The Future of Platform Staffing, Part 1

A Discussion with Avionté Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer, Christopher Ryan

If you mention the topic of “platform” technology to a staffing veteran, they might roll their eyes. Industry pundits have predicted the rapid adoption of platforms to manage temporary and contingent workforces since before the great recession. Over the past decade, dozens of so-called “talent platform” start-ups arrived with great fanfare, only to flame out.  

But the adoption of new technology follows a time-worn pattern. After a mountain of hype and a trough of despair, new and credible delivery platforms models may now be coming to fruition. Avionté, an emerging technology leader in the staffing industry, has rolled out their new vision for platform staffing. Their strategy began with the acquisition of the WorkN mobile talent solution, creating a seamless integration between a recruiter operating on the AviontéBOLD ATS and talent using the Avionté mobile talent app. In 2023, Avionté added SimpleVMS, a contingent workforce solution that supports high volume staffing operations for employers. Avionté is now testing a deep integration from VMS to ATS to digitize the entire end-to-end workflow. In the near future, employers can initiate requisitions that automatically show up in the staffing agency’s ATS, potentially reaching the agency’s entire mobile enabled talent database in a matter of minutes.   

In essence, Avionté’s has built an end-to-end technology stack that links employers, staffing agencies, and talent together and their offering is gaining traction in the marketplace. To learn more, we sat down with Avionté’s Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer, Christopher Ryan, to gain more insight into why Avionté is going all-in on this innovative approach. 

This interview is part 1 of a 2 part discussion on the future of platform. You can now read “The Future of Platform Staffing, Part 2”.


Most staffing agencies and leaders do not have a strong understanding of what platform staffing truly is, and yet talent platforms have had a powerful impact on the staffing industry. How would you define platform staffing as we know it today?  

Christopher Ryan: 

Platform staffing is all about scalability. The staffing industry faces a fundamental challenge. We deliver high quality services to employers, but staffing agencies have been forced into a narrow box because we can’t scale our business model. The typical agency today is fighting tooth and nail to grow revenue, but industry employment levels have remained stagnant at close to 2% (more or less) of the U.S. workforce for the last three decades, even as the global dynamic workforce (e.g. Gig, Contractor, EOR) has grown explosively around us.  

Uber, for example, was a tiny company 10 years ago. Today, they can field a 2 million+ contractor workforce on a single platform. This is the FTE equivalent of one third the entire staffing industry. Sure, Uber covers one simple use case. Staffing is far more complex. But every contractor driving with Uber is somebody who is no longer available in a staffing agency’s candidate pool. We should take notice. Employers certainly are.  

So when we talk about Platform Staffing , here is the problem that we are solving for: How do we preserve the quality and responsiveness of traditional staffing agencies—our customers—while giving them the tools to scale? Can we equip a traditional staffing agency to scale like Uber, while delivering outstanding quality and solving the unique requirements that employers expect from our industry? 

To make this concrete, let’s focus on front-line recruiters. They are the backbone of our industry. But recruiting is an inherently labor-intensive process. In many agencies today, a skilled recruiter can still only manage 15 – 20 active placements. And that puts a ceiling on a gross profits per recruiter. In high volume staffing operations, recruiters can spend half their time chasing down candidates to complete paperwork and show up on the job. This is where automation, mobile technology, and self-service applications can help.   

What would happen if gave recruiters the tools to manage 30, 40, or even 50 or more active assignments simultaneously, without breaking a sweat? If we could double through put, and make sure that agency personnel were home in time for dinner, that would be a major victory.   

Staffing agencies will still need to use traditional personalized employment practices in many cases. But if we scale staffing to operate with improved efficiency, we must leverage technology differently. 


You mention the benefits of a platform staffing model over traditional in terms of its ability to scale. Yet, platform staffing has not always been as successful in placing talent as promised. What are the disadvantages of platform staffing?  

Christopher Ryan: 

Platforms are only as good as their design and intended use case. Some use cases, like purchasing airplane tickets and hotel reservations can be highly automated to minimize the need for human intervention. But there are other industries where platform design should be augmenting, rather than replacing a human being. In real estate, you may be able to buy or sell a house on-line, but most of us would still prefer to have a live realtor assisting with the transaction.  

Staffing involves solving for a complex array of human issues, including situational exceptions that show up on a recruiter’s desk daily. Early platform entrants to the staffing market had a fatal flaw. They underestimated the complexity of staffing workflows, as well as the quality and service expectations of employers who use staffing services. They thought that recruiting was a very inefficient model, so why not replace the recruiter with an algorithm? They designed business models to eliminate recruiters and staffing agencies, rather than work with them. And that’s why they failed. The irony is that employers—at least those best served by the staffing industry—value quality, reliability, and speed and they will pay a premium to the agency that delivers on this promise.  

With platform staffing, the staffing agency needs to actively manage and oversee the process. There will always be critical manual activities for recruiters to perform. Our job is to make sure these are high value activities, while taking the friction and administrivia out of the system.   


From a consumer point of view, platform staffing assumes that employees value being self-reliant and not dependent on a recruiter. But where does the recruiter impact overall satisfaction from a client’s or employee’s perspective? What element of the human touch makes a difference? 

Christopher Ryan: 

There are several places where human touch makes a big difference.  

Understanding organizational culture and personal chemistry is a big deal—that is to say—assessing whether a specific person is the right person to fill a role at a specific company. Matching skills to a job is only one small part of people placement. There are lots of human variables to consider. Even sophisticated executive assessment centers staffed PhDs make big mistakes.  There are also a variety of reasons you wouldn’t want to place somebody to work on a certain loading dock. Work experience at a Red Roof Inn isn’t necessarily going to translate into a successful career at Ritz Carlton.   

Coaching newly placed candidates is another critical activity. Starting a new job can be highly stressful, and temporary workers may do this several times a year. The recruiter who can support talent through multiple assignments is adding significant value. They can coach, clarify expectations, help navigate employer relationships, and provide opportunities to support personal development.   

Acting as a workforce advisor to employers can also add significant value. Providing employers with insights about how to attract, pay, and manage a workforce—especially candidates drawn from specific skill or socio-demographic talent pools—can be extremely helpful. Understanding the risk/reward associated with pay levels is also extremely important, because lower pay is often tied to turnover and lower reliability. Also, if an employer knows that, in November, they’re going to need to double the size of their floor staff, it’s good for a staffing agency to know that they might need to start planning to begin the search in July or August. 

The bottom line is that no matter how much automation you bring to bear with talent selection and matching, you will always want a human being vetting talent and making final talent decisions directly. If you use AI, you want experienced recruiters driving the configuration of AI. And today, most employers don’t have sufficient HR staff to drive this activity and would prefer to outsource it to a staffing agency.  


So, what you’re talking about is elevating the staffing agency into a strategic partner. Given all the administrative work that traditional recruiters must manage, are they able, or even have the time, to be that strategic partner?  

Christopher Ryan: 

Today, the answer is no. 

Much of a typical recruiters’ day is spent going reaching out to contacts who may not respond to a phone call, voice mail, email, or even text. Ninety percent of the communications activity with talent is highly transactional things like prescreening candidates, checking paperwork, verifying information, answering specific questions like where to show up and when somebody will be paid.  

As a result, recruiters are often too busy to with administrivia to focus on the activities that ultimately matter most to clients and talent. The irony is that employers can benefit enormously from gaining access to a high value temporary labor force. It’s not an exaggeration to say that a staffing agency may be single-handedly responsible for keeping an employer’s multi-million dollar assembly line open during flu season. The staffing agency with a loyal and committed candidate pool is critical to the business continuity of most major employers.  


So, we talked about the value of automation for staffing. And there’s certainly a lot of job and gig platforms that are starting to pop up to compete with traditional staffing models. Can you talk about the business impact of these platforms on traditional staffing? 

Christopher Ryan: 

While I don’t believe that job and gig platforms can directly impact traditional staffing, they can have a significant indirect impact on the cost of talent acquisition, as well as the expectations of talent and employers.  

Nobody wakes up in the morning and says “I want to work for Uber or Door Dash.” They do, however, wake up in the morning and ask “Where can I quickly earn income to pay my bills and put food on the table?” If I can go to my mobile phone and sign up to start earning money in 30 minutes, that’s what I am going to do, even though a staffing agency down the street might have an excellent $25/hour assignment.  

Ease of access to alternate forms of income has no become an expectation. In practice, this means that staffing agencies need to respond in kind in order to stay relevant. If you can’t match Gig platforms around speed or market reach, you will eventually lose both your talent and your customers.  

Now, I will say one other thing. There is also an opportunity for technologically advanced staffing agencies versus Gig work models. Staffing agencies can deliver true compliant employment. Most Gig companies can only offer 1099 contract positions. And increasingly, we are seeing regulators cracking down on the inappropriate application of contract work in many work environments. That means that staffing agencies potentially have a leg up on Gig and other platforms that are trying to get into new industries that go beyond simple use cases like passenger transportation or food delivery.  


Let’s talk then about Avionté’s version of platform staffing. Avionté is re-imagining what platform staffing is, or at least, what it could be. So, what does that look like and what are the implications for the future of staffing in general.   

Christopher Ryan: 

First and foremost, we don’t believe that the recruiter will ever go away. Recruiting jobs are going to change. They may leverage technology, but at the end of the day, staffing was, is, and always will be a human-based system. And you’re going to want human judgment supporting decisions at multiple points across an end-to-end workflow.   

The second thing I would say is that no matter how much automation you bring to bear, there will always be non-standard employment workflows. Employers are notorious for the unusual operating requirements they may need from a staffing agency. So a key tenant for Avionté is that an effective platform staffing model should be able to support both traditional staffing workflows and scaled high-volume workflows equally well. You should be able to run traditional and platform staffing operations side by side on the same technology platform with the same teams.   

Finally, Platform Staffing needs to permit recruiting teams to rapidly configure new and unique workflow variations based upon the specific needs of individual clients and geographic jurisdictions. Workflows can’t be rigid. So our design accommodates both scalability and flexibility in the right places.  

Our new mobile onboarding tool is a case in point. We designed mobile onboarding so that a staffing agency can deploy it at high volume and scale. But if a new employer comes in, they may have unique onboarding requirements. As a result, we have given the agencies the tools create a new mass-customized automated workflow that can meet the needs of a new employer at scale.  

Our challenge is getting just the right mix of configuration to support employer needs without impacting scalability.  The key point here is the world of work and staffing is constantly evolving. And whatever the economy dishes out, Avionté customers and technology must be responsive.  

Our point of view is – put the recruiter at the center, and give them the controls and the dials to become a super recruiter. Give them powers they didn’t have before. But it’s all got to be an extension of the recruiter’s intent.  

Continue with Part 2 of the discussion here.

Christopher Ryan, Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer

Christopher Ryan, Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer at Avionté

Christopher brings more than three decades of consulting, thought leadership, and corporate experience in Human Capital Management.

Chris came to Avionté from ADP where he served as the VP of Research for Strategic Advisory Services. Chris has also written and spoken extensively about part-time and temporary workers, employee retention, gender pay equity, emerging trends in compensation, U.S. labor shortages, and the economic impact of the Affordable Care Act.

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