged down in solving internal process and system problems at the expense of ignoring the two audiences that drive growth and profitability. But easy will not be the path to success in 2021. Working harder and smarter in the proper combination will ensure the correct course for the new year and beyond.

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