Q&A: Optimizing (and Automating) Talent Engagement with Pankaj Jindal

Who here is ready to re-examine, refine, and maybe even automate their talent and employee engagement strategy?

If that’s you, then we’ve got a special treat. Scott Poeschl, VP of Partnerships with Avionte, had the opportunity to dig into the details of designing your automation strategy and selecting the best communication partner with Pankaj Jindal, Co-Founder of Sense – the smart talent engagement and communication platform built for recruiting.

Please note, the interview below has been edited for brevity and clarity.

SP: I’m glad we had a chance to connect. I figured I’d start this off by getting your thoughts on the major topic of last year – COVID’s impact on recruiting. Did you notice any major changes in the way temporary and contingent staffing companies engaged with talent during the pandemic?

PJ: Absolutely. That’s obviously been the defining moment of most of our lives.

There are two macro trends that we noticed – the acceleration of digital transformation and the strengthened emphasis on engagement.

First of all, digital transformation got accelerated for everybody. Firms who thought that they could just put off the adoption of a technology stack immediately had to accelerate it because their teams were no longer there.

We saw, overnight, hundreds of new customers reach out to us and essentially say, “We need something that binds the organization together.”

Some people were at the beginning of their digital transformation, some people were faster advanced, but all of that precipitated really quickly.

The second macro trend that we noticed is that engagement became really, really important. Not only did you have to engage with your talent, you also had to figure out a way to engage with hiring managers and team members that you could no longer meet with in person.

Our platform lets you send out messages via email or text to engage with people, and we saw our volume of email and text messages double overnight as people started to realize that this is the time for you to engage with people more and more.

SP: Do you see those behaviors, channels of engagement, or approaches shifting post-COVID?

PJ: No. A lot of this is now permanent. The changes that technology is making to your business – you’re never going to be able to undo that.

But, that’s a good thing. Technology is going to show you that you can reduce your attrition rates, you can increase your redeployment, and you can increase your candidate engagement. 

For example, most of our customers today are getting three to four times the amount of candidate volume than they were getting prior to the pandemic on open positions. But, they don’t magically have three to four times the number of recruiters that can take the time to respond to each candidate.

That’s where technology steps in. 

The right tech combined with the right process will allow your business to scale quickly and effectively.

SP: If a staffing agency wanted to optimize and automate their talent engagement strategy to better align with talent expectations, what are the top things you recommend they keep in mind?

PJ: There are many different answers to this based on your business, but I would go after the low hanging fruit first. Think through the number one metric that you want to improve upon and do it. 

If the drop-off between offer to start is your biggest problem, you can absolutely focus your effort there. If redeployment is your big problem, then start there. If your biggest challenge is attracting candidates, then automation can help you. 

Next is reactivating your database. If you have a million people sitting in your database, how do you reach out to them? How do you find out the people who are active today? How do you write that back into your database? How do you automatically trigger communication to them so those people feel like, “Hey, I like this company. They’re reaching out to me. They have me on top of their mind?”

Nail this, and suddenly you have all these people in the top of your funnel that your recruiters didn’t have to go source.

SP: Is there anything they should avoid?

PJ: Nothing is ever going to replace a human connection.

We talk about this a lot. Recruiters today spend 33% of their time – if that – talking to a human being. The remaining two thirds of their time is being spent in updating the database pipelining for candidates, taking notes, just stuff that is administrative.

Automate that stuff so recruiters can have more time in their calendar to talk to people. Don’t try and automate the human connection.

And to that effect, we actually offer a scheduling solution where any time technology talks to a candidate, if that candidate meets all your criteria, you can automatically schedule them with a recruiter – taking the engagement time with an actual human being from 23% to 50%, 60%, 70%.

SP: Circling back a bit. You mentioned automating what you can. What are some key things staffing and recruiting agencies should look for in potential communication and engagement technology vendors?

PJ: One of the first things I would say is that you have to find an engagement platform – not a point solution.

A point solution will let you do one of the things below really really well…

  • Automated messages
  • Two-way text messages
  • Chat bots
  • Referral tracking
  • Mass emails
  • NPS scores
  • Lightweight candidate, recruitment, and marketing automation

But you’ll need several point solutions layered on top of each other to build the functionality necessary to execute your engagement in a strategic way.

An engagement platform, on the other hand, lets you do all of the above in a single platform that bi-directionally talks to your applicant tracking system and tracks information in a single candidate record.

I can’t tell you the number of times we talk to customers who really are using seven different solutions to power their engagement strategy. That means they have seven different contracts, seven different prices, seven different customer success teams that they’re dealing with.

And half of those seven solutions will not integrate with their system of record.

If Avionté is your system of record, Sense is your engagement platform. We both bi-directly talk to each other, and you can have a one, three, or five-year strategy that will all be executed with this platform as you expand as you scale.

SP: What are some red flags to look out for?

PJ: I can give you a lot of pitfalls, but it may be better to walk through how to avoid them. 

First and foremost, ask for references, and be sure those references align with your business. For example, if you’re a commercial light industrial shop, don’t take a reference from a healthcare shop.

At Sense, we’ve always said a hundred percent of our customers are referenceable. We can connect you with whoever you want. If you want to talk to a particular customer, we’ll do that. 

Number two, always do an independent evaluation or go through product review sites like G2 or Capterra.

People go to those sites and put independent reviews and comments up, so you can see what this software is actually doing. 

Number three, ask for people’s SLAs and customer success and customer support policies. This is where we have seen a lot of heartburn. There are lots of tools and solutions and products that are, you know, nice, that are shiny, and a lot of people adopt them and then it turns out, “Hey, I can’t get anybody on the phone for 24 hours because I have a simple issue.”

You also want to make sure that the right buying decision is based on the actual reputation of the product, the reputation of the success and support team, and reputation in terms of, are they doing the workflows that you want them to do? Do they have industry knowledge?

Then of course, is this whole gamut of feature functionality. 

Can you do automation based on some of the things we just talked about? Do you have a chat bot? Do you have a referral management system? Can you automatically pay people? There are plenty of things that might make sense within your environment that these tools can or cannot do.

SP: Any final words of wisdom or pieces of advice for our readers as they start developing their automation strategies and searching for technology vendors?

PJ: Yeah! First of all, I think everybody should just fall in love with automation. It is here to stay. Don’t avoid it or you’ll absolutely be left behind by your competitors, and by your peers who are far ahead of you. 

Now automation exists in two different pieces. One is just automating all these manual tasks, right? Keep your database clean, keep your database activated, orchestrate your database.

And the second automation is personalized trigger based automation. If somebody gets submitted, do this. If somebody gets interviewed, do that. 

And if you feel like that’s too much for you to go after, go at it in bite-sized pieces. 

But absolutely, 100% know these table steaks of automation…

  1. Use your database
  2. Take all manual tasks out of it

You already spent millions of dollars with job boards over the past decade connecting these candidates. Put them to use for yourself. 

Also, when it comes to choosing technology vendors, be diligent. Always ask…

  • Does the technology vendor you’re partnering with have experience in your industry?
  • Do they have other customers from your industry?
  • Do they integrate with your applicant tracking system?
  • Do they write back into your candidate record?
  • What’s their customer success policy?
  • What’s their support policy? 

And engage with us – even if Sense wasn’t on your radar. We will be good partners and give you good advice.

SP: This was amazing information Pankaj. Thanks for joining me!

PJ: Anytime!

Interested in more detailed information about automating your engagement strategy? Looking for details on the Sense’s engagement platform, Avionté’s staffing software solutions, or the integration? Feel free to contact our partnership team at info@avionte.com to learn more.

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