A Sustainable Approach to Staffing

As economic uncertainty looms, it comes as no surprise that the staffing industry is actively adapting. Facing economic headwinds and technology disruptors like AI threatening to transform entire industries, many staffing professionals are faced with the rising pressure to do more with less. As a result, it can be hard to keep up. We know that responding to market trends is essential, but being too reactive can come at the cost of being strategic and proactive — which is why a more sustainable approach to staffing is essential, especially when it comes to riding the waves of economic uncertainty.

So, what does this look like in practice?

Focus on holding the line. During economic downturns, it can be tempting to adopt entirely new strategies like focusing on contract staffing instead of direct hire or becoming more metric driven and increasing producer quotas. These new strategies may increase immediate activity, but it will come at the cost of something more important — your relationships and your reputation.

Mindlessly pushing more candidates through the pipeline or pivoting to focus on a different type of staffing or vertical will feel random if it is random. Instead, it is important to be intentional and focus on your relationships. Approaching activities as a human first will always pay dividends, especially in staffing and regardless of what happens next in the market.

Holding the line involves maintaining your approach regardless of the economic cycle. Once you have built an effective approach, it is about trusting that process — and sticking with it — without rushing to any new extremes.

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Quality over quantity. From there, it is important to maintain focus on quality, not quantity. Economic downturns are stressful, but they are also a fantastic opportunity to bring back the human element to your work or your practice, especially if it got lost along the way or deprioritized given the pace of our business over the last several years. When you spend extra time with a candidate, caring more about how they are treated than how they are packaged, this drives opportunity. It can be easy to write off a focus on quality as a sacrifice to volume, but the opposite is true. Quality often drives volume, not vice versa.

Far too many firms fall into the trap of focusing only on transactions, but a quality-driven approach allows for more agility and space to maneuver. Metrics are an important guardrail, but vanity metrics — that is, just checking the box on a certain type of activity without a special focus on tangible results — are pointless. If you focus on showing up in a meaningful way, putting yourself out there and doing excellent work, the metrics will take care of themselves.

Go back to the basics. The last piece of the puzzle is often the easiest to implement — and the easiest to forget. Do not skip the basics. When you rush through things, whether that’s candidate screenings or job descriptions, work suffers. If you focus on doing the basics well, it pays off.

There will always be headlines about trendy innovative approaches, but new strategies often fall flat without a solid foundation upon which they can thrive. If your behaviors and your activities fluctuate with the market trends, your results will as well.

The Bottom Line

No matter what happens in the market, a sustainable approach to staffing is about setting a standard and sticking to it. Trust the process and know that it will deliver results. While it can be tempting to work one month or one quarter at a time, this is often a self-fulfilling prophecy, and it keeps you in an endless loop of reactivity. Instead, it is about being proactive — establishing a working strategy and sticking to it, focusing on quality, and never losing sight of the basics. This, in fact, is what pays off. Trust me.

Mike Doud

Mike Doud
Mike Doud is managing partner at Vaco NYC.

Mike Doud

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