June 24, 2020 by Meredith Metsker
Whether it’s COVID-19 or the Great Recession, staffing companies are always on the front lines of any economic downturn. When looking at staffing and COVID-19, companies see the talent supply and demand changes first, both in recruiting quality candidates and gaining new clients.
So when the coronavirus hit the U.S. economy like a ton of bricks in March, staffing professionals were forced, once again, to pivot.
Here are five ways staffing companies can use data (particularly job postings) to adapt and grow in a post-COVID-19 world.
One of the best data resources we can use to understand the real-time impact of COVID-19 is job postings. Job postings help us monitor changes in employer demand for talent. Everything from hiring freezes to increased hiring can be tracked and quantified using job postings on a yearly, monthly, weekly, and even daily basis.
In Emsi’s June webinar on staffing and COVID-19, Kasey Roberts of Kforce and David Sidlar of Allegis Group said they’ve both used job postings data to track recent changes and be trusted partners to their clients. After an initial nosedive in March and April, both staffing professionals said many of their clients are now starting to slowly hire again. With data, they can be strategic. Without it, they risk flying blind in the middle of a global crisis.
“Providing them the best data so they can understand the market in areas where we can grow together has really been key,” Roberts said. “We can also work with our delivery teams and say, ‘Hey, these are the professionals that we need to be recruiting. They’re very much in demand.’”
Before COVID-19, Sidlar said Allegis was looking at monthly job postings data. But now, he’s looking at weekly or even daily job postings. With things changing so quickly, up-to-date data is critical.
“We need to pivot and help our clients do the same, to potentially look at different areas or locations, geographies, or even in some instances skill sets,” Sidlar said.
Overall job postings are down because of COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean every industry or occupation is in decline. For example, the hospitality industry lost nearly 8 million jobs in April alone. But the online shopping industry, fueled by Americans shopping from the safety of their homes, grew by 176% more job postings in May than in January/February.
If we break down these job postings by industry and occupation, we see some wildly different trends. For staffing companies, that can mean slowing down recruiting or sales in one vertical because demand is low and focusing on another where demand is high. Or it might mean prioritizing remote-friendly jobs or looking in a different market. After all, employer demand will look different between regions, based on demographics, major industries, compensation, COVID spread, etc.
“What we have done across the board as we look at both our full-time hiring customers and our contract hiring customers is to help them really understand where the trends are going for their particular markets,” Sidlar said.
We can also see these job posting trends at the skill level. COVID-19 has vastly changed which skills employers want most. For example, Kforce primarily works in the technology and finance and accounting sectors. So Roberts has seen an increase in demand for professionals who can build and maintain the infrastructure needed to support a fully remote workforce. She’s also seen increased demand for Zoom/video conferencing subject matter experts.
And on the finance and accounting side, there’s been more demand for skills and occupations (like loan processors) related to COVID-19 relief programs like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
Job postings data can help staffing professionals stay on top of those skill trends—in real time.
By the end of April, U.S. unemployment rose to a staggering 14.4%—nearly four points higher than the worst unemployment rate during the Great Recession. Many companies and industries responded with mass layoffs, hiring freezes, and tighter budgets.
As a result, companies that are hiring have even higher expectations. They want the best talent that will add the most value for the best price. Staffing companies can use job postings (and profiles data) to find that qualified talent in their client’s price range.
Roberts said she’s also noticed some changes with candidates. Some that thought they’d be in the same permanent position until retirement now find themselves out of work. Now, they’re more willing to look at jobs they have the skills for but may not have considered in the past. They’re also asking more questions about how organizations are responding to COVID-19, e.g. flexibility and working from home.
“They’re taking a long, hard look at what they want out of their career. And I think a lot more people are now open to gig jobs and project work. It’s shifted their mindset a little bit,” Roberts said.
Sidlar said he’s noticed passively-sourced candidates are now easier to get a hold of. They’re more willing to take calls. However, they’re less willing to make any big moves yet unless there’s a compelling job offer.
Job postings data is helpful because it’s available in almost real-time. But it has limitations. First, job descriptions aren’t perfect, and if we’re honest, neither are any of our resumes. Both are written by people and we are certainly not without our flaws.
This is one of the many reasons why employers around the world are moving to a skill-based hiring model. Job titles and descriptions can be broad or even misleading. It’s forcing many employers to define roles based on competencies and the skills required to perform the job.
And candidates are no longer limiting their searches to just one or two job titles. Instead, they’re looking for positions that allow them to learn and use new skills.
“A big piece of our job as a staffing company is to educate people on different types of jobs they may be a fit for. It’s astounding how many new positions are created on a daily basis that we’ve never even heard of before,” Roberts said. “It’s important that we keep our pulse on the market and make sure our candidates aren’t pigeonholing themselves by just looking for one specific job title.”
Skills data can help staffing companies better connect people to jobs. Recruiters can advise employers on what skills they should include in a job posting to attract the right candidates (and avoid decreasing their talent pool too much). And they can help candidates recognize all the hard and soft skills they have, understand their value, and communicate them to employers.
COVID-19 has wrought havoc on the U.S. economy, and it could be months before we see the full economic impacts. In the face of uncertainty, staffing companies can use data to stay up-to-date and agile and serve as trusted advisors to their candidates and clients.
“Using data helps us see the hard facts. It helps us right the ship and guide it through this very uncharted territory,” Roberts said. “Using data, we make the correct decisions faster.”