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The Power of People: Top Takeaways from Art Papas’ Engage Keynote

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Professionals in the staffing and recruiting industry have an incredibly important role. You transform lives every day. So does the word “staffing” actually best describe the important and very powerful work you really do?

The theme at Engage 2018 this year is all about the power of people, and Bullhorn CEO and founder Art Papas’ keynote was about the power of words. He reminded the audience that people have ruined their careers by choosing the wrong words to speak (or tweet). But words can also work to your advantage if you choose the right ones.

For example, not many people are familiar with the name Paul Hewson, but he goes by another name that you’ll probably know: Bono.

Anyone know Stefani Germanotta? Lady Gaga is much better. “You get the point,” he said. “Labels do matter, but not just for superstars; they matter for companies, too.”

When you need to do a web search, do you use the BackRub search engine? That was Google’s original name.

“What do you do for a living?”

Words matter in the staffing industry, too. When you’re at a cocktail party and someone asks what you do for a living, it’s usually right after they’ve told you that they cure cancer or something else very impressive, he joked. If you reply that you work in staffing, you might see them hesitate because they don’t know what it is or they think it sounds mundane. Companies need staff and you provide it, but that’s not really what you do — what you do is so much more complex, and Papas doesn’t think the word “staffing” does it justice.

“I talk to people who say they didn’t get into staffing as a career path but now that they’re doing it, they love it,” Papas said. “They love changing someone’s life for the better, but does the word ‘staffing’ or ‘recruiting’ capture the power of what you do?”

Even people who work in this industry don’t agree on the best descriptor. The American Staffing Association surveyed members on the best descriptor for the industry. The results were all over the map:

  • Staffing and recruiting industry: 37%
  • Employment services industry: 26%
  • Job placement industry: 26%
  • Staffing industry: 20%
  • Recruiting and hiring industry: 17%
  • Workforce solutions industry: 15%

Back in 2007, the staffing company Labor Ready changed its name to TrueBlue (the people company). TrueBlue CIO Carole McCluskey came on stage to explain the name change: “We changed our name because we went beyond just staffing to create solutions for people.”

McCluskey said staffing and recruiting firms are all about people, and recruiters hear stories every day about how they’ve changed someone’s life. “Think about someone who couldn’t put food on their table, and how we were able to change that,” McCluskey said. “Last year, we put almost a million people to work — some for a day, some for a week, and some were able to secure permanent work.”

There’s no question that the staffing industry serves an important and powerful cause. “I want the industry to be known for the powerful service it provides society. Also, technology is having a big impact on the way the industry functions — advancements in tech are changing the way we work and the mundane tasks we do. The industry is going to elevate because of technology.”

Art concluded his keynote challenging the audience at Engage Boston to weigh in and vote on how they’d answer the question, “What do you do for a living?” Workflow consulting? Employee consulting? HR solutions? Something else?

As Art says, “You’re in a position to change what you call yourself. It will take a while, but those labels will stick.” Ultimately, the power is in your hands. When someone asks what you do for a living, what will you say?


Want more Engage content?  Read our recap of day one for more insights from Engage 2018.