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Magazine Feature: Changing perception

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If the staffing sector wants to be valued as a professional service, it needs to raise entry level standards and train talent instead of just rewarding top billers.

How should staffing firms make the most of their talent and technology to adapt to new workforce trends? This year’s World Leaders in Recruitment Summit was designed around this and related questions that have been debated in PointSix events in 2021 to help senior execs make better strategic decisions for 2022.

After the accelerated adoption of talent tech through the pandemic, where has it delivered the best impact and ROI for recruiters? What new models and services will drive the next phase of tech transformation? With unprecedented demand for experienced recruitment talent, how can recruiters build better employer and partner brands? How are new workforce trends changing client and candidate demands?

In the midst of post-Brexit/COVID-19 skills and talent shortages, what is the role of the recruitment sector in training to fill demand and driving greater diversity and inclusion?
Supported by partners including Bullhorn, Introhive, Odro and SourceBreaker, this year’s Summit brought together over 80 CEOs and senior executives from the UK’s top 500 staffing firms to learn from peers and experts in panel debates and roundtable discussions.

Opening the Summit with his keynote market observations, Mark Cahill, MD of ManpowerGroup UK, highlighted the forces driving both digital and business transformation – from the rapid rise in remote work to an increased focus on ESG metrics, strategic talent management, and platformisation to better optimise data and insight for skills mapping.  “Those companies digitising most are creating the most jobs, with 86% of employers that are automating planning to increase or maintain their headcount,” he observed.

“To adapt to new workforce trends, we need to build, buy, borrow and bridge,” he added.
“Invest in L&D programmes to grow your internal talent pipeline; recruit externally for talent that cannot be built in-house in the required timeframe; cultivate communities of non-permanent workers to complement existing workers; and help people to move up into new roles within your organisation.”

“Staffing firms are in the midst of a transformation similar to that seen by the large professional services companies.” Anthony Genas, Industry Director, Introhive

Adoption & Intergration
The first speaker panel explored drivers for transformation and how to get the best ROI from tech.
Scott Siwicki, Group Client Solutions Director at RGF Staffing UK, explained that they built their own bespoke platform to streamline the process for recruiters and candidates and bring it up to standard for a 21st century recruitment business. It won the TIARA 2021 Tech Transformation Award for its impact on the business. “Adoption was driven by good integration with complementary platforms and training from good partners,” he added.

SourceBreaker was one of these partners. “Training is a vital part of adoption and senior leadership involvement, from setting a clear vision to attending sessions, boosts buy-in,” said CRO Adam Dale. Asked to predict the next big thing for talent tech, he added: “Recruitment is a people business. Tech needs to enable better interaction with candidates by automating the sourcing element.”

This latter point was echoed by Affi Khan, CEO of CPL UK – Technology and Healthcare, who said: “Before deciding what to automate, map your customer journey and determine where the friction points are to better manage the relationship between candidate and client. You have to understand your value add, stay focussed on it and decide if you’re a tech business or a recruitment business.”
This led into the next panel on the trends and models enabling growth for recruiters, with many staffing firms exploring RPO and platforms to generate new sources of revenue.

“Staffing firms are in the midst of a transformation similar to that seen by the large professional services companies,” said Anthony Genas, Industry Director at Introhive. “The staffing firm of the future is one that takes advantage of its relationships, knowledge and database to increase margins by diversifying into other talent related revenue streams like outsourcing and advisory roles. Not just placing people but consulting on best practices.”

Katie Folwell-Davies, Investment Director of Twenty20 Capital, said technology was enhancing the human element in recruitment and its equity value. “I’ve seen a lot of recruiters using PR and terminology to sound more like SaaS businesses to achieve a higher multiple on valuation but there is a massive risk to building your own tech if it’s too bespoke. It’s better to partner with a good provider,” she observed.

Brendon Flood, Executive Director of Staffing 360 Solutions, said recruiters should optimise technology to be better recruiters, not to become recruitment technology companies.
“Tech must be an enabler to everything we do,” he explained. “To grow our business, we needed to use tech to move into markets where we can work remotely. Things that can be commoditised should be but it’s our market insight, candidate knowledge and talent networks that differentiates us.”

If you can’t evidence the strengths in your business, it’s not a strength – whether it’s DE&I or purpose – so authenticity is our focus.” Natasha Crump, ESG Director, Amoria Bond

Commenting on this point, Amoria Bond chairperson Gary Elden said he had seen various tech players trying to disrupt recruitment but failing to build a big enough pool of candidates. “Whoever controls the candidates, controls the market,” he said.

Saira Demmer, CEO of SF Recruitment, said the role of technology hadn’t changed much in simply eliminating any tasks or admin that wastes consultant time. However, having recently announced a new employee ownership model for her business, she felt that it had a new role to play. “We want our people to be more autonomous masters of their destiny, working how and where they want to, so technology needs to support their learning, coaching and leadership development as well as their productivity and wellbeing,” she explained.

Bullhorn’s Account Director, Stuart Johnson, observed that the two key tech trends playing out are automation and self-service. “Twelve months ago, our customers were running 2 million automations a month through our technology. It’s 2 million a day. Technology advances have changed customer expectations around self-service. Customers now want a Netflix experience, where relevant roles and opportunities are served up to them when they are ready through an app. Broadly speaking, recruitment is still offering a Blockbuster experience where the onus is on the customer to sift through a warehouse of opportunity themselves.”

TA Challenges
The second half of the Summit looked at the talent challenges facing recruiters and their clients. TALiNT Partners Employer Programme Director, Debra Sparshott, set the scene with a summary of insights from the latest Employer Benchmark Survey.

“The priorities for corporate employers and TA teams are finding an easy talent mapping tool so they know what they have and gaps they need to fill; tapping into wider and deeper market knowledge to find the right candidates; creating more emotional engagement with candidates to reduce the frequency of drop-outs; and balancing their employer and customer brand,”

Debra explained. “DE&I is central to their workforce strategy, but they know they need help from their recruitment partners on this as well.” But how are recruiters building their own employer and partner brands at a time when they’re competing for recruitment talent?


A panel on this topic kicked off with Tim Cook, Group CEO of nGage Recruitment, asked why the recruitment industry has a bad reputation for attrition. “The churn tends to be at the front end; if it’s too easy to join a recruitment business, it’s easy to leave,” he said. “We need to set a professional services benchmark to attract the right people, then pay the right money and give the right training to develop them so they can grow a division, not just a desk.”

Is the Great Resignation impacting recruitment? “It’s a fact and we call it the Great Reshuffle,” said Adam Hawkins, Head of Staffing EMEA & LATAM at LinkedIn. “People are thinking carefully about their next move and have different expectations of what they’re looking for from work since the pandemic. Our latest survey data found that 46% of consultants are considering a change of role, and 19% want it to align with their personal purpose. When recruiters, or young people coming into industry, are looking for jobs today they want to understand a company’s flexible working policy, its culture and values, and its approach to diversity and inclusion. These are all factors contributing to people’s career decisions and it’s giving firms pause for thought.”

Amoria Bond defended its Best Recruitment Company to Work For title for a second year at the 2021 TIARA Recruitment Awards for its 12-times return on investment in training and development. “If you can’t evidence the strengths in your business, it’s not a strength– whether it’s DE&I or purpose – so authenticity is our focus,” explained Natasha Crump, Amoria Bond’s ESG Director. “Employees are the best brand ambassadors for the business, so we have showed them how to build authentic personal brands that highlight our strengths – which has improved D&I and attracted more clients and candidates.”

“We need to set a professional services benchmark to attract the right
people, then pay the right money and give the right training to develop them so they can grow a division, not just a desk.” Tim Cook, Group CEO, nGage Recruitment

Explaining the role of video in this, Dougie Loan, CRO of Odro, said: “Video helps to foster a higher level of trust with a more authentic personal brand, and we’ve seen this with our own business. Employee generated content has attracted 39 of the 48 people working at Odro.”
The final panel offered some predictions on workforce trends and how recruiters
should adapt.

“Workers will increasingly look for meaning, equity and flexibility from employers,” said workforce futurist Andrew Spence, who added that side hustles will become more prevalent for those seeking the control, autonomy, and money they are not getting from their day job.
In order to deliver the right candidates for the right roles, recruiters will need to invest in their candidate and contractor communities.

Commenting on its own lifetime candidate initiative, Gattaca CEO Kevin Freeguard said:
“We have focused on building trusted relationships with candidates to nurture and develop their careers. Contractors work for us for decades because we care about their progression.”
Mike Ruddle, CCO of NHS Professionals, said the candidate knowledge from partner agencies and their expertise in nurturing them into new NHS roles was vital through the pandemic. He also saw the impact of training, which is a key priority for 2022. “If we are to build long-term relationships with our contingent workers we need to invest in their training and development just as we would for our own employees.”

The Summit closed with an emotional keynote from Steve Ingham, CEO of PageGroup, who talked about how his perspective on disability – as an employer and a recruiter – changed after a skiing accident left him paralysed.

“Disability is an important part of the diversity debate and there is an opportunity to unlock a largely ignored workforce to address talent shortages,” he said. “We need to focus on the ability and resilience of people who have overcome physical and mental health challenges – and empower people to be more open about them – to make organisations more inclusive.”

Just as the recruitment sector needs to improve the way it’s perceived – so it’s recognised and valued as a professional service – it must be a more authentic and inspirational champion
of inclusivity.

Recruitment in Numbers

• £36.4bn The total turnover of UK’s top 500 recruiters in 2020 compared to£40.8bn in 2019 (TALiNT International Recruitment Power List 2021)
• US$20.8bn The global RPO revenue forecast in 2027, after 18.5% CAGR from 2020-27 (Grand View Research)
• 59% Of employees were hired from previous recruiting roles, up from 33% in 2020 (LinkedIn

View the full magazine here: https://library.myebook.com/RI/talint-international-november-2021/3722/

 

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