Director of Experience and Technology Solutions, Aerotek
Kelly Van Aken is the Director of Experience and Technology Solutions at Aerotek, a leading provider of recruiting and staffing services. In this role, Kelly is responsible for defining the vision and strategy for how Aerotek engages with their clients and contract employees. In addition, she defines the strategies for technology solutions that support both internal and external customers. Kelly is also responsible for Aerotek’s job board technology solutions.
RIX recently spoke to Kelly Van Aken, director of experience and technology solutions at Aerotek about the importance of candidate and contractor experience. Kelly shares how Aerotek measures their own performance against engagement goals and how contractors are becoming more empowered in their careers.
Q: What initiatives has Aerotek undertaken to explore the contractor experience? What were the driving factors behind the company’s willingness to invest financial and personnel resources into this topic?
A: At Aerotek, we place the highest priority on understanding and fulfilling the needs of our contract employees. We say “our people are everything” and we make sure we’re demonstrating that every day, holding ourselves accountable to deliver on our customers’ needs. Our success depends largely on how well we’re satisfying the wants and needs of our talent.
To validate our performance, we participate in Inavero’s Best of Staffing, which ranks staffing companies solely on the direct feedback of their customers. That process helped us identify some opportunities to provide an even better experience for our customers, and we’re honored with the positive response from more than 9,000 clients and 33,000 contract employees in the most recent survey. For the past two years, we’ve received the Best of Staffing designation for both client and contract employees, a designation achieved by less than two percent of all staffing companies in North America.
Q: You’ve said that engagement has been your own focus area for the last year or so. Is there a possible engagement-related career path for the industry?
A: I can’t think of anything more important to our business than developing meaningful engagements with our external customers. Our employees in the field are particularly well-positioned to understand the ambitions, challenges and other issues our contract employees face, and to address them on an ongoing basis. At the same time, we have a number of other roles in a variety of departments focused on supporting customer engagement — research, technology solutions, user experience and digital marketing. All these teams help to drive important, multi-dimensional interactions with our customers.
Q: What is the most surprising thing you uncovered in your research?
A: That contract employees are becoming more empowered than we’ve seen in the past — they take ownership of their careers. Because of this, we’ve seen an opportunity to support them in managing their own future path and enhancing their workplace experience, providing them the support and tools to get where they want to be. Essentially, to be their partner.
Q: How about automation? How can staffing firms reduce labor-intensive follow-up work while promoting engagement?
A: We recently launched an online tool that allows our contract employees to access their W-2’s, pay stubs and other information. For our contract employees, it’s a quick way to access and manage their employment data any time of day. The best part is that we can leverage automation to handle routine tasks and free up our internal employees to do what they do best — build relationships and focus on helping our contract employees advance their careers.
Q: Why is it important to build loyalty with placed candidates? How would you rate the staffing industry as a whole in their ability to do so?
A: Job seekers can choose different options — direct hire or affiliating with one or more staffing agencies. This reality challenges us in the industry to identify and strategize ways to increase the value we provide and to build loyalty so that we become their employer of choice. At Aerotek, this is reflected through our focus on networking, strategic career planning and building long-term relationships rather than “one and done.” This helps us retain top talent even as they end one assignment and move to the next. Prioritizing the employee experience is at the heart of everything we do.
Q: Why do you think so many staffing companies overlook contractor satisfaction? Is it a structural issue or a cultural one?
A: Although every organization has business goals to meet, too often that has led them to build their processes on their internal needs, which may or may not work for their customers. At the end of the day, though, the business is really built on how well we satisfy the wants and needs of our customers. So I think more and more companies are now realizing the benefits of letting their customers, or in our case, our contract employers, take the lead.