There has been no shortage of stress, uncertainty, and polarization in the wake of the pandemic. But the curious thing is the proliferation of silver linings that has come out of this time of shelter-in-place, quarantine, and remote work. Unexpectedly, one study showed that many kids were actually happier as a result – they suddenly had more downtime, less commitments, and increased parent interaction.

Back in the business world, we’ve talked to many staffing leaders in recent weeks and months who are seeing the staffing world shift before their eyes. Some, free of watercooler distractions and with pared-down sales teams to manage, are seeing an opportunity to look at their brand and ask the deep questions they don’t usually have time for. Who are they as a company? How do they want to interact in the marketplace? What makes them truly different?

Other leaders are coming to these same questions from a place of struggle – the continued lack of in-person relationship building has leveled the playing field for their A-player salespeople, forcing a need for a stronger brand and greater brand recognition.

The State of Staffing Amidst COVID-19

To be frank, the pandemic has presented a major challenge for staffing firms – and the continued economic impact will be a hurdle for the foreseeable future. Firms temporarily lost accounts as client companies put hiring on hold and, furthermore, laid off hundreds of employees and consultants.

However, unlike the 2008 recession, the pandemic is a unique situation – many of the hiring freezes, layoffs, and furloughs were a direct response to shelter-in-place orders, preventing nonessential businesses from operating as normal. As businesses continue to reopen, we’re already seeing hiring begin to pick back up.

Many of the staffing leaders we’ve spoken to genuinely expect that as the pandemic winds down, the hiring floodgates will open wide. There’s a lot of pent-up demand in the marketplace. Numerous companies are in a “hurry up and wait” scenario, with PPP cash in their pockets and questions about how to appropriately invest it in their workforce.

That said, in-person interaction is still at minimal levels, with many organizations extending remote work policies into the new year. As a result, staffing leaders and their top sales hunters are struggling to find new ways to communicate and earn their way into video conference calls.

And that’s what brings us to brand awareness…

Positioning Staffing Brands for What’s Next

Until there is an opportunity for professionals to engage more freely face-to-face, sales processes will have to change, stripping top hunters of some of their competitive advantages that have allowed them to excel in the past. Now more than ever, who you are as a staffing firm and how that brand is communicated and positioned is vital to the success of your business.

Let’s look at one specific example of how the market has shifted in the staffing world. In the past, some staffing firms have differentiated themselves by leveraging their local market expertise. They know the ins and outs of their region, which companies they can recruit from, which schools to seek new talent from, and what competitive compensation looks like at a local level. These are all important – but the fact is, the pandemic has only increased the rate of globalization. Companies everywhere have realized the benefits of remote work, which has in turn expanded their available talent pools to a national or even global level. Staffing brands that have historically relied upon their local advantage must look at what this trend means for them. Is it time to expand their regional reach? How will they need to redefine their brand and messaging to reflect this?

Outside of this example, we’re seeing huge shifts in how companies are communicating their values, approaching company culture and work-life balance, and interacting with their audiences. If one word could sum it all up, it would be “human.” At the height of the pandemic, we all got familiar with ads and emails from every possible type of company saying, we’re in this together during these unprecedented times. It all became a bit of a cliché (check out this amusing YouTube video entitled “Every Covid-19 Commercial is Exactly the Same”), but it also revealed something deeply human about us all – we may not know exactly how to respond to crisis, but we do recognize the need to reach out, support each other, and nurture our communities. It’s a recognition that is steadily making a big impact on how companies choose to reach their audience and brand themselves in the marketplace – regardless of industry.

For staffing companies, this is especially true. Your services depend wholeheartedly on people, and despite ever-smarter algorithms in your ATS, the human element is critical to your business. But it’s almost impossible to differentiate on the strength of your relationship-focused approach alone – especially when everyone (and their kid) is in a virtual environment. The market has evolved, and it’s likely your company has too. Thus, a robust, authentic brand rooted in and shared through an engaging website, content marketing, email messaging, social presence, and ad platform is the foundation you must build to remain relevant, profitable, and ahead of the competition.

Is your brand defined to respond to the new normal?