Casey Miller is the Director of People and Talent for Apex Service Partners, a relatively new and rapidly growing platform of award-winning HVAC, plumbing and electrical service businesses. Apex supports the success of its partner companies by investing heavily in both add-on acquisitions and organic growth initiatives including people development and technology. Here, Casey shares how she identified top priorities for the newly formed TA team and selected the right software and partner to solve for some of their critical challenges.
Apex Service Partners is a new and rapidly growing organization, primarily through acquisition. What challenge does that bring to talent acquisition?
In 2020, we acquired 19 business. So far into 2021, we’ve added another 14 with plans for 11 more before the end of the year. The businesses that become part of the Apex Service Partners platform do not rebrand. The companies are typically well established and family-led—all strengths we can build on. The initial challenge for our team once a new company joins Apex is understanding their process and all of the tools they are using to get talent on board. From there, we determine how we can help and of course bring value and efficiencies that impact the business as a whole.
Our recruiting team of six people is now one year in and I was the inaugural member. Essentially, we function as a hub of innovation. We aim to supplement what may be lacking and uncover new ways to maximize the potential of their talent pool and technology. Hiring skilled workers for essential services like plumbing and heating and cooling is extremely competitive. As you can imagine, sharing and unifying not just strategies, but the right technology that can flex and grow with us to compete for top talent through a strong candidate experience is invaluable.
As the inaugural member of the recruiting team, what was your first priority?
Our ATS is just that, a tool for applicant tracking. However, more than 70% of our work to recruit is pre-application. Out of necessity, Excel spreadsheets were initially created and used to track recruiter activity, email campaign performance, really everything and anything the team could report on in their effort to attract and engage candidates. We crashed more than one giant spreadsheet. I bet there are many people in talent acquisition who can relate! As we rapidly grew, I recognized in order to keep pace with our growing business we needed a Talent CRM.
What were some of the must-haves when you began your evaluation process?
I wanted a partner. With some vendors, we heard even before we got to a demo “your company is too small” or “our CRM doesn’t do that” without any consideration to our company’s growth trajectory or a preliminary conversation around a make it work scenario for our needs. That’s not a partner. Practically speaking though, we needed to turn thousands of our leads into an engaged and nurtured talent pool. We had to get them out of that spreadsheet before it crashed again! I specifically wanted a CRM that would give time back to the recruiters through sophisticated and smart automation. The solution also needed to be intuitive for the team to build and measure the performance of the many landing pages and campaigns we activate across the distinct brands that make up Apex Service Partners easily, efficiently, and consistently.
You just launched GR8 CRM, what was the process like?
The impact of active listening can’t be understated. I am sure that I believe this to be true in part because I’m a recruiter. Listening is so important to my job. GR8 People gave us the ability to step back and focus on our talent pool strategy because they listened and brought knowledge and know-how to the table. When we kicked off the partnership there weren’t limitations set by the technology to achieve Apex’s goals. They approached our challenges by presenting multiple solutions for us to consider and collaborate on.
That level of collaboration set us up for success and was even tested about 48 hours to go-live for our new career site. Changes came through from our executive team that had me concerned about missing our target launch date. Launching the new career site was set to be a major accomplishment for our entire team. GR8 People was so responsive. They understood the importance of the requested changes and the timeline. Let’s just say they went above and beyond to complete everything as requested on schedule. You don’t always see that in business, but you do with a partner.
As you add more businesses to Apex’s platform, how is GR8 CRM helping talent acquisition?
The candidates we are looking for are in high demand—a skilled and experienced tradesperson. Our recruiters are typically looking for individuals across multiple markets and even trades. We’ve found that it can take up to 10 touches with a candidate to convert. On top of that, we also struggled with significant drop off from application to phone screen. As we grew, manually managing that level of communication to find interested, qualified and available talent became an impossible feat. Today, with the automation in GR8 People we can compete through persistence. Our lead journeys include the ability for candidates to self-schedule a phone screen. We’re saving so much time and converting leads faster. Plus, we’re able to easily test different approaches to determine the most effective messaging. After two months of launching our new automated lead journeys, our biggest measurable win has been a nearly 70% increase in prospect volume.
Text recruiting may also help speed communications and convert your in-demand leads to a phone screen faster. Do you have any plans to leverage text messaging as part of your candidate communication strategy?
We have not executed GR8 People’s text recruiting solution yet, but we will. Our team tested some free tools and Google voice numbers to dip our toes into text recruiting last year. It appears to be a winner. Many of our leads are working and text is just a preferred, fast, and easy way to communicate during a busy day. Texting can provide immediate gratification and confirmation for both the candidate and the recruiter. We’re in the process of building lists of candidates who have opted in for text messages. Once we launch, my goal is to measure the impact of text on a marked reduction in time to fill.
What about hiring events or onsite open interview days?
As an essential business, our recruitment strategy needs to be multi-faceted. Hosting open interview days onsite with all safety protocols in place continued throughout the pandemic and remains a key strategy for us. Just like text recruiting, an event solution is built into our CRM. I’m able to invite candidates in our talent pool to hiring events and continue to engage with them through trackable campaigns all in one spot. I am very excited to leverage GR8 CRM’s capabilities as campuses open back up. We’ll finally be able to build dedicated landing pages, campaigns, and a text recruiting strategy to determine which of our 30 target schools, tactics and messaging are our best sources. No more guesswork moving forward.
Speaking of landing pages and campaigns, earlier you noted that an intuitive and easy to use tool to build them was of great importance. Can you elaborate on that?
I am not a creative person! I am analytical and the creative side of the employer brand is intimidating. To start, I’d be lost if I had to create a page design on my own. GR8 People’s page templates ensured that we didn’t start from scratch. After selecting our template designs and confirming image specifications, all any one of us on the team needs to do is drag and drop copy and images into our chosen template accordingly and publish. It’s been extremely easy to pull from our existing resources to build the pages and keep them consistent and professional. GR8 People helped guide us through the setup of our initial pages and now the team is confident when going into the design studio that they can build a page very quickly and beautifully. Since all of our pages for recruiting are now being built in GR8 People, managing, maintaining, and measuring performance in one spot is also proving to be another huge win.