SIA’s Executive Forum recap: digital transformation takes the stage

By: Tim Robbins, Vice President and General Manager of Staffing and Recruiting at Monster

Last week, I was privileged to attend what I think is the can’t-miss-conference-of-the-year: Staffing Industry Analyst’s Executive Forum. It’s really a state-of-the state, where we not only get a deep-dive into SIA’s incredible data-driven insights, but we also hear directly from industry leaders about what’s happening at their companies, where they’re focusing their efforts, and where they see the industry going.

This year, the theme was “New Strategies for a New World” and it did not disappoint. There were so many relevant topics, but if there was one theme that seemed to be just everywhere, it was the idea that digital transformation is here to stay.

There was a real acknowledgment that while our industry has, in many ways, dragged its feet when it comes to digital adoption, the last twelve months have changed everything.  2020 proved that we are ready to embrace the virtual world, in everything from remote work to online staffing platforms. If you weren’t able to attend, here were my top takeaways, and the trends I’ll be watching over the next year.

Major shifts over the last year

If there’s one session you never want to miss, it’s SIA president Barry Asin’s keynote. First, he shared a general employment update. Of the total jobs lost in the U.S. since last March, 60% have recovered. But the staffing sector is rebounding even faster. Always a leading indicator, staffing has already recovered 76% of lost temporary jobs.  Naturally, some industries key to the staffing segment suffered greatly, such as hospitality and leisure, but certain healthcare sectors saw an explosion. In fact, “travel nurse” was named SIA’s “Person of the Year” for 2020. The median growth for travel nurse was 85% YOY. Another huge focus of the conference was the potential impact of staffing platforms. Despite an increasing interest in online staffing over the last 5-10 years (and now, the emergence of Indeed as a serious player in this space), less than 40% of staffing companies either have or are considering investing in an online staffing platform in the next two years. I expect that to change.

Digital staffing: Adapting to this new reality

Digital transformation is certainly not a new topic, but after a year of a digital-only world, there was hardly an executive who didn’t include some nod to online staffing platforms. I’m sure the emergence of Indeed Flex has something to do with that.

We learned that People Ready, using its platform JobStack, filled 57% of its light industrial orders last year (primarily day laborers) completely digitally, with no recruiter contact between the client and the candidate. That’s astounding. It led to application times cut in half, completion rates 27% higher, and a growth in recruiter productivity.

There was an explosion in nursing staffing platforms. During COVID-19, Aya introduced a self-serve model that increased travel nurse headcount 338% YOY. Both of these are examples of staffing platforms in action, and surely this is giving some of the larger companies food for thought. It will be interesting to see how many partner with, or invest in, their own platforms this year.

Skills gap: Staffing leans in

The convergence of the increasing skills gap and talent shortage continues to challenge many employers – and the staffing industry is well-positioned to assist, according to SIA’s presenters.

Kip Wright from Genuent, Ryan Craig from Achieve Partners and FINRA’s Geoff Abere presented an info-packed session about how well-positioned staffing firms are to own the upskilling space and position training programs as part of their solutions offerings. There’s a need in just about every industry for “last mile” training, from healthcare to tech to light industrial. As Craig said, “More and more jobs in America require a specific combination of digital skills and business knowledge or experiences that are increasingly hard to find when we have an education ecosystem that’s not equipped to train for those skills.” He argues that colleges aren’t teaching the skills companies need, be they software like Salesforce or soft skills like teamwork and collaboration.

Wright said that although staffing companies don’t often see themselves as developers or creators of talent, they’re actually perfectly positioned to bridge that gap, and offer the specific training their clients need. Taking the leap from traditional staffing company to an upskilling model requires not just investment (both financially and philosophically), but a leap of faith and commitment to change management. As the world changes so rapidly and new jobs are created every year that require skills many workers simply don’t have, staffing companies have an incredible opportunity to make a difference for their customers.

What’s ahead at Monster

At Monster, we’re embracing change as well, and have just launched a new candidate experience that provides candidates a better platform to highlight their skills and experience, and better results for employers looking to find the right fit. There’s much more to come in terms of our new platform and technology, but the direction we’re headed in, both for candidates and our customers, is greater transparency, and ultimately, better matches.

Check out our staffing recruitment services, and feel free to reach out to one of our team members to see how Monster can help with your staffing needs.