14th April 2020

Thrive, not survive: 7 tips to help agencies prosper during the coronavirus pandemic


Making your recruitment business more resilient

The challenges posed by disruption to the operating environment

Some businesses like High Street retail or hospitality, or others that require footfall, are facing an existential challenge. For some, survival is a matter that is out of their hands.
The plans for the distribution of government funded rescue and assistance seem either half-baked or being poorly implemented. After three weeks of the ‘stay home’ guideline, it remains to be seen whether these issues are teething troubles or the sign of a more systemic problem.
As we wait for normality to return and for the restoration of the usual ebbs and flows of economic activity, for many it’s a race against the clock. Will the bills deplete cash reserves and bleed lines of credit dry before business gets going again?
Recruitment agencies are part of the knowledge economy, and for many of them, the prospects are a little different. The Government’s call to work from home is producing winners and losers. Companies that provide services that facilitate home working are one such group; recruitment agencies that are able exploit these services are another.
Working from home conveys some quite specific benefits, and it really only provides winners with competitive advantage when your office (should you have a centralised geographical hub) is unserviceable due to something like a fire or flood; or becomes off limits due to a lockdown, such as during the COVID-19 response we are currently experiencing.
Although it enables a great deal of flexibility, on its own, the ability to work from home may not be enough to overcome the challenges posed by future upsets to the operating environment.

Future proofing your recruitment agency against operational disruption

Many business owners in a perilous position as a result of the coronavirus pandemic might be asking themselves where they might have gone wrong, or what they could have done differently.
It’s not worth soul-searching and beating yourself up too much over something in the past that you cannot change. The best thing is to look forward and see how you can make the best of the time we are in.
Here are 7 tips to help you thrive, and not just survive, during this crisis:

1. Changing industry focus

Keeping the country healthy, nourished and secure while under lockdown has led to the identification of some very important key worker roles. Companies are crying out for workers to fill roles in healthcare, supermarket delivery and restocking, harvesting seasonal agricultural crops and security.
It may well be worth considering if you can you realign your business to include industries outside of your usual sectors of activity, putting you in the position where you supply key workers for which there is a high demand.

2. Longer term strategy

A multi-sector approach might figure as part of your longer term plan. Is it worth diversifying your business so that you are not exposed to risk by relying on one sector of the economy? Sure, for the many agencies that specialise in a niche, this is their USP.
However, it’s a double edged sword. It can be great during a boom, but it could be an Achilles heel during tougher times. Think about a permanent strategic reorientation.

3. Wheeling and dealing

Agencies publish rates, but let’s face it, pretty much everything within reason is open to negotiation. When the operating environment is disrupted, businesses across the spectrum of the economy become more deal and discount oriented.
Making wholesale price cuts is probably not something you would normally consider, but when disruption is widespread and severe, things are anything but ‘normal’.

4. Brand and marketing matters

Branding, website and marketing content all require time to think about and develop. Periods of reduced business activity such as the one we are in, often afford a little breathing space, despite the wider suspicion that the walls might be closing in! Consider using the time to look at how you market your agency.
From small tactical tweaks to wide ranging strategic change, it’s a great opportunity to look at how you are doing things.

5. Adopting the consumption model

Outsourced business services are a good way to look to build resilience. From office cleaning to technology services, there has been a significant move to outsource non-core services and concentrating on what you are experts in. Moving over to paying for a ‘what you use’ approach is also likely to have some highly beneficial effects for financial management.
Primarily, this reduces the need for capital investment and the need to invest cash or take on debt. It can improve cash flow and enable the optimisation of working capital management. This may drive the growth of cash reserves, something that may be useful for riding out future economic storms.

6. Streamlining your agency

Achieving greater efficiency within the back office processes which underpin recruitment agency operations reduces costs. Many agencies use paper forms, such as timesheets, at some point. Today, promoting improved efficiency is synonymous with implementing technology that provides automation and eliminates low-value, paper-based, manual processes.
Whatever tech choices you make, care needs to be taken to ensure the technology you choose meets your immediate needs while being able to grow with your business as it develops. In the age of the cloud, a good outsourced technology fabric is likely to support home working.

7. Leveraging CPD

Consider the value of developing the skills of your key employees. We might be preaching to the converted, but Continuing Professional Development is a key part of HR practice and it is something that agencies can capitalise on.
Besides improving the capability of your core team, CPD sends out a very strong signal that your agency values employees. This breeds loyalty, an important factor that can help guarantee commitment from key employees during those tough times when you might demand more than 100%.

Agencies are better equipped for today’s challenges with ETZ

To find out more about how our technology platform can help your agency to become more resilient in the future, simply contact us today. Call us on 0800 311 2266 or book a demo.

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