Repurposing Employees during the Recession for Success

Author: Priyanka Lakhe


– It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.

By most accounts this recession is the worst since the1930s. Major corporations have filed for bankruptcy and there are layoffs everywhere. Experts estimate that in the last quarter of this year the economy will turn around. Whether or not this is true remains to be seen. But I’m optimistic because things can’t get any worse! In such an environment you can either chose to succumb to the situation or face it head-on. My company chose the latter and I would like to share this success story with the whole world — and especially CEOs of other companies.

My company, iPlace, is an offshore recruiting company that offers sourcing and recruiting services to US staffing agencies and corporate recruiting departments. In December 2007, we estimated that before the end of 2009 we would fill up our current 100 seat, 3-story facility and move to a bigger place. I was dreaming of having my own cubicle in an up-market, posh office. But the economic downturn in the US badly affected our business.

Our sourcers and recruiters assist senior recruiters and account managers of American staffing companies by doing the time-consuming work of finding candidates using Internet-based tools and conducting screening interviews. Our work saves senior American recruiters and account managers a lot of time and allows them to focus on higher touch, higher value tasks such as strategizing, building rapport with candidates and clients, expanding their network, etc. However with the reduction of workload caused by the recession, staffing companies did not need assistance. Some of our clients were firing their own recruiters and they did not have enough job orders to sustain iPlace. So we had to part ways with several clients even though they were very happy with the quality of our work. They left us with a promise to come back once the market is better.

The worst hit was our day-shift sourcing team as our clients’ recruiters had ample time to do Internet-based sourcing themselves. What would you have done if you were in the CEO of iPlace? Lay off employees? Cut employee benefits? Freeze pay? Well we did not experience any of it. Why? Because our CEO reasoned, “our employees have worked hard throughout the year and the recession is not their fault” and “we have the best employees in the entire world.”  Most of our sourcers and recruiters have completed a year and are highly skilled. If we fire such experienced and highly trained staff now, we will be the losers tomorrow as these people would go to our competitors.

My team started brainstorming on ideas to generate revenues from the sourcing team and our CEO asked our clients for ideas. One client told our CEO that because of the recession many of their recruiters were left with virtually no work and that the top priority of the company was getting new clients. It then occurred to us that we could reposition our sourcers to find our client contact and background information for hiring mangers using virtually the same sourcing techniques we used to find candidates for job orders. The client loved this idea and we started receiving sales lead requests from one of the client’s senior account managers.

The senior account manager asked us to find decision-makers and hiring managers from a few companies in his region. Our first assignment was challenging since this was the very first time we were doing this kind of work. However the account manager was very pleased and the word spread virally across the client’s other offices. Before we knew it, we were working with seventeen account managers. Our requests varied from finding hiring managers from IT companies, building a list of medical factoring companies, finding organization charts to gathering financial market data and future business directions of some companies. Some of the account managers were very helpful as they gave us feedback and suggestions to improve. This eventually helped us in defining a robust sales leads generation process.

After a couple of months, we contacted the seventeen account managers and conducted a survey on the sales lead generation service. We received an overwhelming response. Most of them liked that we provided validated numbers and e-mail addresses along with related web links for each contact. Now my team is confident that we can handle any type of sourcing request. We strongly believe in our sourcing capabilities and our motto is: “We can find anything and everything on the Internet!!”

While we were developing the sales leads generation process, my colleague Viji and I had an idea to offer the sales lead generation service to prospective clients. This idea was approved and our team has started promoting it through e-mail campaigns. This idea has generated a lot of interest. We have now expanded our sales lead generation service to UK and Canada clients.

This is the best part of working for iPlace. The company thinks of its employees as business partners. We are free to voice our opinions and come up with ideas which will generate revenue for iPlace. I am happy to be a part of such a company that believes in innovation and that cares for its employees. I think that companies that lay-off employees and start cost-cutting should think twice. I’m sure they can think of alternative ways to utilize their experienced staff and to earn additional revenues.


The Allure and the Challenge

Author – Hank Levine

Corporate recruiting departments have been working with staffing agencies since the first employment agency in the United States, Engineering Agency, was founded in 1893. Although working with staffing agencies is expensive, until recently there have been few other ways for companies to supplement their internal recruiting capabilities.

A single corporate recruiter may handle up to 60 simultaneous job openings. It simply is not possible to conduct quality searches for this many positions. Many corporate recruiters also have human resources responsibilities, which make it even more difficult to find the time to recruit for so many openings. Therefore, companies turn to staffing agencies to ensure critical openings get filled.

In the last three or four years, progressive companies have discovered a better alternative. Working with an offshore recruiting partner can increase recruiting productivity by 30 to 50 percent while lowering staffing agency costs by up to 80 percent.

Sound too good to be true? While these types of results are certainly possible, they are not always achieved. The quality of many offshore recruiting firms is inconsistent and some firms are less than totally reputable. So selecting the right partner is critical.

The Concept

Many of the tasks involved with recruiting mid to fairly senior ($50,000 to $130,000) information technology, finance, and accounting professionals are not done face-to-face. Recruiters often identify candidates through Internet-based sourcing and then communicate with the candidate using the phone and e-mail. These “back-office” activities can be performed equally effectively from a lower cost center – offshore. The majority of offshore recruiting firms are located in India, but some offshore recruiting firms can be found in other Asian, Eastern European, and Latin American countries.

Offshore Recruiting Services

Offshore recruiting firms provide a range of services. Full lifecycle recruiting allows corporate recruiting departments to outsource recruiting functions that do not require in-person interactions. Tasks can include sourcing, candidate interviewing and qualification, negotiating pay rates, administering online tests, and conducting background and reference checks.

Internet-based sourcing and/or candidate screening services are simpler than full lifecycle recruiting, yet can free up to 50 percent of corporate recruiters’ time. The offshore sourcers and recruiters work as “assistants” to the corporate recruiters and typically provide support for the most critical and time sensitive job openings. The offshore team performs the time-consuming tasks and leaves the highest-value, highest-touch tasks to the corporate in-house recruiters. As a result, corporate recruiters can close up to 50 percent more job openings, focus on complex tasks requiring the greatest skill, provide a more positive experience for candidates, and delight their hiring managers through presenting higher quality candidates.

What to Look for in an Offshore Recruiting Partner

Selecting an offshore recruiting partner can be confusing. The “sales pitches” of many firms sound suspiciously similar. Oftentimes, these “me too” firms end up competing almost solely on price. This can be dangerous because at a certain price point, it becomes impossible to provide quality sourcing and recruiting services without significantly cutting corners or worse.

Recruiting is not a commodity business. It would be foolish to hire an internal recruiter based solely on the cost of the recruiter and with no regard to the recruiter’s capabilities and experience. The same is true when hiring an offshore recruiting firm.

The checklist below outlines thing to look for when selecting an offshore recruiting firm. With careful due diligence in selecting a partner, the promise of offshore recruiting is likely to be realized.

• Challenge – Recruiters who are not trained

Solution – Offshore recruiting firms work on low margins and some cannot afford to hire experience recruiters or provide training. Insist on the offshore firm providing bios of the recruiters on your offshore team. Verify that the recruiters have received training and be skeptical of firms that claim to provide on the job training.

• Challenge – Recruiters who do not speak clearly

Solution – Insist on speaking with the recruiters on your offshore team. Verify that the recruiters have received voice and accent neutralization training.

• Challenge – Recruiters who do not understand the nuances of American business

Solution – Some offshore recruiters will not understand the urgency of American business or the importance of delivering on commitments. Some will be hesitant to say “no” or “I do not understand” to an American client. Verify that the recruiters on your offshore team have experience working with Americans and training in American business practices.

• Challenge – Recruiter turnover

Solution – Turnover of recruiters in India is extremely high and can undermine performance. High turnover is mostly caused by the enormous demand for experienced international recruiters. Other reasons include health problems from working the nightshift, proposals for arranged marriages that stipulate no nightshift jobs, and leaving a job to take care of an ailing family member – even when the ailment is not life threatening. The level of turnover is much lower in offshore firms that offer their recruiters higher pay and better opportunities to learn and advance professionally. Ask your offshore firm about their recruiter attrition rates and retention programs.

• Challenge – Lack of processes

Solution – The offshore firm should have well-established work processes and procedures to monitor the progress of each job opening. Ask detailed questions about the work process and make sure there is experienced management overseeing the recruiting team.

• Challenge – Poor Infrastructure

Solution – Effective offshore recruiting is not possible without quality infrastructure for both voice and data. Talk with your offshore team to confirm voice quality is acceptable and check to make sure the offshore firm has redundant ISPs in case of an outage.

• Challenge – Disreputable companies

Solution – Some offshore recruiting firms, especially those competing on price, will cut corners. Some common dishonest practices include billing “dedicated” recruiters to more than one account, not fully staffing teams that are supposed to have multiple recruiters, not providing backup recruiters when recruiters are absent, and submitting candidates to multiple clients (be especially leery if the offshore firm has its own US staffing agency). Make sure that your agreement is with a US firm in case there is a need to enforce disputes.

• Challenge – Contract Terms

Solution – Some firms insist on long-term contracts that provide little recourse if performance is not acceptable. Look for firms with flexible contract terms.