Are Robots Coming for My Job: The Future of Recruiting
With all the recent buzz surrounding AI, automated talent platforms, and staffing technology, one question remains top of mind for many recruiters: Are robots coming for my job?
Business analytics is essential for modern agencies to make better informed, data-driven decisions. But many staffing leaders are using overly complex dashboards that don’t deliver clear direction, nor do they have time to review all the data available to them. In this episode of Avionté: Digital Edge, Christopher Ryan, Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer at Avionté, sits down with Dan Mori, Managing Partner at Staffing Mastery, to talk about 5 of his favorite dashboards that can cut through the complexity to help your recruiting agency focus on what matters most.
This is a partial transcript of the full conversation. Listen to the podcast episode for the complete discussion.
Chris Ryan: If you run a staffing agency, you live in a sea of data. You use analytics to manage every part of your business: your sales activity, your recruiting, your talent reliability and retention. You can look at payroll receivables, cash flow, gross margins. You can spend a fortune on analysis, but most agency executives don’t have time to review all the data available to them.
Is there a way to attack this complexity?
We have a very special guest with us, Dan Mori, to talk about one of my favorite topics – staffing analytics and reporting, and how to maximize the impact in the way we use and manage data. Dan brings a very interesting perspective to staffing. He spent 16 years of his career building and operating his own recruiting agency, and his journey began with a single office startup.
But he ultimately grew his company to have a national footprint in the recruiting space. Dan attributes much of his success to a very specific approach to the way he leads and manages people, aided through the smart use of technology, data analytics, and dashboards.
Dan was so successful, he launched essentially a second career as the Founder of Staffing Mastery, where he provides executive coaching to staffing leaders with a focus on strategic planning and strategic execution. Dan is one of the most sought after leaders in the staffing industry, and we are delighted to have him with us today.
So, let’s get into it. You favor simplicity. Why is simplicity so important?
Dan Mori: Looking at all of the data that exists in the world of staffing, you could come up with countless numbers of reports, and you could spin the data, dice it, slice it, any which way you want to tell whatever story that you essentially need to. But, at the end of the day, that creates a level of complexity that producers just don’t have time for.
If the message isn’t simple and actionable, nobody’s going to do anything with it. I truly believe that managers and producers want simplicity in their lives because they don’t have the time for anything else. They just need simple, clear instructions so they can deliver clear results that are on point with the goal.
Chris Ryan: That reminds me of an experience I had with a client while I was consulting. They were looking at and studying a report. It was complex. It was full of sound and fury. And after a couple days of looking at it, I think people finally concluded that it really didn’t mean anything.
Dan Mori: This is why I like simplicity. Because simplicity is often more actionable.
Chris, pretend that you are a regional operations manager, and it is your responsibility to maintain the performance of a certain region of an organization. And I go to you and say, “Hey Chris, I analyzed all of this data, and I can tell you that for the past two years, your year-over-year job orders are up 50%. So, you actually have twice as many job orders now than you did this time two years ago. And your candidate availability is keeping pace, but job fill percentage is actually reduced by 25% year-over-year, and you’re really just filling the same quantity of jobs. So, your revenue and growth is fairly stagnant.
If I tell you all that, that’s a lot of data. Or I could just say, “Hey Chris, you need to hire another recruiter.” That’s actionable. That’s simple. And that’s why I like simple, because it’s actionable. You can move on it, and then you can use all those analytics to measure if it was the right decision or not.
Chris Ryan: I know a number of staffing agencies that have invested very large amounts of money in software consulting. Are we really getting an ROI from this? How much of this complexity is really needed, or is this a reflection of having a disjointed tech stack?
Dan Mori: Most people I’ve talked to that have built these really comprehensive tech stacks that are like multi-software integrations.
And honestly, Chris, the thing that makes me the most afraid is that one of your core elements that’s part of your stack, they decide to have a fundamental shift in their business, and they change the way that things operate in their piece of software. And it messes up all of your integrations.
I don’t know if building out that type of tech stack ever becomes worth it, and I would have to see a massive ROI just to get past that risk. You have to really measure how much value are you getting out of all of those deep analytics?
Chris Ryan: I have an admitted bias for end-to-end staffing platforms and software. But many staffing companies do have a separate CRM, separate ATS, separate timekeeping, separate payrolls, separate receivables.
Do you ever see where it’s more important to buy a new system first rather than investing in the analytics?
Dan Mori: I would say take a step back and really ask yourself: What is it that I really need from my analytics?
Me personally, the more complicated you make things, the more maintenance it’s going to take, the more technical savvy it’s going to take, I just think that’re you’re layering on complexity and risk to the organization that are probably unnecessary.
Chris Ryan: So, with that said, let’s get into it then. Let’s talk about your five favorite dashboards. What are the dashboards you’re looking at?
Dan Mori: So, when I’m setting up my dashboard, all I ask myself is what are the three to five most important decisions that I need to make in my role to support my strategic initiatives? And then I say: What is the information or the data that I would analyze to best prepare me to make that decision?
So, that’s really all a dashboard is. It should trigger an activity and then give you the ability to measure the triggered action to see how well you’re doing with it.
So, one of my favorite dashboards is essentially using average hours or utilization, average billable hours per week, cross sectored with gross margin per hour. And if I quickly map out my clients this way, it will tell me which clients I need to focus on growing in a certain direction.
And if anyone segments their client base by this, you’ll most likely be shocked that you’re going have some clients in there that you think are amazing clients but that fall in the lower than average margin and the lower than average utilization quadrant, and who are actually over consuming your resources and you’re not getting the return on it.
So, If I see a client that falls in that category, I know one of two outcomes has to take place.
I either have to raise their rate to get them up above the average gross margin per hour, or I have to increase their utilization to get them into an acceptable high utilization low margin quadrant.
Chris Ryan: That report could also reinforce your leverage in a negotiation or your willingness to negotiate hard. And that’s something that you would run on a fairly ongoing basis?
Dan Mori: So, we typically encourage running it on a quarterly basis. However, as a mandatory practice, run it annually to see where everything plots out. Because when you have this data, it sets up something that we call the client growth plan. It’s clear actionable insights that you can give your people.
Chris Ryan: So, second dashboard.
Dan Mori: Second dashboard – staying in the theme of revenues.
I’m focused on strategic growth. Business development is a passion of mine. One of the things I look at, it’s a tool I use called a sales activity tracker, but the dashboard that it supports is essentially your revenue and activity.
Ultimately, a worker or talent is a collection of billable hours, and a client is a collection of headcount or talent. So, I look at how many clients do I need to add in order to hit my revenue goals. I’m looking at a dashboard that will automatically tell me, through tracking all of the sales behaviors week in and week out, how many touches it takes to get to a meeting, how many meetings it takes to get to a proposal, how many proposals it takes to get a signed contract, and how many signed contracts it takes to turn into a billing client.
If we’re tracking all that data, it will tell me: This is how many resources go into getting a billable client. So, if I need to acquire 100 billable clients, this is the time and resources that it’s going take to get me there. It helps me make the right decisions to plan. You can start to tell: Am I on track with that goal, or is my conversion dipping and putting me at risk? So, revenue and activity is a really important dashboard if you want to make sure you’re hitting your financial targets.
I literally just went through this exercise with a client earlier today where we actually talked about historic fill percentages, access to job orders, and all of that stuff. And the salespeople were killing it. They were bringing in a lot of orders. But they noticed that their fill percentage was actually declining over the last two years. And when we did a deep dive analysis, we recognized that the issue wasn’t a lack of candidates like they had thought.
The constraint was the number of recruiters producing in the office. What they recognized is that there was so much available business, it was actually costing them more money to not hire a new recruiter. And they’re not even capitalizing because they didn’t identify the constraint. And again, data insights and dashboards will tell you that stuff before you get two years in and throw a lot of money out the window.
Chris Ryan: The art of management is always to identify the most important constraint to attack next. So, let’s talk about the third dashboard.
Dan Mori: I’m going stay on the sales trend for a second because with that sales activity tracker, we’re pulling all of that same data.
Another decision that has to get made: If you’re going to run a healthy organization that’s going to grow, the only way that you grow your organization is through the growth of your people. So, when we’re tracking all of those same exact conversion data points that I was mentioning, if you use your sales stats and per sales rep, you’ll start to see if people are progressing with their conversion.
So, if you see that their cold calls are converting higher, or their emails are converting higher, or maybe they’re actually getting more proposals after a sales meeting, if that conversion from meetings to sales proposals is actually going up, that’s how you want it to be going.
However, it could go the other way. You might look at this quarter-over-quarter when you’re doing your performance management with people and say, “Hey, I noticed SDR John was converting 50% of his meetings into a proposal, but all of a sudden, in Q3, it dropped down to 30%. Something happened there.”
And as a manager, you want to know: Is there a market condition going on? Has the pricing shifted and we need to adjust our pricing model? Or does John need some reinforcement in the sales meeting training? Does he need to be coached up a little? So, I actually really like to use that data to help make the decision: Is there an opportunity for training and development to improve my staff to improve the results?
And if we can improve the results, we can focus on improving the yield all the way through that process, and it takes us less resources to get a client. The lower the resource consumption means more money we can pay our people and the more competitive we can be in our pricing. So, I actually pull a lot of information out of that dashboard right there.
Chris Ryan: Do you ever find that you’re looking at an experienced group of salespeople and their conversion rate is going down? And, when that happens, what is a potential cause of it?
Dan Mori: Yes, and believe it or not, it is not a natural progression up. There’s actually a very interesting progression curve that you’ll follow.
New salespeople, they actually progress pretty quickly. Initially, they often hit a plateau, usually in the six-to-nine months, six-to-twelve-month range. The reason why is when brand new salespeople are first at this, they’re more inquisitive, so they ask more questions, which is the best way to sell. Once they get a few client contracts under their belt, once they think that they actually understand the game of staffing sales, they’ll start to prematurely present information, not fully understanding the client, not fully listening.
And when that happens, the client can tell. Then you got to coach them through that. So, having that dashboard, knowing where those yields are will tell you when’s the right time to jump in.
Chris Ryan: It’s always fascinated me how early success in sales can ultimately make it difficult for you to succeed longer term. So, let’s talk about the fourth dashboard.
Dan Mori: When I’m thinking about managing operations, I like to see talent progression. I want to see a dashboard to see where’s talent in the pipeline. And I use this in two primary ways.
One, as I mentioned before, going back to growth: We have dashboards that will tell us if we’re on track with our target headcount KPI. We’ll say, “Hey, this is where we’re supposed to be at this given week of the year based on our plan. Are we there or are we not?”
And then you want to look a little bit further upstream and see: Do we have enough talent coming through the pipeline to actually backfill, because there’s going to be attrition in this business? That’s a great way to use that dashboard.
Sometimes executives will say, “Oh my gosh, we’re not where we’re supposed to be. Let’s just blow everything up.” But take a step back, look at your talent progression pipeline, and it could literally just hit next week.
That’s one way that I use it. The other way is: You don’t want to let talent sit in the pipeline too long. You want to be one of the agencies that emerge as a dominant agency in this industry, and you need to get people through your entire talent pipeline as quick as possible. You can actually measure the number of days that a candidate stays in each status of the pipeline, as well as the reason that they don’t convert to the next stage.
Then you can decide what actions to take next. Do I need to streamline something? Do I need to eliminate a part of my application process? Where am I losing candidates?
And that’s why I really like that dashboard to be able to tell me what’s coming down the pike. Am I staying on track? And then where can I optimize my process to continually grow?
The most recent stat I heard was that shelf life for talent is at 18 days right now. That’s 18 days, clock start, clock end, and you don’t want to consume too much of that 18 days if you’re trying to get that talent in the door at one of your clients.
The other interesting piece of data that I heard out of that same study was that applications need to be four minutes or less. And every minute beyond four, you lose 50% of your pipeline.
Chris Ryan: So, if they aren’t hitting the send button within the first four minutes, you may have lost them.
Dan Mori: That’s right. They’re hitting the eject button.
Chris Ryan: Wow. So, fifth dashboard?
Dan Mori: This one is super simple. Obviously, we talk about growth and plotting that trajectory, and it’s all about headcount growth. I use placement starts ends. When I plan my entire year out, I know what my net new headcount needs to be.
I got to give you a shout out here. You guys actually introduced something that literally does one extra step of math for me. I was just doing placement starts and ends to give me that net number so I can see if I’m on track or not. And you guys actually simplified it even more. You came out with the delta. So, it just does that little piece for me so I can see what is the delta? And as long as the delta is aligned with my target number of net new ads per week, I’m in good shape. And if it’s not there, then I need to start asking questions or looking at the talent pipeline piece to say, “Hey, is it going to be catching up here? Is there some other issue that needs to be addressed?” So that’s just core.
Chris Ryan: One of the lessons I learned from experience is that dashboards can be pretty useless or problematic if a business doesn’t adopt or integrate them into their daily management practice. From your standpoint, how do you use dashboards to create a culture of continuous improvement in your agency?
Dan Mori: First and foremost, I completely agree with you that dashboards are useless if you don’t integrate them into daily management. And daily management is problem solving. If you’re a manager, it’s just identifying the constraint or the problem that’s facing your business and how do you solve that. So, what decisions do you need to make?
We want to align it with continuous improvement. We’re going to define what improvement looks like and define the areas that we want to improve – and be intentional about that. Then we’re going to define what are the decisions that we’re going to have to make along that journey to be improving.
If I’m a producer sitting at a desk and I’m trying to fill these orders, I might have to make decisions. Should I repost ads? Should I post other ads? Should I try a different job board based on candidate flow?
Managers might have to think: Do I need to hire somebody? Or do I need to invest in a different recruiting resource? Do I need to change my onboarding strategy? You just identify what the most essential decisions are, align that to the dashboard, and then you have to teach your people how to read the dashboard to know what decision to make. You have to build this in.
And then the last piece on that one right there is: How do we measure that decision to make sure it was the right one?
Chris Ryan: So, what I hear you saying with staffing: If you want to teach people how to use a dashboard, don’t show them the numbers first. Show them the questions. What are the questions? What are the decisions? What is the flow? Then you go and look at the instrumentation you need and figure out how to read it.
So, Dan, let’s talk a little bit about the future of metrics. I’ve talked a great deal about calculating the lifetime value of acquired talent. The talent that you are acquiring has only so much value to you, and there is a cost of acquisition. You shouldn’t be spending more money to find that talent than the return you’re getting from them.
I often talk about LTV-to-CAC. From your standpoint, with the way you see digital talent platforms and placement platforms going forward, do you see this as a valuable measure, or are there other metrics that you think might come into play five or ten years from now?
Dan Mori: I imagine we probably will.
We might have to decide on a path forward that might not exist right now or might not be prevalent. Just as an example: We know that the gig economy is disruptive. We know that the platform space is disruptive. So, the future of work is probably going to be impacted by that somewhat.
So, we might have to actually look at the way we deploy talent differently. We might have to look at the way that we nurture our audience or nurture our database differently to make sure that we’re staying in check with them so we can deploy people quicker. You’ll have to make different decisions based on: How do we get people into the platform? How do we deploy them across different clients, different shifts, different locations, whatever that might be? So there are different metrics that you’re going to have to look at, and it’s going to be rooted in the decisions we have to make based on where the future of staffing goes.
But you brought up a good point about the lifetime value of talent. And I don’t want to sound callous or coldhearted, but if you think about staffing, the people are our inventory. And if you look at the great practices of retail that actually are widely popular, they understand the value of inventory and they would never sit on cold stock.
Yet, in the staffing industry, we let candidates sit in our database all the time that we paid to get in there. And all of the cost of unutilized talent or non-deployed talent that sits in our database gets added to the cost to acquire the talent that gets placed. So, I think if you actually understood the lifetime value to the cost of acquiring talent ratio, you might be more inclined to try to deploy or redeploy more of your talent.
And also, from a spend management or resource management standpoint, this is so huge, especially if you can get granular and understand the cost of acquiring talent down to a source. If I know that my cost to acquire talent through employee referrals is half that of acquiring talent through major job boards, I should be putting more money into acquiring talent through employee referrals. Most agencies are probably not looking at that from a resource management standpoint.
Chris Ryan: If you want to use the retail term, talent is scarce. We have to use it more efficiently. And we have to manage the cost associated with acquiring it.
Dan Mori: One vital piece of advice. Understand this: Take the essentialist approach. If you can’t point to any meaningful decisions that you’ve made from your dashboards, stop looking at them. It’s a waste of time. The best dashboards are designed to give you quick insights to help you make better decisions to manage your business. If you’re not using them for that, don’t look at them.
President at Staffing Mastery
Dan Mori is a staffing industry veteran who has dedicated 16 years of his life to building successful recruiting agencies. Dan Mori is a name that has become synonymous with strategic leadership, business development, and an unrelenting passion for systems, data analytics, and dashboards.
Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer at Avionté
Christopher Ryan leads the Strategy and Marketing functions for Avionté. He brings more than three decades of consulting, thought leadership, and corporate experience in Human Capital Management.
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