Four years ago, at SIA’s 2017 CWS Summit in Dallas, I attended a session titled “Six-Second Staffing.” I thought the title — and concept — were borderline crazy. Sure, cars can go zero to 60 in six seconds with the right horsepower, but finding and hiring a human being? As I listened, though, I began to visualize how this could be possible at some point. Now, four short years later, that future is here as it relates to contingent workforce programs being able to fill highly skilled workers quickly.

The Perennial Challenge

Reducing time to fill — the time it takes for the manager to put someone to work, often measured in number of business days — has long been a tough challenge for the entire contract workforce ecosystem over the past few decades. Prior to VMS and MSP solutions — and the centralization of program management — which first emerged around the early 2000s, managers of buyer organizations often had a direct relationship with their favorite supplier, and those relationships delivered speedy results which in turn resulted in almost real-time fulfillment.

Managers and their favorite supplier could build a strong relationship based on trust that would allow for the staffing organization to create and build small talent pools for specific skills based on what the manager would typically want and need. Then came the centralization of program operations, which promotes more control and competitiveness, but also drastically increased time to fill. So many policies and procedures have changed and impacted the interaction between suppliers and managers and, as a result, have drastically increased time to fill. Now, it is not uncommon for CW programs to wait 15-plus business days to fill a highly skilled position.

In a highly competitive talent environment — and by all accounts, we are now in one — such a lengthy time to fill can have a negative impact on all parties involved. The best candidates can lose patience amid a three- to four-week wait to gain employment. Long process times can also impact managers and their ability to get their projects completed. The suppliers are also big losers as their investment to find and place contractors generally occurs up front, weeks ahead of being able to invoice. When they are unable to process and onboard quickly and the talent goes elsewhere, they may in fact, lose money that directly hits their bottom line.

Horsepower: Bots and AI

All of this makes that six-second staffing concept very appealing. But how is it possible?

Technological advancements have been substantial in recent years. Talent platforms are becoming advanced enough to curate talent without human touch with the use of bots and artificial intelligence. This allows for the building of talent pools, with strong levels of confidence, to be utilized to speed up the process and improve the candidate experience. These well-developed talent pools enable buyer organizations to consider conducting background checks in advance of interviews, which can shave days from the post-interview process. Background-checking organizations have also made incredible strides in automation. What all of this means is that when the interview occurs (if at all) the candidate would have been fully vetted, screened, tested and signed all required documents so that once the offer is made the worker can be ready to start immediately — and yes, maybe as soon as six seconds.

Blurred Borders

As previously stated, there plenty of good reasons to improve time-to-fill metrics. Buyer organizations, now more than ever, are competing for talent across all industries. Buyer organizations in the banking industry, for example, used to compete for talent with other banks at the local level. Today, though, those walls of delineation are being removed through the advancements of remote work, digital transformation and general improvements in technology, which combine to give the talent choices beyond geographical boundaries. Because of the strong competition for talent, buyer organizations need to find every advantage possible to win the best and the brightest. Charlotte, North Carolina, has long been a hub for some the largest banking organizations in the world. Contractors would flock to Charlotte for employment opportunities. With the advanced acceptance of remote work due to the recent pandemic, those highly skilled workers can potentially work for any banking organization in the world.

In 2017, the prediction of six-second staffing was viewed as a little crazy but possible. Now, we are positioned to see it come to fruition and potentially become the way business is done going forward. The evolution of the staffing industry continues — time to fill has been a big problem for decades, and it’s time to solve the problem for good.