Onboarding for Staffing: Transforming Your Biggest Hassle into a Competitive Advantage


Employee onboarding can be a complex, time-consuming process and is arguably the single largest chokehold in the talent funnel. In today’s employee-driven workforce, successful agencies will be the ones who will find ways to make onboarding a more streamlined, pleasing process for both candidates and recruiters. So, what should staffing leaders do?

In this episode of Avionté Digital Edge, Christopher Ryan, CMO of Avionté, sits down with our Professional Services Consultant Katie Schulz to discuss:

  • The challenges associated with onboarding for staffing companies;
  • Best onboarding practices;
  • How the right onboarding tech can give your agency a competitive edge; and
  • How some future-forward agencies are using onboarding to create a true digital talent workplace.

Katie Schulz, Professional Services Consultant, on the Challenges of Onboarding for Staffing Firms

Chris Ryan: In a typical staffing firm today, roughly 50% of all found talent fail to complete their employment forms. Of those that do complete their forms, only 60% show up and stay for their first day of work. Onboarding is now the single largest choke point in the talent funnel. So, what can staffing leaders do?

My name is Chris Ryan and I’m the Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer for Avionté. And for the past 30 years, I’ve explored US labor trends and employment practices in the United. With me today to explore the topic of onboarding for staffing is KatieSchulz, a veteran of Avionté, and now a member of our new professional service team, which advises our clients on the best ways to optimize their technology.

Before I introduce Katie, I’d like to provide perspective. When I accepted my first job 45 years ago, the entire onboarding process took a few days. Enrollment was paper based, and I had to fill out one of those funny green bar forms where the instructions tell you to print carefully and you print each single letter of your name and address directly into its own little box. My background check wasn’t completed until a week after I started and I came home with a 30 page employee.

Today, it’s a little different. My smartphone is a supercomputer, which I use to manage my banking, travel, grocery shopping, and tickets. I expect my employer to use smart technology so that I don’t waste my time and I can view my paycheck, review benefits, and make PTO requests from my phone.

The staffing company that can find and keep the most talent and put them to work quickest is going to win. So, for today’s discussion, we are going to discuss best practices in onboarding, and how the right onboarding technology can give you a competitive edge.

So, Katie, welcome. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Katie Schulz: Thanks for having me. I’ve been working with Avionté for about seven years now in a variety of forms, including support, working with integrations, and as a solutions engineer with our client management team before now serving as a professional services consultant.

Chris Ryan: So, is it fair to say that you’ve specifically helped or spoken with a few hundred staffing agencies over the past few years?

Katie Schulz: Yes, that absolutely is. I’ve had the thrill of working on a daily basis with hundreds of staffing companies ranging from a small handful of mom and pop shops to enterprise accounts from light industrial to professional.

Chris Ryan: Why is onboarding so important to staffing companies?

Katie SchulzFirst, onboarding really begins the process of socializing your candidate, not just to your organization, but also to the clients you represent.

And part of that has to do with legal compliance as well. Onboarding is really seeing how that candidate fits into your world. It’s also a good point to develop relationships and rapport with your candidates so that they keep coming back to you when they need more work. It gives you an opportunity as a staffing company to create stickiness.

So, if Gary comes into my branch, I’m not just offering him any position. I need to know more about him – his location, his skills and strengths, whether he’s eligible to work in the US, and any preferences he might have within. And I need to make sure he passes a background check and a drug screening.

I need to make sure he fills out any compliance related forms like an I-9 or W-4 and I need, again, to make sure that I’m being compliant, that I’m abiding by legal regulations to make sure that he’s completing those state specific and federal forms, and that I’m not only collecting, but also upkeeping his certifications, whether he is a forklift driver or a registered nurse.

Chris Ryan: So, really what you’re saying is, yeah, it’s the law, but the process could help you to figure out where and how to place people. Is that right? 

Katie SchulzExactly! And your onboarding process does affect your reputation, not just with your clients, but with your candidate. So, for example, Susie knows her best friend came to your company, and Susie’s best friend was onboarded in a day and on assignment the next. So, Susie wants your company because of that reputation, because of that speed, and because of the quality of assignment she knows her friend was put on.

On the other side of that, your client, ABC Warehouse, knows that you thoroughly vet your candidates in a compliant way so that if they go and run an audit against you, you have all your boxes checked, and you can supply candidates quickly. They trust your company based off, among many things, your onboarding process.

Chris Ryan: How do frontline recruiters feel about onboarding? Is this one of their favorite activities?

Katie SchulzOnboarding is very much a necessary evil. It is competitive. Even within those four walls of one staffing company, you have recruiters competing against each other, and this is done at breakneck speeds.

Recruiters constantly have to keep up with the expectations to meet their KPIs. And with that increased speed, by nature, the risk of error also increases, which can be very stressful for them as part of their process. So, while it’s critical, it takes time as well, not just from the onset but also from following up. It isn’t necessarily a one-and-done process. A recruiter needs to potentially reengage or push reminders throughout the onboarding process.

Chris Ryan: Yeah, and frankly, sometimes I’ve heard people say: “The recruiter becomes a babysitter.” Especially if talent is unreliable or if the process is confusing. And, if you’re the talent, who are you going to go to other than the recruiter to get your questions answered?

Katie SchulzExactly, and to that point, let’s say I’m onboarding Gary. A potential sticking point in that onboarding process or a fall off point, if you will, would be the I-9.

He could fill out section 1 of his I-9 incorrectly. Then you, as the recruiter, have to go correct or have him redo it. He could have forgotten his supporting document, like a birth certificate, at home. So now you have to wait for him to go and come back into the office the next day with that document, assuming he finds it.

Or even in a situation where you’re doing remote verification for the I-9: Let’s say that Gary’s remote verifier is his neighbor, and his neighbor needs to focus on yard work for the next couple days and doesn’t really care about checking Gary’s driver’s license. That could be another point of fall off there that could really put burden on the recruiter to follow up.

Even just down to the basic level of Gary. He may not like filling out the I-9 itself and give up. He may need that human push to keep him going through some of the more complex forms.

Chris RyanIf you were providing consulting to a staffing agency, and you were going to work with them and review and update their onboarding procedures, how would you proceed and how would you advise them?

Katie Schulz: So, a couple different things there. We want to make sure that everything is centralized as much as possible. So, reducing the swivel chair effect, reducing the amount of systems and tabs that a person needs to have open at one time.

We’re also looking for uniformity. Is there uniformity in your onboarding procedure to make it easier for your recruiting team to support and train each other and maintain that sense of unity? Beyond that uniformity, there is also another level to onboarding, which is making sure, again, that you’re compliant.

So, do you have any technology checks in place to enforce that E-Verify has been completed? For example, do you have review cycles set for your onboarding process ranging from documents to background checks? Are your documents up to date? Did any branding or state specific forms update? It’s really good to have a regular review cadence, which is definitely one of the big things that I recommend. 

Chris Ryan: Let’s talk about technology capabilities. There are individualized programs out there for onboarding. Sometimes, you see a company will purchase an ATS, and then they will purchase separate services from an onboarding vendor. They may try to integrate them or operate them separately, but ultimately, what are the most important capabilities for supporting onboarding from a technology perspective?

Katie SchulzFrom a technology perspective, what we really like to see is a CYA. Again, with staffing, there’s a lot of open doors where someone can come at you for your compliance and technology can enforce that compliance, so, I think I brought it up before, making sure everyone’s E-Verified so you don’t get hit with a six-figure bill when ICE comes walking through your door.

Making sure that your state-specific tax forms are completed and those withholdings go into your payroll and having that be done automatically, so reducing the data entry for that recruiter. Technology is also going to allow you to upkeep your candidate records. So, Gary’s CDL is expiring in three months. Let the technology remind the recruiter, let the technology reach out to Gary and get that updated license.

Chris RyanSo, there are a lot of opportunities for standardizing the process and also making sure that you don’t get variances there. What are some of the considerations for high-volume staffing and executive recruiting? 

Katie Schulz: It comes down to speed. It’s about finding the people with the right availability that are willing to go and sit in that seat. Redeployment can be pretty big in that too, because as people are coming through, they’re completing their contracts, they’re going to come back, they know that you quickly put them to work and they’re going to come back for their next mass redeployment.

Chris Ryan: Let’s talk about this aspect of onboarding, especially as it relates to the so-called digital talent marketplace. I mean, historically onboarding was a monolithic, one-step process. But today, talent agencies are really breaking the onboarding process down into stages. What are the benefits of modular onboarding where you can break onboarding down into different phases?

Katie Schulz: So breaking things down into different onboarding stages does allow you to control the speed of onboarding and put different steps in place. For instance, somebody can come through, they do a basic interview, they fall off, and maybe you don’t continue with them through your current pipeline.

But, you have that base to know if I need to go and mine my existing talent. I, at the very least, have this basic questionnaire, this basic screening, so I have an idea of who this person is before I go and I try to reengage them and pull them back into my candidate pool. It really is also building that loyalty.

So, as you’re going through, maybe you come through that initial screening, you bring them through the initial onboarding, that compliance piece, again with the I-9, W-4, all of that. But then during that phase, you’re also developing the relationship and they know that, hey, there are going to be next steps. When I go an assignment to a particular client, my recruiters already let me know. There’s just going to be a little bit more for me to complete.

Beyond that, there may also be redeployment steps where, if I am using technology, if I have a good relationship with my candidates, or can easily identify the ones that need to complete redeployment paperwork, they’re going to be completing less paperwork during that redeployment, quite likely.

Chris RyanSo, as I understand it, staffing companies are using onboarding now to really build up a pool of candidates who are ready to deploy quickly and where they can push jobs. There might be pre-qualification there, there might be the legal step of onboarding itself. But the idea of fast free deployment means that your talent is more likely to come back to you because they know they’re going to have a hassle-free experience in getting work.

Interestingly, while we think of onboarding as a process in and of itself, in the long run, it would seem that onboarding is really going to be one of the core pieces of a digital talent marketplace or the digital transformation of a staffing company.

Do you have any interesting cases or stories that you can share about what some of the most innovative staffing companies are doing today with their onboarding process?

Katie Schulz: Well, they’re putting it more and more into the hands of the candidates so that they can control the timing themselves.

That front line looks like this: Susie, who is a single mother working a job at McDonald’s and she’s having the worst day of her life. So, she goes into the bathroom, cries a little bit, pulls out her phone, and starts engaging with a staffing agency, and she has a new job that she’s onboarded for by the time her shift is done.

Chris Ryan: And you’re seeing that today? Staffing companies are able to, essentially, onboard somebody during a bathroom break? 

Katie SchulzYeah, that, that really is where staffing companies can leverage technology to have their jobs open and available to have some automated onboarding processes for applicants.

And if there is a human element, having the technology, notify the recruiters that, Hey, there’s somebody new in the system, let’s engage right away. Maybe we’re sending Susie a text just to get a little bit more information. But really technology and the human element can go hand in hand. 

Chris Ryan: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our audience today regarding onboarding?

Katie SchulzUltimately, it comes down to the perspective. You want to keep everyone’s perspective in mind as you are setting up your onboarding process for the first time or reviewing your existing onboarding process. So, keeping in mind the perspective of the talent, who needs things to be done easily, quickly, and with a friendly face. Or of the recruiter who needs to meet their KPIs and have good metrics while also having a good experience working within your branch and the tools to be efficient. And then the perspective of your clients. Are you giving them good quality candidates? Is your vetting process supporting your reputation to your clients? 

So, it really boils down to the perspective of those three.

Katie Schulz


Katie Schulz
Professional Services Consultant at Avionté

For the past 7 years, Katie Schulz has worn various hats working with Avionte Staffing Software clients; she is currently a Professional Services Consultant. The things she enjoys most about Staffing are the chaos, energy, and personalities that make this industry so unique. In her spare time, she aspires to better herself, but shamefully watches reality TV instead.

Christopher Ryan


Christopher Ryan
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.

About Avionté Digital Edge

Modern technology has revolutionized the way we live, work, and play. It’s also what’s fueling the gig economy which has dramatically changed employment practices. So, what does that mean for staffing and contingent work? In our Avionté Digital Edge podcast series, we will speak directly with industry experts to explore topics and trends related to the digital transformation of staffing and temporary employment in the US workforce.

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