Indeed gets into staffing — for real this time

Indeed gets into staffingIndeed gets into . Sound famil­iar? Of course it does. The com­pa­ny intro­duced Indeed Flex rough­ly five ago (via the acqui­si­tion of UK staffing plat­form Syft) as their for­ay into the world of staffing – specif­i­cal­ly tech staffing. And then it fad­ed from view

At the time, many in the staffing indus­try were both wor­ried and puz­zled. Remem­ber – staffing firms are key buy­ers in the job board world, respon­si­ble for lots of post­ings. They won­dered – was Indeed putting a toe in the water of the staffing world? Or was this a major in the job board­’s plan? As they say, signs were mixed. Yes, Recruit Hold­ings, Indeed’s par­ent com­pa­ny, was a major force in glob­al staffing. Yes, Indeed was known for effec­tive exe­cu­tion of expan­sion efforts. And yes, a move into staffing in many ways would be a log­i­cal way to expand down the hir­ing food chain

But noth­ing of note seemed to hap­pen, and folks in the indus­try – as they tend to do – moved on to wor­ry­ing about the next big threat.

Until last . Indeed – after a dis­mal spring in which the com­pa­ny laid off 8% of its employ­ees and saw rev­enue drop – announced that it was piv­ot­ing to a more staffing-like mod­el. Why? Well, let’s see what the CEO says: “Today, for hires we mea­sure on Indeed, the aver­age take rate is less than 1%,” Indeed CEO Chris Hyams told ana­lysts at the event. “The 1% might seem rea­son­able until we con­sid­er mar­ket pric­ing for tra­di­tion­al hir­ing plat­forms. Direct hire place­ment fees aver­age rough­ly 20%, and exec­u­tive search firms up to 40%.”

In words, it’s all about rev­enue. Nev­er mind that staffing firms have con­tributed might­i­ly to Indeed’s cof­fers. Nev­er mind that Indeed’s exper­i­ment with staffing thus far has been…under­whelm­ing. Nev­er mind that run­ning a staffing firm is quite dif­fer­ent from run­ning a job board. At the end of the day, his­to­ry is repeat­ing itself. Indeed’s first piv­ot, from job boards’ best friend to job boards’ pri­ma­ry com­peti­tor, was suc­cess­ful. Will Indeed’s new piv­ot be anoth­er suc­cess?

I don’t think so, and here’s why: it appears that Indeed wants to keep what­ev­er equi­ty they have by sell­ing this as ‘Indeed Staffing’. They could have acquired an exist­ing staffing brand, such as Kel­ly, and let it run autonomous­ly (just as Indeed runs on its own under the Recruit umbrel­la) – but they seem to be reject­ing that mod­el. Instead, they want to car­ry the brand ‘Indeed the job board’ into the staffing world and turn it into ‘Indeed the staffing com­pa­ny’. His­tor­i­cal­ly, it is very hard to change the per­cep­tion of a brand in your audi­ence’s mind. If you have spent decades the world that Indeed = world’s largest job board, then you may find it hard to say, “oh, wait a sec­ond! We actu­al­ly meant Indeed = world’s largest staffing com­pa­ny“.

Let’s say that it could be done – giv­en enough time and mon­ey. But it is like­ly to fail. An audi­ence’s mind is a stub­born thing – if you own a spe­cif­ic slot (such as ‘big job board’), it’s hard to con­vince them that the slot is actu­al­ly ‘big staffing com­pa­ny’. See any book on posi­tion and brand­ing to dis­cov­er how many com­pa­nies have failed in this tran­si­tion.

But Indeed does­n’t have time and mon­ey. Remem­ber – lay­offs. Failed launched of pay per appli­ca­tion. Drops in rev­enue. The CEO is think­ing this piv­ot will be a mag­ic but­ton that cre­ates lots of extra cash. I sus­pect it will pro­duce…con­fu­sion. Drops in rev­enue. Revolts from exist­ing staffing firm clients. And a major oppor­tu­ni­ty for Indeed’s com­peti­tors.

Indeed gets into staffing. And per­haps into more than they expect­ed.

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