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It seems that in staffing, the threats to agencies’ success — both real and perceived — are always changing. A new player enters the space looking to use technology as a way to compete in the labor market. First, it was the VMS. Recently, we had Uber Works, which, as it turns out, is shuttering much of its operation this year. Now, we have Indeed Flex. But if you think Indeed Flex will go the way of Uber Works, think again. Indeed Flex is not the “new kid on the block” and is more than capable of changing the entire industry.

Simply put, Indeed Flex is a labor marketplace that connects workers directly with employers through a mobile app, much like Uber Works intended to. It focuses on providing a better candidate experience and more flexibility (hence the name). Indeed Flex, however, is a very different kind of competitor to staffing agencies — one you should be paying attention to. Here’s why:

You’ve been feeding them your data for years. Most agencies have a complicated relationship with Indeed. It’s been getting harder and more expensive to effectively post roles while at the same time becoming a painfully necessary element of most agencies’ sourcing strategies. And the more your staffing firm uses it, the more data Indeed is collecting from you about your jobs, your candidates and your processes. In short, Indeed is sitting on top of a gold mine of data it can use to effectively target candidates and automate processes.

They’ve invested in technology. This is arguably the only area in which Uber had equal, maybe superior, footing than Indeed. Uber is a dominant force in mobile marketplace technology. It pulled off one of the most successful industry disruptions in history by leveraging the convenience of mobile technology, and is doing it really, really well.

But Indeed isn’t starting from scratch, either. Instead of building its own mobile platform, it bought the leading on-demand staffing technology in the UK — Syft, which it has now brought it to the US as Indeed Flex.

And this particular technology acquisition begs an important question: If the player with the most candidate behavioral data in the staffing industry is prioritizing the mobile experience with native apps, will it become table stakes in the industry? Will candidates (and clients) expect this kind of experience moving forward and flee to platforms that offer it?

They’ve chosen the right time. Uber chose to enter the staffing industry in a very specific vertical at a time that would prove catastrophic — event staffing on the cusp of a global pandemic. This meant its experiment couldn’t remain viable long enough to gain a defensible foothold.

Indeed, however, timed its entrance perfectly. It is launching with warehouse, cleaning and retail work during a time when those services are more in demand than ever. But it’s also a time that necessitates a level of flexibility not accounted for in a lot of traditional agencies’ workflows. And a time when people are turning to completely remote processes and different kinds of technology to adapt and stay safe.

Indeed knows the industry. For many years I’ve heard agencies claim that new tech entrants won’t win because they don’t have the same institutional knowledge as agencies — about compliance, for example. And I do still believe that knowledge is an important moat. But Indeed isn’t new to staffing like Uber was. Indeed Flex is owned by Recruit Holdings, which also owns staffing agencies across the world, giving Indeed access to all the knowledge and networks that make the staffing industry imperative.

While Indeed Flex does represent a legitimate threat to the industry, I believe staffing agencies already have what they need to compete — the relationships that matter. But relationships need nurturing, and one way to develop and maintain those relationships is via technologies that offload some of the more repetitive tasks to free up your recruiters to provide the personal touch that will keep candidates engaged.

To avoid going the way of Blockbuster, Kodak, and the horse and buggy, it’s important to understand what this threat is signaling in the industry. It’s time to combine these relationships with the right technology and create the best experience possible to breed loyalty before it’s too late.

You can read more of our thoughts on this topic on our blog.