On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup talks to Vanessa from Atrium about how staffing firms use HR and TA technology.
Some Conversation Highlights:
Listening time: 28 minutes
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Music: 00:00 This is RecruitingDaily’s Recruiting Live Podcast, where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams. We talk recruiting, sourcing, and talent acquisition. Each week, we take one overcomplicated topic and break it down so that your three year old can understand it. Make sense? Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot. You’re now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host, William Tincup.
William Tincup: 00:33 Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you are listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast. Today, we have Vanessa on from Atrium and our topic is, How Staffing Firms Use HR and TA technology. Kind of a peek behind the veil, [inaudible 00:00:46], this is going to be a fun show because a lot of people are curious about how staffing and RPOs and how they use technology, so I can’t wait for Vanessa to kind of break things down and explain things to us. So Vanessa, would you do us a favor and introduce both yourself and Atrium?
Vanessa: 01:03 Absolutely. Pleasure to be here and thank you so much for having me on. SO I am Vanessa Miller, I’m VP of talent technology here at Atrium. A little bit about Atrium and who we are, we’re founded in 1995. We’re a woman-owned workforce solutions company. We’re bit of 360 talent solutions, have two sides of our business, our traditional staffing agency, which is multi-vertical, admin, HR, finance, and accounting, creative.
We have a really good niche in life sciences, IT, and real estate as well, so national staffing firm. And then the Atrium Works side of the business, we focused on contingent workforce solutions. So all the awesome HR offering acronyms, employer record payroll, agent of record, IC compliance, RPO, MSP, direct sourcing, and last but not least, we’d also do talent technology consulting.
William Tincup: 02:06 That’s cool. Do you all handle compliance in there as well?
Vanessa: 02:10 Absolutely. Independent contractor compliance, worker classifications. Yep, absolutely.
William Tincup: 02:14 That’s fantastic. So the talent technology part-
Vanessa: 02:18 Yes.
William Tincup: 02:18 … of which you are central, Vanessa.
Vanessa: 02:20 You got it.
William Tincup: 02:23 What’s it like behind the veil? Like what do you y’all use? We’ll impact that, and then what do you advise when you’re talking to clients? Like how do you take them through a process of understanding what they need and giving them good recommendations?
Vanessa: 02:37 Yeah, absolutely. Great question. I’m hoping that my goal of this podcast, if I can kind of demystify the technology, what’s behind the staffing tech curtain, hopefully I’ll succeed here but to answer the first part of your question, what atrium uses. So it’s a complex ecosystem, especially because we have those two very distinct divisions or sides of our businesses.
And then of course, our amazing operations kind of shared services team, that’s the glue in keeping it all together, really the engine behind it all. So I’ll start on the staffing side, so for every staffing agency, you have your applicant tracking system, your candidate relationship management system, your customer relationship management system, so your ATS and CRM, where that CRM, that C can mean two different things.
At atrium, luckily we have one technology that does all three and I think the toughest part of kind of confirming your tech ecosystem or your tech stack is getting that foundational technology. There are obviously, certain platforms that are really-really good in some areas where might be AI and the candidate experience and other ones that are better in back office, middle office, time sheet, invoices, et cetera.
So it’s tough to find a Jack of all trades if you will, so when we vet our own technology and this kind of pairs into advice that we give when we’re consulting for our clients as well, is do your own really good due diligence of what you really need internally. What problem you’re trying to solve, we always say we define that problem statement first and then you’re going to have your legacy technologies.
You got to decide what you’re willing to move, get rid of what you’re willing to spend, what your budget is and what’s most important. But I would say on the staffing side, the foundational tech is certainly your ATS and your CRM and then sometimes, that will be the same system that your back office team uses to get folks paid. Again, those time sheets generate invoices, so Atrium can get paid but then also paying our suppliers, et cetera.
So, ATS, CRM, and then luckily, that’s our time sheet technology as well but then we have extras on top of it. We have some chat bot artificial intelligence. We use actually a technology called Sense on top of our CRM to do some candidate automation for us. And we’re really particular about what pieces of the process we’re okay with AI and a bot doing for us to make our recruiters more efficient and don’t want to disrupt any of the pieces of the process that really require human interaction.
At atrium actually, our Rebecca-Cenni-Leventhal founded us with an applicant-centric philosophy, we’ve actually trademarked that term. And fast forward to today, we’re really applicant-centric, human centric and we really don’t want to lose the human element in a lot of what we offer. But relating that back to a technology solution or from the tech ecosystem, we still want to use artificial intelligence and make sure those low value activities we can use a bot for or artificial intelligence to make us more efficient.
So we have some automation layers on top of the CRM and then also some extras to keep the back office running as well. And then kind of flipping over, coming to the other side to Atrium Works or Atrium contingent workforce solutions, we use a different technology to provide our main offering, which is employer of record payrolling. So that’s a major kind of back office system, but has a lot of front office element as well, so we’re doing onboarding all day every day.
So that onboarding candidate experience is really important. So we’ve rebranded the technology we use as E-office. So all of our associates or payrollees, if you will, log into that system and really keen to make sure that’s a very efficient process and that the onboarding is quick. And then quickly kind of flip to get the assignment rolling into time sheets and of course, getting them paid, which is the most important part when you’re offering employer record payroll solutions.
For the most part, I would say we do license most of the technology that we use. However, there are times where we have developed our own technologies, whether it be for internal reasons or to provide our offerings to our clients, which kind of leads into, you were asking about compliance.
In that scenario, we do have our own proprietary, independent contractor compliance tool called Engagent. So we built that from the ground up and we use that both internally and to service our AOR IC compliance offering to our client based on the Atrium work side. So I could probably go on about our tech ecosystem-
William Tincup: 08:05 No, and we will. I do want to unpack two things.
Vanessa: 08:09 Yeah, absolutely.
William Tincup: 08:10 With both you and with your clients, one is, you get the same questions I get, the line between where does the bot or technology leave off and where does the technology or the humans start? So where’s the line? And so people are confused as to where that line is or should be.
Vanessa: 08:35 Sure.
William Tincup: 08:35 Two, is the stack of technology, how these technologies kind of are put together from sourcing, recruitment marketing, employer branding-
Vanessa: 08:44 Yep.
William Tincup: 08:44 … all the way across, how do they fit? I get those two questions a lot.
Vanessa: 08:50 Okay.
William Tincup: 08:51 One is like, where does one leave off and the other start and confusion? The other is, I don’t know how all these puzzle pieces fit together, how should they fit together?
Vanessa: 08:59 Yeah, absolutely. So I’ll answer the automation, where that kind of starts and ends. So if you look at the whole entire life cycle of the staffing tech process, I’ll start with doing the candidate sourcing first. You receive a job order from a client or you have your evergreen roles that you’re constantly recruiting for, direct marketing, your candidates to your clients for.
But in that original sourcing aspect, there are certainly efficiencies that different tools will give you, LinkedIn recruiter, you’re looking at Indeed databases, other resume databases. I would say within those types of technologies and if you have a good CRM, that it’ll help with this as well, your CRM might have those external sourcing capabilities where it can tap into the LinkedIn database, the Indeed resume database, if you’ve signed up for that service.
And you can search for that talent source, that talent right within your CRM. If you’re lucky enough to have one of those systems and it does it well, the key part always looks good on a demo, but actually seeing it in action after you bought is the other win, but they’re scoring inside your system.
So ideal world is that you have your requisition or your job description and you can not only ask the CRM to search applicants, but search the greater database in your CRM. But then also if you’re not satisfied with those candidates and you need to go further cast your net further, it’ll source those extra external databases for you and then the AI part is the scoring. So a little bit of human in there mixed with the AI because there’s no way a human could look at that many resumes at one time and score it obviously from as usually a zero to a 100.
So at least that takes that extra time off that recruiter so that the higher scoring folks are at the top of the list. So the hope is that the recruiter only has to go through 50 resumes as opposed to 200 and that the best ones are at the top. So that’s a little bit of a mix, I would say once you’ve identified say scheduling and scheduling interviews and kind of executing those interviews, again, that’s where automation would kick in to do the scheduling, that’s not a task that a human has to do.
It’s probably quicker and better if a bot does it, less room for error, but to schedule with the candidate, whether you’re using again, like a CRM technology or a Calendly mixed with a bot to get that appointment on the calendar. But then the actual phone screen interview, again, a human enters there and then from there, if the phone screen goes well and that’s again where I don’t… You can’t have a bot do that part.
I know some staffing agencies do but for us, that initial conversation is human and important to us. From there it’s again, scheduling with the next folks down the line, whether it’s your client or your internal hiring managers that need to get on the phone as an example. Then the other piece coming into interviews go well, offer stage again, it’s more the creation of that offer letter, getting that sent out. You always want that human review of course, but once that candidate is hired, we do a lot of contingent labor.
So getting them onboarded and then getting their time sheet ready. Again, the onboarding piece, that’s where automation comes back into the fold, is getting them their first day information notes so they know where to go to access their time sheet, get their pay stub, access any HR, benefit documents, get them enrolled in benefits, a little bit of automation there. But again, if a candidate needs help at any step of the way, that’s where we’re there, pick up the phone and that’s the human element that we don’t want to take away from the process. We want to make sure the candidate is looked after and feels valued.
William Tincup: 13:06 So real quickly, on the candidate side and as it relates to technology, when a staffing firm works with… Because I’ve always understood it as, you deliver candidates.
Vanessa: 13:18 Sure.
William Tincup: 13:19 Always a slate of candidates, right? Do you usually do that in their technology? Like if they have Bullhorn let’s say or iCIMS, pick somebody, it doesn’t really matter.
Vanessa: 13:31 Sure.
William Tincup: 13:31 Do you deliver them in their technology? Or do you deliver them… How do you deliver candidates to clients?
Vanessa: 13:38 Yeah, really good question. I’ll answer that for our staffing side and a little bit peering into our MSP solutions for Atrium work. On the staffing side, that is part of kind of client orientation, we will ask if there is a certain way, typically we’re sending the slate via email, unless there’s a vendor management system in place or a VMS or sometimes if the client has the Workday recruiting applicant tracking system, as an example, there is an agency portal of that tech.
So that’s where during that client orientation after the contract is signed, that’s where we would get those credentials to submit the candidate slates there. But if they don’t have a VMS in place or an ETS with an agency portal, it’s email. And what we do in addition to, we will never just send a resume over and just say “Hey, let me know what you think.” There’s always an executive summary of that candidate. And what we like to also do is also send a video resume with that candidate too if they did record one.
We have a mobile video resume recording offering. So always encourage our candidates to do the video because their resume’s going to take care of the hard skills but the soft skills will obviously come across with the video resume, where they may look at the paper resume, be hesitant and see the video resume and say “Oh yeah, I definitely got to talk to this person.” So between the paper resume, the executive summary or blurb, as we call it, and then hopefully with the video on top of it, it’s usually pretty good.
And what’s nice about email, obviously we can get those over in VMS, there’s sometimes some limitations, but I would say the vendor management system that might be in place like a VectorVMS, Beeline, Fieldglass, et cetera, we may be limited to the amount that we can submit. There’s usually a limit of maybe one to five as an example. So I would say either email or a VMS or an applicant tracking system, not usually a Bullhorn. So obviously more the staffing side technology but I will say CRMs like Bullhorn, Erecruit, et cetera, there are ways to automate that process so that the recruiters aren’t just opening outlook.
But from the client purview, which just looks like an email, but on our side, if you have that automation in place, sometimes complimented by Sense in our case to just make it again, we’re always just looking for ways to have less clicks for our recruiters and keep their lives, keep their process more efficient so they can make more fills and stay happy and keep our clients happy.
William Tincup: 16:24 Well, what I love about that is you’re thinking about the candidate experience, the recruiter experience, the hiring manager or the client experience as well, so what makes everyone’s life a little bit better. On the selection side, the advice that you give clients on that side, if they were starting with nothing, like say they were working with Microsoft Office, displacing Excel which not shocking happens with a lot of folks, do you have kind of a go to like, okay, if we’re building it from scratch, okay, here’s where… And the reason I’m asking this question is the next question is going to be when you deal with a limited budget-
Vanessa: 17:08 Yep.
William Tincup: 17:09 What’s going to be kind of what is the… You got to anchor everything around this.
Vanessa: 17:15 Yeah. And you’re speaking when our talent technology team is consulting on-
William Tincup: 17:19 That’s right.
Vanessa: 17:19 … like we need to just [crosstalk 00:17:22] to start. Yeah, absolutely. So really good question. We always start with that kind of consultative discovery requirement gathering session. So in the example you gave where they really have a blank slate, I can equate that to… Atrium Works, we speak to a lot of experiential marketing, creative agencies as an example. And they’re maybe small at first and they’re engaging freelancers, whether W2, freelancers or independent contractor or 1099s nines.
And they’re at the bubble where they have enough freelancers where they’re needing a system to manage those as an example. So we get the use case all the time. We have a spreadsheet, a Google sheet of the freelancers or the temp, the contingent workforce folks that we’re using time and time again because they’re great at what they do.
And we don’t have an organized way to let them know when more assignments are coming down or we just want a big client, we’re going to need help with different promotions, et cetera. So we always have that discovery session to really understand, well, if they’ll share that current spreadsheet with us, that helps out a lot. In that scenario, we’re using FMSs or freelance management systems quite a bit. So we partner with a solid three at the moment.
And what’s great about that is I actually like that we don’t own our own FMS because we get to look at each unique use case and recommend the right technology for those customers. So once we do that discovery session and find out the pin points, we want to make sure we’re being inclusive and meeting with various folks at that company. That’s where we’ll look to make the recommendation for the FMS, in this example that I’m using. But then to kind of loop in the second part of your question is budget, again, what’s really nice, so I have a rule of three that I need to have three solid technology partners in your arsenal and pricing is a huge reason.
Our three FMS partners actually have vastly different pricing models. Some are percentage of the markup of what you’re paying this freelancer on an hourly rate, whether it’s the independent contractor or W2. Others, it’s user licenses, which is kind of similar to a lot of applicant’s tracking systems out there, it’s based on recruiter seats or hiring manager seats. Sometimes pricing is based upon the amount of full-time employees you have in the organization.
So if we hear that the budget is on the lower side or frankly, that there is not budget and you kind of have to figure out how to fund the model so that your client can get the technology they need, having those multiple options with the different pricing models has helped with us or helped our clients for sure, in that scenario.
William Tincup: 20:38 I love that, that’s a porridge approach, it’s either too hot or too cold or just…
Vanessa: 20:43 You got it.
William Tincup: 20:44 So the switching out technologies, you’ve seen a lot of this stuff happen in front of you and you’ve switched out some technologies yourself.
Vanessa: 20:54 Yes.
William Tincup: 20:54 What are some of the pitfalls that folks should be aware of when switching out different parts of their technology stack?
Vanessa: 21:02 Sure. Great question. So when you’re making the switch, I think… I’m sorry to keep going back to this, but my colleague Allison Basila will be proud if I keep mentioning defining a problem statement. But to really confirm and ensure all stakeholders internally understand why you’re going out shopping. And I think a lot of times I think internally, and I see this externally as well, technology’s kind of the really easy party to blame when a process or when it’s not going well.
You have your people process technology and it’s like technology seems to be the easiest one because, kind of easy to post blame there. And not to say that there’s a million reasons to change your tech but to really make sure everyone like I said, all the stakeholders are all in agreement for what the problem statement is for needing to replace that technology or support it with something else.
So once you define that, you’re going to end up doing that with your requirement, gathering sessions, your discovery sessions. And again, we do this internally, but then of course, kind of peers into our consulting process as well. So once you have that statement defined, then you can go out and try to… You have those requirements or that grocery list, if you will, then you can go talk to partners and vendors to figure out what you need.
And then when you’re vetting technology, kind of the analogy I like to use is that you have your requirements or you have your grocery list, you’re going out to a shopping plaza and there are so many categories of HR technology. I mean, we have over 23 partners in eight different HR technology categories. So it’s just an alphabet soup of HR technology, if you will, there’s just acronyms upon acronyms. So it can get very confusing out there. And like I said, we like to try to help our clients demystify it all.
So you’re driving into this kind of HR tech Plaza, we help our clients and we try to do this internally too, point our stakeholders internally too, make sure that they’re shopping at the right store. Is it an ATS that you need? Is it a CRM? Is it a VMS? Is it an HRIS? Is it something like Workday? That can kind of be all of those things and which pieces are you okay or that you want?
Everyone always wants to consolidate technology but it’s tough to realize which pieces can fit in one consolidated technology because some parts of your process might be that important where it warrants a specialized tech that’s integrated with that foundational technology as an example. So get into the plaza, get into the right market or storefront, if you will and then you’re in your kind of grocery store, you have your grocery list, making sure you’re in the right aisle for that right category of HR technology.
I would say kind of getting back to your original question there of things to be mindful of when you’re replacing the technology, keep in mind data migration, what data you want to take from the legacy system and bring over. Anything that you want to refresh from a data privacy standpoint, that’s the time to do it. If there’s a time to reach out to your population, that’s inside that technology, whether it’s clients or candidates or both, that’s also a really nice time to do it.
Do a compliance check, get your privacy folks on the line just to make sure that your privacy tech language, that those folks agreed to maybe five, six years ago when you first engaged them is still apparent today. If you’re going to communicate to this really valuable population, you might just get the fine print in there, along with the attractive things if you’re launching like a really nice new database as an example. So data migration and ensuring that you take the right pieces into your new technology.
And then the other two super important things are user acceptance testing and adoption. I can’t kind of understate how important user acceptance testing is to get all parties involved, get a few end users involved because that will also help with buy-in and then lead into adoption. They’ll feel part of the project and also duals as training as well if they’re doing that UAT. So UAT into training and then adoption, again, if that data migration went really well, your recruiters are going into that system and they have really nice data to rely on and they know it’s accurate as well, that will help adoption.
And I’d say the last thing is make a splash about it. You put so much effort into vetting and replacing a technology, it should be exciting that your internal population, if you have external users too, get them excited about it, get your marketing team involved, have them do some socials, help you with those communications. Not only for the training kind of boring stuff about the system, but get them excited. And how is this going to improve their processes and improve their day-to-day and make their lives more efficient. So creating that excitement will certainly help adoption and then check-ins after go live as well.
William Tincup: 26:37 Drops mic, walks off stage. Vanessa, this has been absolutely amazing and chuck-full, all kinds of great advice. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast.
Vanessa: 26:46 Absolutely. I had fun. Thank you.
William Tincup: 26:48 Well, good. And thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast, until next time.
Music: 26:54 You’ve been listening to the Recruiting Live Podcast by RecruitingDaily. Check out the latest industry podcast, webinars, articles, and news at [inaudible 00:27:04]…
William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.