The Revised Playbook for High-Volume Hiring

by Tim Plamondon

volume hiring

After a year of lockdowns, and millions of workers filing jobless claims, a "great re-hire" is on the horizon. Non-exempt and high-volume hiring will fuel this forthcoming surge in hiring. COVID-19 has caused many companies to deplete their recruiting staff, use processes and technologies not suitable for a post-coronavirus hiring market and compete for talent. If there was a situation calling for recruitment process outsourcing (RPO), this is that situation. The playbook for high-volume hiring has changed, and RPO is a strategic partner that helps your firm make the right moves that result in your hiring success. 

In RPOA's recent RPO Leadership Forum webinar, Pam Verhoff, President of Advanced RPO, moderated a beneficial discussion on how RPO can support HR and TA leaders in applying a revised playbook for high-volume hiring. The discussion focused on three areas; 1) the current business and hiring environment, 2) the high-volume hiring conundrum, and 3) how to gain success in today's hiring market. 

Joining Verhoff in this discussion was Kevin Armstrong, who, as Account Manager at Advanced RPO, serves as program director and is accountable for all of their high volume client relationships. Also joining the discussion was Jenna Hinrichsen. Jenna is a 20-year recruitment industry leader. She manages Advanced RPO's talent strategy and candidate attraction team as well as external sourcing partnerships. The article here is a recap of this webinar. 

Watch webinar: Overcoming the Challenges of High-Volume Hiring

Today's Business and Hiring Environment

Today's business and hiring environment has begun to turn around and change. RPO, HR, and TA leaders will need to adjust to these changes fast. "The market is rebounding fast and furious," Verhoff said.  "And clients need to respond quickly to increased hiring needs." With the rebound and changes in the hiring market comes the need for new areas of emphasis and focus. Verhoff said that she sees a new emphasis on employee safety. And "We have to focus on technology-enabled processes as individuals aren't moving around and aren't able to get out and about as we had previously," she added. 

Verhoff also sees that the daily changes in the hiring market are creating intense competition for candidates and changes in candidates' expectations. 

The High-volume Hiring Conundrum

The recent American Recovery Plan (ARP), intended to provide financial relief for workers during the Covid-crisis, has created new challenges for all leaders in recruiting. Verhoff and Armstrong call it the "high-volume hiring conundrum." Armstrong said, "We're not only competing against our traditional competition for high volume talent. We are competing against the federal government and the stimulus packages."

Armstrong said that an employee in a normal job market would earn $15 an hour. However, the combination of Federal Unemployment and changes in the tax code resulted in candidates now earning more than $15 an hour staying at home. "They're making $34 to $35 an hour to stay at home," he said. "And that's obviously not something that most companies can compete with. Not everyone wants to just stay at home, but we are looking at a really tough market."

In addition to the competition coming from the federal government, Verhoff said that families still have to help young children at home who are still not back in school which adds complexity to the hiring marketplace. 

A Complex Marketplace Calls For a Different Playbook

Competition from the federal government and a new kind of home life are some of the elements creating a complex hiring marketplace. It's a kind of complexity within the market that, as Verhoff said, "really requires that we operate using a new playbook." Armstrong outlined the key elements driving the perplexity of the marketplace and how they create a new way to hire. 

The Complexity of High-volume Hiring Itself

Operating the new playbook requires HR and TA leaders to understand the intricacy of high-volume hiring. Armstrong gave an easy-to-understand breakdown of the perplexity of high-volume hiring. He said, "The high-volume hiring itself is really complex because it always operates as one large funnel, one large machine when you're trying to fill these jobs. Any small tweak in any stage of that process has ripple effects throughout the entire funnel. If you add a stage here, you add an assessment here, you change this process up over here, and you're going to see entire changes throughout your entire process that were probably hard to predict at the beginning."

The Role of Technology in Recruiting

Technology has played a big role in making it easier for applicants to apply to multiple jobs in minutes instead of hours. But technology could also be a foil to your process. As a result, recruiters need to look at the process differently. Armstrong noted, "You have to kind of envision it as you are in a race for that applicant. And if you overcomplicate your process, all the good applicants are going to go somewhere else and you're going to be left with what's left. So, you have to envision the whole process from the application stage all the way through the on-boarding piece, and make it as fast as you possibly get."

Using Technology to Inflate Your Funnel

The new playbook calls for using technology to build up your hiring funnel. Armstrong pointed out that in the last ten years or so, recruitment used to be about processing candidates. You would post your job on one or two job boards, get more candidates than you needed, process those people, and then select the best ones.  

However, Armstrong said that inflating the funnel has been the new way to go because there are never enough candidates. He said, "It's really about filling the top of the funnel. It’s a major component of what we [RPOs] do and getting enough candidates at the top of the funnel. It seems like there's never quite enough candidates to fill them out, we are always battling that battle uphill."

It's important to fill your funnel quickly using steps in your process that make the most sense. Jenna Hinrichsen said, "The key is to fill the top-of-the-funnel without compromising the process. So, being able to still hit those critical pieces when organizations are hiring. Not necessarily removing those critical steps, but really looking at what makes the most sense to get those candidates through as quickly as possible.”

Change in Candidate Behavior Increases the Complexity

Changes in candidate behavior have increased the perplexity within the market. Armstrong said, "He has seen a drastic increase in ghosting, or no show rates at every stage. Candidates become unresponsive at certain stages; they don't return offer letters, they no-show on phone screens, and they even no-show on their start dates. What we've been battling is really a mind shift around what that means, with us and our clients."

Is ghosting the candidate's fault or the company's fault? At first, it might have been easy to blame the candidate. When ghosting first started, Armstrong, said, "It was easy for us to blame it on the applicant and say, 'Oh, it's fine, that person just didn't want to work. We'll find somebody else anyway. Or, you know, that there's just not the desire anymore for this type of job or whatever.'"

However, when analyzing the situation, Armstrong said that it's not any of those things. "Clients did not move fast enough and that candidate found a job with a better employee value proposition elsewhere in a quicker timeframe; maybe making more money, and just took that job and never let you know," he said. "Instead of looking at ghosting rates as a candidate problem, you need to look at it as a process problem on your side and you’ve got to put steps in place to address it."

Case Study: Managing Aggressive Growth

New Candidate Expectations and Need for Speed

Armstrong said that the candidate expectation is tomorrow. "When these candidates are motivated to work, they want to start as soon as possible," he said. "There are very few hiring processes that will function in a day, but you can get it down to a week, including background checks and drug screens if you are taking the necessary steps," Armstrong added. Shifts in candidate expectations are forcing companies to speed up their hiring processes. However, "just because we talk about a fast process does not mean we're talking about giving up quality or making it less thorough," Armstrong said. "You can build a really thorough process that touches on all the same things that you normally would have touched on in the hiring process. The difference is doing it in very rapid succession and weeding out any aspects of the process that weren't actually contributing to quality hires." Armstrong said that getting the process down to a week is a reasonable goal for most companies. 

Making Adjustments to Meet the Complexities

Armstrong sees the marketplace in a state of disruption. "Your competition is moving faster, your competition has figured out a way to streamline the process using a small pool of applicants. They're stealing people that could have been working for you, if you had just gotten through the process faster," he said. 

Armstrong recommends that to speed up the process without losing quality. Companies need to make some adjustments. He said, "We ask that our clients drop the hiring manager interview. It cuts out a step that when we look at our data, we found it doesn't really add anything other than a level of comfort for the hiring manager which we totally understand. But, he added, if that candidate doesn't show up to that interview or, if because it took a week to get that interview scheduled, that candidate took another job." In the end, Armstrong said that this adjustment would make your process faster, and the overall quality of the candidate will be better. 

How to be Successful in Today's Market

Hinrichsen said that there are three things companies need to succeed in today's hiring market. Those three things are: 

  1. Technology
  2. Data
  3. People

"It's all those things that work together really that allow you to hire the right people in this environment at the right place," she said. "The technology would be your postings and your advertising sites. The data, the result of what you're getting out of that technology. The human comes in where you're using that data to give endpoint direction for your strategy to get to those people at the right place at the right time."

But Hinrichsen did caution, "A company can't set the technology on autopilot and let it do all the work for you. A human still needs steer the technology and data to navigate successfully in today's market."

Hinrichsen also stated that each market is different and that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. She said, "The variances in markets can be drastically different, even within the same state and different in terms of the talent demographics. You really have to understand the differences of each market that you're in." The differences she pointed to include:

  • The demand for that location
  • The supply in that location
  • The cost of living in that location 
  • The geographical landscape

All that makes a difference in where you're getting talent from and to where talent is willing to commute," she added.

"It's a true combination of trial and error in each market," Hinrichsen observed. "Whatever you do in one market, will not necessarily be successful in another market. In each new market you go into, you have to be willing to try some things, take some risks and figure out what's really going to stick, and then move on to the next market." 

The Cost of Leaving Technology on Autopilot 

Not leaving technology on autopilot is so important. "If you leave your technology to its own devices, it could increase your cost of applicant," Hinrichsen said. "If you think you have the formula figured out and walk away from it, and let the machine do the work, the next day you could be paying two or three times what you were paying before for an applicant; And then wonder why are we not getting the applicants we did last week." She is a big advocate of "constantly looking at that data because it's changing frequently."

Effectively Using Technology to Help Execute a Successful Program

Technology does play a vital role in executing a successful hiring program. But "using too much automation can be dangerous," Armstrong said. He emphasized that leading the candidate through the process with automation is a bad idea. "Technology should be used to make recruiters more efficient," he said. "Texting candidates has become the candidate preferred way of communicating. Automated scheduling does allow the candidate to pick a time that works best for them to speak with you."

He further said that robust apps, tracking systems, and all those types of tech are beneficial to bolster the productivity and the number of candidates you can engage with at a given time. But, "automating the contact with the candidate because it just doesn't pay the dividends that he would like to see," he added. 

"It's about the candidates’ expectations," Armstrong said. "I would love to automate all of the steps to make it as cheap as possible. But it just doesn't work that way. We're in a foot race for these candidates and if your competition is holding a candidate's hand through the process, but you're not, 90% of the time that candidate is going with the person who's holding their hand through the process."

Hinrichsen dovetailed Armstrong, "Candidates have lots of options right now. They don't have to settle, and they don't have to do extra work. Somebody will lead them through a process without having to do a lot of work." 

To sum things up, Verhoff said, "The new playbook calls for understanding each market in which you're recruiting, as well as, developing and executing a comprehensive recruitment strategy that identifies the right candidates at the right time. It also calls for using technology to optimize the process, not fully replace the process. Real-time access to the candidate funnel is important to making adjustments to market data that seems to change by the hour."  

We hope this webinar helps you understand the changes taking place in the hiring marketplace. Perhaps this discussion validated some things you and your company are currently experiencing. Either way, we invite you to join this discussion and others like it to help you and your company reach success in your high-volume hiring

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