The Top Roadblocks to Running a Unified and Efficient Staffing Firm (Report)

The staffing industry might be the most competitive it has ever been, which means that running an efficient and effective organization is more important than ever before. So, how are industry professionals doing when it comes to running a unified, efficient, and streamlined business? To find out, Bullhorn surveyed 1,200+ recruitment industry professionals globally.  Read on to discover the top findings. 

Collaboration Consternation

Running a successful staffing firm usually requires interdepartmental collaboration between sales, recruiting, finance, operations, and leadership. It’s easier to work efficiently when everyone is on the same page and each team member has visibility into the information they need to do their jobs. How do staffing professionals work together? 

Most respondents reported their collaboration as middling to fair. Respondents were asked to rate their interdepartmental collaboration from one to ten. The median and mean score was seven out of ten, with a notable number of respondents reporting extremes on both ends. Roughly one out five professionals gave themselves top marks on team communication and the same amount gave themselves poor marks (six out of ten or lower). 

More Members, More Problems

The most direct—and perhaps, least surprising—predictor of team collaboration is company size. Respondents at firms that employ 10 or fewer sales and recruitment professionals reported the best collaboration by a large margin: 45 percent of these respondents gave themselves at least a nine out of ten on interdepartmental collaboration. But small businesses weren’t immune from collaboration issues: one out of five respondents at small firms still gave themselves failing marks (six out of 10 or lower).

From there, collaboration only gets worse: the bigger the company size, the worse the reported scores, with firms of 250 or more employees giving themselves the worst mean and median scores. Just 14 percent of respondents at the largest companies gave their team elite marks, compared to the 45 percent of respondents at smaller companies.

Different Country, Same Problem

Which region can claim the best recruitment teamwork? None of them—scores were nearly identical among professionals at recruitment agencies across the world. Although there was little difference between regions, North American respondents reported the highest scores, while APAC professionals reported the worst scores. The underlying takeaway: collaboration is a global problem.


"Collaboration is a global problem."

Collaboration Success or Failure: Other Factors

There were several other notable indicators of poor or strong team collaboration. The type of staffing firm plays a huge part. Permanent placement firms gave themselves the highest average score, while temp firms gave themselves the lowest score—and permanent firms were twice as likely as temp firms to give themselves top marks. The volume of placements may be a major factor in the stress placed on team communication.

Another major factor: the respondent’s role at his or her company.  Owners and C-level decision makers were largely bullish on their team’s collaboration. This is partly because these respondents were over-represented in the smallest firms, but high-level executives and owners were most likely to report good collaboration at firms of all sizes.

The people who work under them tell a different story. Recruiters were significantly less likely to report positive collaboration and finance professionals at recruitment agencies were the least likely of any measured demographic to evaluate their collaboration as perfect: just four percent gave their businesses a ten out of ten. 

Finally, it helps to leverage staffing technology. Of the respondents who use Bullhorn, professionals who used partners in Bullhorn’s ecosystem were half as likely to give themselves a one out of ten on collaboration and reported higher collaboration scores on average.

Running Blind

In addition to discovering the way teams work together, we also wanted to discover how firms run their business. Is the process efficient? Is it error-prone? Do teams have all the visibility they need to do what they need to do? The findings were fairly stark: most recruitment professionals report significant room for improvement when it comes to visibility and efficiency.

Which Customers Are Driving Our Profits? I Don’t Know

It’s a well-documented and almost self-evident truth that staffing professionals are big on driving revenue and profitably. It’s a top priority every year for agencies, and it’s usually a key motivator for any major decision. It may be surprising to learn then, that most recruitment professionals have very little insight into which of their clients are most profitable.

We asked all respondents if they had a clear understanding of which clients were most profitable. Half said they did, half said they had only a partial understanding or no understanding at all. 

"Half of staffing professionals have no understanding of which clients are most profitable."

Smaller firms were most likely to report insight into client profitability, possibly because they have fewer clients to manage. When you remove firms with 25 or fewer employees from the data, the numbers become even worse: just 40 percent of staffing firms with 25 or more employees report a clear understanding of which clients are the most profitable, and twenty-five percent say they have no idea at all.

The type of staffing firm made little difference, but job role seems to play a major part. C-level leaders were thirty percent more likely to know which clients were most profitable. While this makes sense, it also suggests a lack of visibility and collaboration on a team level.

Finally, of the respondents who use Bullhorn, those who also leveraged the open ecosystem of marketplace partners were among the most likely of any demographic to have visibility into client performance. Three out of five of these respondents said they had an excellent understanding of this information.

Operational Inefficiencies Abound

The last major room for improvement we discovered pertains to operational efficiency. Respondents report spending a significant amount of time on manual work, specifically on invoicing and bill and pay management. 

One of the biggest culprits of lost time is in the realm of invoicing. According to respondents, forty percent of all invoices require manual edits to meet client specification. More than forty percent of these manual edits take longer than five minutes to complete each time, and ten percent take longer than twenty minutes. For firms with many clients, this time quickly adds up. Making matters worse, larger firms were more likely to report more edits and more time-consuming edits.

Errors were another major source of frustration for respondents. A quarter of all respondents reported errors in pay and/or bill management in the last year. Forty percent of respondents in an operation role reported an error and a third of all respondents at companies with at least 25 employees reported an error. 

Running As One

The numbers are clear: most firms can improve their performance when it comes to running a unified, efficient business. For larger firms, in particular, poor team collaboration may be getting in the way of results. Businesses of all sizes and function don’t have much insight into their clients’ profitability and most agencies are spending too much time on error-prone manual work. Click here to learn more about how your firm can Run As One

Bob McHugh

Senior Manager, Global Content and Research


Bob McHugh is the Senior Manager, Global Content and Research at Bullhorn. Before joining Bullhorn, Bob spent five years at the digital marketing agency, Brafton, as a Social Media and Engagement Manager. He earned his bachelor's degree from Siena College and his MFA in writing from Emerson College.