Security Vs Flexible Working: How can Recruitment Agencies Get the Right Balance?
In insight / By Mark Flynn / 27 June 2018
Grovelands is a specialist recruitment and resourcing agency, focused on niche industries including the Financial Services, FinTech and Life Sciences sectors.
DJ Marker, Finance Director at Grovelands, spoke to us about his interest in technology, and the impact that IT has had on Grovelands’ service delivery to clients.
After initially joining Grovelands as a Management Accountant, it was DJ’s experience of managing a team of recruiters at Grovelands that first piqued his interest in how technology could enable better and more efficient service delivery. Working in a client-facing role enabled DJ to bring some of the learnings gained from dealing directly with clients back into the finance and back-office operational departments at Grovelands.
Supporting a growing business
“Grovelands, like many other growing businesses, used to spend huge amounts of time on administration activities. Because we operate in the resourcing sector, our team of 8 administrators were handling invoicing, timesheet processing and paperwork on a daily basis. In order to become more efficient, we needed technology to support us in moving these activities away from being a physical paper exercise. We automated a lot of the processes, digitised as much as we could to reduce physical paperwork and systemised the activities. We made big cost-savings and the team of 8 administrators reduced to just 2,” says DJ Marker.
Previously, IT wasn’t seen as a central function at Grovelands, however, as more activities were automated and the impact of technology on business operations started to be realised, Marker took on the role of coordinating strategic relationships with IT partners and suppliers.
“We were making big investments in our IT, but we felt we weren’t getting the most out of our tech. We put together a strategy that covered the 3 main areas of the business and looked at how IT could support these functions and drive efficiencies,” explained Marker. The three main areas Grovelands focused on were:
Front-end client engagement
“As we improve our systems and automate key processes, we have a real opportunity to take technology solutions to our clients,” comments Marker. “Our clients don’t just want staffing solutions, they now want hybrid mixes of staff and technology services to deliver their projects. We are actively looking at ways we can take our technology learnings, solutions and innovations to clients to help them achieve their objectives. It’s a new way of looking at resourcing and recruitment in 2018.”
Grovelands currently use Bullhorn CRM to underpin their sales activities, but they are also integrating new ways of engaging with clients and candidates through technology solutions such as video conferencing for interviewing candidates, more scientific and AI-driven skills testing to better qualify candidates and online portals to improve client and candidate interaction.
“Clients are no longer just interested in being sent CVs, they want to understand our process and use our learnings from delivering resourcing services at scale to finetune their own internal processes. They are interested in how we are leveraging technology to do that.”
Grovelands are constantly looking at where they can automate further manual processes, and use technology to underpin all activities. For example, software is being integrated into the contract compliance function to speed up the candidate screening processes.
Remote working and flexibility
One of the key areas that Grovelands wanted to improve within their business was the ability to have workers logging on remotely, in a secure yet flexible way.
“The transition to Office 365 from a traditional Citrix environment is a big step-change in terms of how we operate as a business,” explains Marker. “Due to the nature of our business activity, we need to be able to work from client sites and while travelling, so that we are accessible to our candidates and clients, and more efficient as a business. Location really doesn’t matter anymore to a modern business.”
Staff can now access their desktop environment from any device and any location. They can work offline and sync up any changes when they reconnect, and can travel to client sites without worrying about losing access to their data and applications.
The move to Office 365 wasn’t just about being able to work remotely, the collaboration between staff and clients was also a key driver.
“Sometimes we deliver an entire project for a client, and the ability to edit documents in real-time which clients can monitor and feedback on has been a massive benefit for both Grovelands and our clients. We don’t have to send documents back and forth over email and we don’t have to worry about people accessing the wrong version of a document; it’s all there, updated in real-time through Office 365.”
Working with Nasstar
Nasstar has worked with Grovelands for over 4 years, helping them to transition to a Citrix environment, and then more recently, delivering further flexibility to staff about how and where they work, by migrating Grovelands over to Microsoft Office 365.
4 years ago, the majority of staff worked out of Grovelands’ office locations, but in 2018, with remote working increasingly becoming the norm in many businesses across the UK, more than 60% of Grovelands staff now perform some of their work activities outside of the office. This meant that employees needed to access their Microsoft applications from any location, often, and on any device.
Nasstar implemented Microsoft Office 365 Pro Plus licenses to enable staff to run their Office applications on up to 4 additional devices; giving more flexibility to employees working remotely who may need to log on from their tablet or phone when on client sites or at home. This provides staff with the same experience on their phone or mobile device as their desktop back in the office.
And, because of the licensing model, staff always get access to the latest Office applications, so they aren’t working on older versions, which reduces compatibility issues.
Impact of technology on Grovelands as a business
The result of these changes across remote working practices and automating processes with IT has impacted on Grovelands’ core business.
“Technology has definitely made us more competitive,” says Marker. “One big improvement is around access to information: we now spend more time using data than trying to produce it. It’s on-demand, it’s flexible and it’s accurate because everything is done in real-time.”
Technology is clearly central to many of Grovelands operational initiatives now.
“There are not many conversations across the Grovelands business that don’t involve technology.”
The view across the recruitment industry
“Every CFO I talk to today is looking to improve their technology,” says Marker. “IT is now not a separate, standalone department; it’s embedded into every business function. However, some businesses are too cautious when it comes to making a decision about transforming their IT. Technology moves at such a rapid rate that many organisations are too slow to act.”
In the future, Grovelands is planning to continue using technology to drive innovation across their business, and will be launching a self-service portal for candidates over the next year, giving job hunters more flexibility around updating their own information, such as availability for new roles and skills. As data is so important, Grovelands is looking at ways to keep the data they store about candidates as accurate as possible.
“We need to continually push and look to the future,” says DJ. “As technologies using Artificial Intelligence become more prominent in our clients’ own businesses, the need for the same numbers of staff may decrease, so we need to come up with innovative solutions centered around technology that can support our clients as their buying needs change.”
Recommendations for recruitment businesses
We asked DJ what his top tech recommendations would be for Finance Directors in the recruitment industry. Here’s what he said:
Have an IT strategy for each of the 3 key areas of your business: Client Engagement, Sales, and Back-office. They each have different needs and require varied approaches; for example, in Client Engagement, we’ve looked at how to use technology to create new service offerings for our clients. In the Sales function, we’ve used Microsoft Office 365 with Nasstar to deliver more flexible remote working so that our sales teams can be better connected to our clients. And, in our Back-office departments, we’ve leveraged technology to automate as many processes as possible.
Try and take technology solutions to your clients; move away from focusing purely on recruitment, instead combining technology with normal services to solve your clients’ staffing needs. We’re doing this by offering wider services that encompass both staff and technology solutions to our clients; from our candidate portal where they can update their own details through to delivering entire projects for our clients that wrap up staffing and tech solutions in one service contract.
Continually review your processes to look for areas where you can leverage technology to automate your business processes.
Look at what is available in the industry for making collaboration easier – it’s likely remote working will increase in your business, so put in place a solution now that can scale to allow for 50%, 60%, or even 100% remote working across your business in the future.
Find out more about Nasstar’s solutions for the Recruitment Industry.