Staffing Firms and Technology: Will 2012 Mark The End of "Rational Ambivalence?"

The emerging attitude of many staffing firms toward technology over the past years seems to have become something I would characterize as "rational ambivalence." Perhaps the opposite of Greenspan's oft-quoted "irrational exuberance," "rational ambivalence” reflects uncertainty and indecision based on a clear, ordered perspective on hard facts.

Though hardly a worst enemy, technology has not always been the best friend of the staffing industry.  While helpful and valuable in many ways, technology has also been a source of disruption and challenge for a value-adding intermediation/service industry based on complex, dynamic human resource management and delicately tuned human relationships. 

Absorbing technology has produced a range of impacts and outcomes, both positive and negative. And technology solutions have not always been geared to supporting the human intricacies and requirements of the actual operations of staffing firms.  Often technology has made it more difficult for staffing firms to operate effectively. 

In recent years, many staffing firms have been “caught between a rock and a hard place” (more specifically, between the stringency of VMS, on the one hand, and the super-abundant jungle of on-line job boards and emerging social networks).  Powerful technology has taken root on the demand and supply sides of staffing firms, whose core mission is to intermediate and facilitate exchange, enable labor supply and demand sides to “transact.”  However, the availability of integrating, enabling technology that supports staffing firms’ processing of these transactions has been lagging.  The above developments have tended to expose the inadequacies a firm’s ATS at least as much as substantiating its usefulness.  And as many “new, shiny objects” appear on the scene, it is not surprising that they are regarded with confusion, reserve, skepticism, caution.

Over the past years, the resulting cautious attitude toward technology has probably been optimal for many or most staffing firms.  However, we may be entering a period of time in which excessive caution and inaction with respect to technology may be severely suboptimal for staffing firms’ performance, growth, and even survival. 


In coming posts and in a forthcoming white paper, I will be exploring and analyzing some of the developments that have brought us to where we are today as well as the current conditions and trends that may be altering staffing firms’ “decision calculus” relative to technology adoption and deployment.

Stand-by for more of why!


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