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2021: The Year That Rocked Staffing & Recruiting (And Parqa)

A year ago, large investments and acquisitions in HR Tech began to rock the staffing industry. While impressive in their sum and scope, it was difficult to tell what the transactions actually meant for the industry – unless you were looking closely.

What Parqa saw then, and what the industry would soon confirm: these were early indications that staffing was about to be turned on its head. 

This month, we look back on what can only be described as a crazy year for the staffing industry and for our company. 2021 is ending with waves of viral changes, the effects of which are only gaining momentum and spreading to affect all aspects of the industry.

Industry Trends Driving The Biggest Changes In 2021

Before 2021, there had been a perfect storm brewing in our job markets. And it has been playing out in plain sight:

Long-term labor trends contributing to the employment crisis

These long-term trends collided with more current events creating an employment market plagued by historic lows in workforce labor.

Employment trends and The Great Resignation:

By early 2021, the effects of the pandemic were dragging on, but there were signs that a rebound was soon to come. While optimistic employers were gearing up for recovery, the workforce was in a decidedly different mood. They were already underway with The Great Resignation.

Workers were fed up with an employment market that hadn’t caught up to current events. They were fed up with employers offering the same low wages, low benefits, same inflexible scheduling, and a painfully slow and impersonal recruiting and hiring process which lacked in communication and clarity. 

What The Massive Investments In HR Tech Really Meant

With both employers and job seekers at a seeming impasse, something inevitably had to give. Maybe this is why we saw the investments in HR tech as an indication of that solution. 

As it turned out, the industry was after an exceedingly simple solution: a better candidate experience.

As we saw it, the rapid pivot towards HR tech was a shift towards either automation – whether that was for background checks, workforce management, or candidate workflow – or optimization of the recruiting process, most notably with cutting-edge AI staffing technology

For candidates, this meant the industry was listening and making a big shift towards meeting them where they’re at, by providing them with the on-demand experience they’re used to getting in every other marketplace. 

For staffing agencies, it meant they’d finally have the bandwidth to provide the service and attention job seekers deserved – especially urgent now that job seekers had discovered substantial clout in a candidate-driven job market.

For an industry that has more than enough work keeping their existing pool of candidates engaged, while vetting the flow of new applicants, the shift towards leveraging technology indicated a fundamental change in the belief that any problem in staffing could be solved by hiring new recruiters.

How technology changed staffing and recruiting in 2021

During our time serving the staffing and recruiting industry, we’ve noticed that many agencies, to manage their substantial workloads, would simply hire new recruiters. Meanwhile, those same companies were reluctant to invest in the tech that could optimize and automate the work of their new recruiters at a fraction of the cost. 

In short, many staffing agencies were more willing to spend an incredible sum of capital rather than invest a fraction of the cost and accomplish more work and get better results. 

But then, when it comes to adopting new technologies, the staffing industry has always been behind in its capabilities of digitalization in marketing and technology. We estimate the industry is 5-7 years behind more forward-thinking industries. 

We get it, integrating new software with third-party vendors can be time-consuming, expensive, and fraught with breakdowns. This is especially true when improper implementation upends its ROI by making the tech clunky, robotic, and inefficient.

One reason for this – many agencies were sold HR tech as a one-size-fits-all playbook. But without a content strategy, the canned messaging and stock content was cutting them short of the true purpose of automation: delivering a better, one-on-one candidate experience.

At Parqa, we believe you can’t have great automation without a content strategy. While technology will always be the leader, content is the key. So, we decided, if recruiters don’t have the time or the expertise to build out the tech, strategy, or content, we’d grow our capabilities, and bring the whole package to them instead.

As long-time proponents of HR tech, we were excited and energized by the industry’s shift away from the old, manual recruiting methods. The new possibilities are incredible! Indeed, we believe the tech existing today will, for the next 5-10 years, totally redefine what a staffing firm looks like.

Even now, we’re seeing the “Uberization” of on-demand staffing right here in Red Wing, Minnesota. With the help of workforce management programs, Red Wing shoes is enabling workers to pick up one-off shifts to fill immediate needs in their manufacturing, warehousing, or shipping/distribution divisions. Workers can choose to work a four hour shift with very little training and, even better, without the lengthy and overly inefficient hiring process of the past.

Changes for Parqa in 2021

With the implementation of this new technology being the top priority for the industry, bringing that technology to life was a top priority for Parqa.

As Parqa grew by 13 new employees this year (!), we hired strategically to bring in the specialists who could leverage this tech for our clients. This is especially true for two of our recent foundational hires – Julie Halderson and Toby Hoskins – who bring to Parqa unmatched expertise and passion for data acquisition and making the highly effective automation campaigns of the future a reality for our clients, not years from now, but today.

We made a startling discovery on this path – while the market for job seekers is highly competitive, there is actually no shortage of workers. The workers recruiters are looking for are out there, and they’re responding to better messaging, better timing, better content that’s customized for them, rather than for the business.

Many agencies were beginning to catch on as well. By autumn, when Jared and Kelli attended Staffing World, automation and the candidate experience were dominating almost every conversation and seminar at the conference.

2021 wasn’t all business

We had a lot of fun along the way. Kenzie got married. Jared’s family grew by one, and Chanel’s family is about to get a new arrival soon! We’ve been working hard, but also playing hard as well. We have been so grateful for a year of productivity, growth, and building relationships like we’ve never experienced before.

We’re looking forward to 2022, with thankfulness, gratitude and high expectations – not just for the new landscape of staffing, but for how we can help to make a better world, and a better economy by helping our clients work smarter, not harder.

Here’s to bright horizons, and the opportunity to drive real change for our industry, and to build even more relationships and connections in the future!

Happy 2021 all!

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