In any relationship, personal or professional, listening is key.
In Part 1 of this series on scaling contractor care, we discussed how maintaining a human connection with your contractors can help improve key metrics like recruiting, retention and redeployment. Today, we’ll focus on the importance of listening to your talent effectively.
Where staffing firms can get things wrong
Sometimes, it’s most instructive to start with what staffing firms are doing wrong. We find that the majority of firms fall into one of two categories—sometimes both.
They’re either listening to contractors too little, or too late.
Providing great contractor care is all about listening to and solving your contractor’s problems. You won’t be able to do that if you’re only asking them for feedback in an annual or biannual survey. It’s a common trap that staffing firms fall into if they haven’t made a true commitment to contractor care.
We don’t have any problem with end-of-year surveys in general, but if that’s the only time you’re asking for feedback throughout the year, you’re in trouble. End-of-year surveys are overwhelming, not only because they’re long, but because they hit everyone at the same time. And, you’re missing out on a chance to solve issues in the moment, throughout the contractor lifecycle.
The solution is more frequent surveys and check-ins. With the advances of technology, automation, and AI, there’s no excuse not to be asking for feedback from your contractors at critical points in each placement. Bite sized surveys and check-ins are not only better than end-of-year surveys for giving targeted analytics and insights on specific touchpoints, but their immediate nature reliably improves the contractor experience across the board.
Bite-sized and timely check-ins let contractors know that you’re listening.
The other issue you can run into is that you’re asking for feedback too late. Discovering problems months after they happen won’t do you any good. This is why we encourage staffing companies to consistently communicate with their talent using personalized, automated messages.
Start by asking about their first day, first week, and first month. Then continue to check in throughout the duration of the lifecycle to let contractors know that you’re listening.
Another issue that we see at many staffing firms face is not having systems in place to take action when a contractor does report a problem. If a contractor responds to their first day NPS survey with a 2, will someone on your contractor care team be notified? Will they prioritize a fix, for now and in the future?
It’s vital for your staffing firm to review contractor feedback regularly. This is the time to look for patterns and systemic problems with your process that need to be fixed throughout the company. We work with many staffing firms that use contractors’ pulse data in their weekly meetings to proactively respond to problems that other firms might miss.
How to be a better listener
It’s important to practice active listening techniques when talking to anyone—it’ll make you better at your job, and improve the health of your relationships. And what is the contractor experience but a set of of relationships between your company and your talent?
A 2016 study on active listening suggests that you should engage in a conversation through “body movement and posture showing involvement, facial expressions, [and] eye contact”, among many other techniques you might recognize. For a contractor, being acknowledged at key phases of the employment process is akin to someone nodding or giving verbal encouragement during a conversation.
Many staffing firms struggle to figure out when to listen to contractors and how to take action on what they hear from contractors.
When to listen to contractors
The key to letting your contractors know that you’re listening is to create a repeatable process that doesn’t require extra man-hours. You know the steps in their deployment process, from first interview to placement to redeployment. Map out the process, and then make sure you’re checking in at each milestone.
Your frequent check-ins become a regular opportunity to listen. If you establish a pattern of checking in and being available when there’s a problem, contractors will learn that they can rely on you and that you’ll be there for them.
How to take action
There are two ways to act on the data you receive from contractor feedback: make changes on the micro scale, or think on the macro.
On the micro, ask yourself if there are systems in place to alert people when problems do arise. Does accounting get alerted if there’s a problem with someone’s paycheck? Does a recruiter get alerted if someone’s end date is approaching so that the contractor can get effectively deployed with minimal lag time?
On the macro level, are your analytics being reviewed and analyzed regularly? What processes can you implement or remove that would improve the efficiency and profitability of your firm? Have you boiled the redeployment process down to a smoothly oiled machine?
Here are a few more suggestions for ways to actively listen to your contractors:
- NPS surveys
- Personalized text message check-ins
- Confirming assignment end dates and asking about interest in future assignments
- Interview prep automation emails
- Personalized placement emails or texts
Listening is a source of growth
Learning to listen better and being proactive about responding to contractor feedback is one of the best ways to scale your staffing firm while building your reputation for having a best-in-class contractor experience. You’ll kill two birds with one stone, helping contractors feel heard and appreciated, while generating early warnings of issues you can resolve before they become problems.
Listening to your contractors doesn’t have to be hard work. Having good systems in place to gather timely feedback ensures that contractors feel heard. Setting up smart notifications for key pain points can turn problems into opportunities and deepen your relationships. Your process will streamline over time as you automate more, and fix common, recurring issues that interrupt or reflect negatively on the contractor experience, leading to improved retention and redeployment
Our next “Hard to Love” post will discuss the important role of empathy in scaling your contractor care program.