In Conversation With Bryan Peña from Defiant Solutions LLC
With an objective to enlighten and guide the staffing industry professionals through the expert opinion of the industry’s well-known thought leaders, NextCrew has brought together the new concept of Expert Interview Series.
Under this series, we would be interviewing a thought leader every month to learn their take on the staffing industry’s recent happenings, trends, and how best to move forward for a better future.
We kick-started this amazing concept by interviewing Tom Erb, and today, we have another notable staffing industry thought leader- Bryan Peña joining the series to share his views on contingent staffing, COVID-19 crisis, leadership strategies, and much more.
Below is the download of Tom’s thoughts and response to our questions.
Well, I think the most significant re-shaping that has taken place is within the staffing firms catering to the events, tourism, hospitality, etc., industries that rely mainly on in-person services. Staffing businesses from these sectors have struggled mightily as they've seen demand dry up. With the downturn due to the COVID-19 crisis, we witnessed the trend of remote working over physical working, which increased the reliance on technology for regular continued operations. Also, white-collar technical and highly skilled roles saw a significant downturn at the beginning of the crisis.
Simultaneously, there's an interesting movement in large enterprises to consider new modes of work. This increased openness toward adopting recent trends has been increasing the rate of acceptance for new talent solutions like crowdsourcing, direct sourcing leveraging technology, and online staffing.
The reason being, these solutions are often less expensive than traditional methodologies to engage individuals and can deliver better outcomes. However, staffing organizations have been slow to adopt them. For example, this pandemic has shown that companies can work remotely with lesser to no physical meetups. If this is the case, why is there the need for the employee to be in the office, city, state, or even my country?
The corner staffing provider will not have to compete against the staffing firm across the street, but the college-educated resource across the world who may be willing to work for 75% less.
That being said, I don't think it's all doom and gloom. In fact, I expect the eventual upturn to be very good for the staffing industry. Staffing has always been the Canary in the coal mine when it comes to economic growth. Now that the organizations are really paying attention to new work modes, the staffing industry is perfectly poised to benefit from these emerging trends. The winners will be those that focus on creating excellent experiences not just for their clients but also for their talent.
The staffing industry has historically done an excellent job in ensuring the safety of the employees. Obviously, OSHA will keep rolling out with guidance on how companies can be safe in the new world post-pandemic, providing more insights and better direction to businesses.
Still, what I think the right thing for the staffing firms to do would be to work closely with their insurance providers to learn about the business areas that may be particularly exposed to risk. An untapped wealth of insight around how to mitigate risk can be acquired from the insurance providers because, frankly, they've probably seen it all.
Also, what’s interesting to know is that according to a recent study by McKinsey, only half of the employees believe that office spaces are safe. This means that staffing firms need to be flexible and fierce advocates of their talent’s comfort and safety. The best way to ensure the same is by providing the employees the flexibility to work from their comfort zone.
For example, someone may have an elderly parent at home and may not be comfortable working in a crowded office space instead of someone who may feel differently because they don't have such a household situation.
So, paying attention to each placed resource’s individual circumstances, safety, and comfort zone will be a new dimension in the future of work. To ensure the same, firms need to work even more collaboratively with their clients to ensure that they create a safe environment for the on-site workers. For example, how often do they sanitize the surface is in the building? Do they have enough space within the facility to ensure social distancing? These are just a few things a staffing firm needs to do to ensure they create a safe environment and people are comfortable going back to work.
The rise of remote work definitely makes it more challenging for staffing firms to stand out. I think the biggest challenge will be creating a sense of community and differentiating your client experience. What I would recommend staffing firms do is to take a detailed look at their value proposition, understand what sets them apart from the competition, and see if that holds water in the new remote work world. Many staffing firms, for example, rely heavily on a fun and collaborative company culture to attract talent and new business. But, how can they create such a culture when no one can be in the same room at the same time?
Here, I anticipate more significant reliance on coworking technologies such as slack, teams, etc., as well as virtual events to create a connection. In fact, I see a new position and skill being developed within many organizations, a Head of Remote Services. This person can be tasked with ensuring connectivity and community engagement in the new remote work world.
Leaders need to embrace new technology and confront the reality- the business model of staffing is being fundamentally changed through technology and new challenges to existing supply and demand. As I mentioned previously, competition for client recs is now global as opposed to Main Street. Hence, creating a differentiated experience for both clients and talent will be necessary to survive in this crisis and beyond.
Technologies like direct sourcing and other open talent models will need to be incorporated into your basic delivery strategy. So traditional providers will need to be open to new ways to deliver using the elements that have made staffing a great industry in the past—for example, providing talent curation and recruitment services to support a company's direct sourcing initiative instead of providing talent in a traditional manner.
Leaders are going to have to focus on building organizational agility to act quickly on new opportunities. One thing that COVID-19 has done is increased the pace and speed of change of technological adoption.
I could go on and on about how leadership needs to change in the post covid world, but the final point is leaders need to learn that trust is the most crucial currency in business now more than ever. Trusting your employees, trusting your resources, and trusting your clients more than you ever have done is going to be the secret sauce for business survival in the new world.
Gone are the days where you can simply be a point solution and not a strategic partner. This also means that you need to fire clients who don't fit this mold of partnership. Not an easy ask, I know!
I think 2021 will be a renaissance year for the staffing industry. In addition to rapid technological change and the rise of new staffing technologies, techniques, and ideas, we will see a greater focus on diversity and inclusion in all of its forms. The competition from new talent delivery channels will force our traditionally staid industry to evolve and grow to something entirely different.
Another trend will be the shift from sourcing to curation. Many firms are drowning in resumes, and being able to identify the true non-passive candidate is going to be a challenge for the firms.
Moreover, I think we will continue to see an ever-greater focus on creating differentiated talent experiences for both businesses and individuals. What many people don't realize is that the competition to get things done from new talent channels also provides new ways for people to make a living. So creating value for individuals who are part of each staffing firm’s talent community will be inevitable for the staffing businesses.
Thank you, Bryan, for your valuable time and insights.
About Bryan Peña:
Workforce Solutions Strategis of Defiant Solutions LLC, Bryan Peña is a globally recognized influencer of the staffing industry. With over 25 years of experience, Bryan has established himself as a widely sought-after keynote speaker, a passionate evangelist for the open talent industry, and a highly sought out expert on emerging talent platforms, workforce management programs, labor models, staffing technology, variable and future workforce trends. You can find Bryan featured in leading staffing industry publications and podcasts, sharing his unique perspective on the ever-growing demand for comprehensive workforce solutions. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.