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The BlueSky Think Tank Series - Physician Heal Thyself May15

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The BlueSky Think Tank Series - Physician Heal Thyself May15

  1. 1. Physician Heal Thyself? The Recruitment Sector Employer Brand Challenge A BlueSky PR Think Tank Report
  2. 2. Introduction Ask any recruitment firm what their biggest barrier to growth is and you can bet your bottom dollar the answer will be increasing and retaining headcount. In fact according to the 2014 APSCo/Deloitte Recruitment Index, 59% of recruitment firms surveyed highlighted accessing the right talent to cope with growth as their number one challenge. And while recruitment firms are experts in hiring talent for their clients, they are historically less successful at recruiting for themselves. The findings presented here are the results of a think tank which brought together a number of senior managers and directors responsible for marketing, internal recruitment and the employer brand to discuss the challenges of developing that all important employee value proposition. The Delegates  Jodie Finn – Associate Director – Venn Group  Martin Gooden – Director – Global Solutions  Lucinda Moores – Practice Director – VMA Group  Adam Nicoll – Head of Marketing – Five Ten Group  Julie Pratten – Internal Recruitment Manager – ARM  Max Richardson – Digital Marketing Manager – Rethink Group  Sarah Roebuck – Marketing Manager – Eames Consulting Group  Roger Tweedy – Head of Communications – APSCo  Kathy Walker – Marketing Manager – McGregor Boyall  Tenille Woodford – Group Marketing Manager – Human Capital Investment Group The Themes:  Why is the recruitment sector historically so bad at hiring its own talent?  What are recruitment consultancies doing to develop an EVP?  Are internal recruiters working together with marketing – and should they? The Facilitator  Tracey Barrett – Managing Director – BlueSky PR
  3. 3. Recruitment as a career of choice “We can’t get graduates in and tell them they are going to be HR consultants when in fact we want them to be sales people – and do what is actually a pretty tough job.” While the trade body APSCo is doing a lot of work to promote recruitment as a career of choice through its undergraduate paid intern scheme, it seems that the sector is still a long way from being regarded as a true profession. One of the key points that came out of the discussion was that we need to be selling the job for what it is rather than trying to dress it up into something it isn’t. As one delegate put it: “We can’t get graduates in and tell them they are going to be HR consultants when in fact we want them to be sales people – and do what is actually a pretty tough job.” Clearly then, the sector still has some work to do on its image – an image that sees many at entry level viewing recruitment as a role they can do for a few years before moving on to a ‘proper job’. So why is it that graduates and ‘first jobbers’ see sectors such as accountancy and law as more credible career choices than recruitment? As one delegate put it : “If you join an accountancy or law firm then what you will be doing every day is actually quite similar to what you may have done in your degree – some project work and report writing, for example. Recruitment isn’t about that – it’s about being on the phone for much of the day – no-one will have experienced that on any degree course!” And while many round the table agreed that getting three or four years good billings from a trainee before they lose them to another sector isn’t all bad – developing a professional career path where promotions can come from within is what is really needed. It’s sales – but not as we know it! So although there was general agreement that recruitment is largely about sales, the people element makes it unlike any other sales role. As one delegate recalled: “The first time I ever had a conversation about going into recruitment, the rec to rec consultant said to me: ‘It’s dealing with people – and they let you down all the time – are you absolutely sure?’” This ‘warts and all’ approach, it seems, is key to ensuring the authenticity of the ‘sell’ when interviewing. Consequently, emphasising the importance of resilience is seen as vital. There was general consensus that any internal recruiters really need to have done the job themselves. “There is no point in selling a dream,” explained one internal recruiter. “You have to explain that their first year will be the hardest year of their career. One week you can be on the crest of a wave and the next you can crash and burn – we call it the ‘champagne and razorblades’ effect!” There also seems to be too many recruitment firms that hire trainees and then just leave them to it. One firm explained how its internal recruitment function sits between the line manager and HR for a new recruit’s first twelve months. In essence, the internal recruitment function is responsible for not just sourcing and attraction – but for successful on-boarding too.
  4. 4. Rules of Engagement “How many recruiters employ someone whose job it is just to make sure people do well? The general attitude in recruitment seems to be as long as we do our numbers it doesn’t really matter what our churn rate is.” While recruitment firms are often quick to advise clients on employee attraction and engagement strategies, this is again an area in which many consultancies fall down. This appears to come down to the emphasis the firm places on internal hiring and employee engagement policies. One delegate cited its own firm’s Director of Talent who sits on the board and compared that with her previous organisation where no-one had a real emphasis on the sourcing of ‘new blood’. It is clear that this has to come from the top and if the Board sees sales first and everything else as secondary then it is going to be an uphill battle. As one delegate put it: “How many recruiters employ someone whose job it is just to make sure people do well? If you went to any major brand they would have teams of people doing just that – but crucially they would also know what their failure rate was. Very few recruitment firms keep those figures – because it’s not somebody’s job. The general attitude in recruitment seems to be as long as we do our numbers it doesn’t really matter what our churn rate is.” Looking at the opposite end of the spectrum – is there a danger in being too engaged and can a company culture become all consuming? One company spoke of a team who were very close knit both at work and socially – they would hang out at the weekend – go to the pub for drinks together and were very collaborative, team focussed and supportive. However, just one of those team members leaving changed the whole dynamic. The remaining consultants were not used to operating in an environment without the whole team – it caused a domino effect and ultimately the loss of the entire division. So while loyalty to the team can be applauded, ultimately individuals have to feel engaged by the firm and the brand – not just their immediate colleagues. The candidate experience Anecdotal evidence tells us that the reason most candidates do not join a recruitment consultancy is down to the fact that many still do not have a robust, fit for purpose recruitment process – which is pretty poor given what the sector specialises in! “I’ve interviewed candidates who have had dire experiences with other recruiters,” said one delegate. “Often there are people involved in the process that shouldn’t be. Ultimately an experienced recruiter wants the initial conversation to be with the person they will be reporting to. They are happy to have an open and informal discussion but then they don’t want to be brought back to have exactly the same discussion with someone else. We have to remember that we are selling as well as buying.”
  5. 5. Hold on tight! “We tend to see recruiters who don’t bill as failures - but perhaps we should be looking at the skills they do have – rather than the ones that they don’t and capturing that information.” So how do you keep hold of your best talent and what retention techniques have worked best for recruiters? Internal mobility programmes for those with multi locations and multiple brands were seen as a useful way of keeping the job ‘fresh’ for recruits but the feeling was that these could only really work for large organisations. It can also have its drawbacks: “If you have worked in a larger corporate London HQ and move overseas, you may find yourself in a three person office the size of a large wardrobe,” explained one delegate. “That’s a big sea change!” There is also the issue of keeping hold of really good people by looking at the different roles they can do. “We tend to see recruiters who don’t bill as failures - but perhaps we should be looking at the skills they do have – rather than the ones that they don’t and capturing that information.” An example was cited of a recruiter who had been transferred into the marketing team and has been very successful. Looking at skills and competencies rather than just money on the board could mean the difference between losing a potentially exceptional talent– and keeping that person by harnessing their skills in a different way. The one size fits all approach to benefits packages was also seen as an issue. One firm explained how they had rolled out a flexible ‘menu’ of benefits designed to suit a particular lifestyle which has gone down extremely well. “A gym membership might suit some – while for others childcare or more family oriented benefits may be more suitable.” The Generation Gap And what of age? There is no doubt that recruitment is perceived as a young industry – but, according to the people around the table, it’s about time firms woke up to the fact that there are many industry experts out there – experts who have a great network – and who could make good recruiters. “When is someone going to say – well, he is 45 and he’s never done recruitment before but we’re going to give him a go!” We’re now in an era where there may be as many as five different generations in the workforce – and that’s a real engagement challenge. There is also a perception problem. Many firms, when looking at a recruitment consultant in their thirties, may question why that person is still only a consultant. “The accepted view is that if they are any good they will have been promoted by now – we need to reach a point where big billers don’t get promoted just because they are big billers – because often they make the very worst people managers,” said one delegate.
  6. 6. “Promotion criteria can’t just be based on billing – and that’s a difficult issue for the industry to face up to.” There was total consensus around the table that if someone wants to bill – they should just be allowed to get on with it without feeling that they need to be striving for that next step on the promotion ladder. As a sector, we shouldn’t assume that everyone wants to go on a management programme. The definition of what success looks like will differ from person to person. The key is to know what the motivators are. One firm outlined its model of having managers who are sector experts so that they can impart their knowledge onto other people while others may be relationship or account managers monitoring and improving clients’ service levels. “Promotion criteria can’t just be based on billing – and that’s a difficult issue for the industry to face up to.” The question of flexible working sparked much debate. There is a perception in some firms that it is difficult to have a family, work flexibly and still be successful in recruitment which results in a leak of very able and successful women who feel that they will be expected to be in five days a week. This has led APSCo to partner with Women in Recruitment to develop a programme which will provide training, professional development and networking opportunities for women in recruitment as well as toolkits for business leaders to encourage best practice. And this isn’t just a gender issue – there is also plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that men would also welcome the opportunity to work more flexibly, but the opportunities are far from endemic. Outcomes not outputs “I know at least 15 senior male and female consultants - huge billers – who work on their own, for themselves, at home because they want the flexibility and couldn’t get it from their employer” Many of the delegates felt that this lack of appetite for flexible working was down to a trust issue and that actually it was because many recruitment firms are often measuring the wrong metrics. “I have seen below par consultants hitting their CVs per week and interviews per week and 150 marketing calls – but their net fee income can be through the floor!” So are some of our recruitment firms being run by people stuck in 1987 who want to preside over an eighties type trading floor? It seems that, unfortunately, sometimes the answer is yes. The feeling around the table was that if someone is working flexibly – or working from home and billing well then what’s the problem? “I know at least 15 senior male and female consultants - huge billers – who work on their own, for themselves, at home because they want the flexibility and couldn’t get it from their employer” said one delegate. “That’s stellar talent that has been lost by unenlightened firms”. So clearly then, if consultants can work from 10-2 and bill better than someone who is working 9- 5 then there are some fairly big questions to be asked about the nature of how a recruitment office is run.
  7. 7. Never darken my door again… So how does the recruitment sector deal with its leavers? Historically those who leave to join other firms have often been regarded as massive traitors – and in some firms this is still very much the case. One delegate cited the case of a recruitment consultant she was trying to hire who received a very bad reference from a previous employer – who then tried to hire that person back! However, there are signs that this is changing and there are some interesting examples of more positive approaches to those that choose to leave. From profiling leavers who have started their own business to showcase how they grow entrepreneurs through to keeping an open channel - and an open door – to leavers in case they ever want to come back! And whereas in London it’s fairly rare for someone to return to a previous employer, it’s much more prevalent in the regions. This is driven partly because there is less choice but partly because the culture of regional offices differs from London headquarters where companies may be owned and run by a CEO who takes it as a personal insult if someone leaves. The employer brand – HR or Marketing? It would be great if there was already some collateral out there which has done a pre-sales job for me” Taking into account then, the myriad of challenges we face to source, attract, recruit and retain talent into the recruitment sector, how much work is going into developing the employer brand –and who should own it? The consensus, not surprisingly, was that it needs to be a partnership. While an employer brand and culture may be developed with a senior management team – it is down to the marketing department to make sure it is communicated effectively to all stakeholders. “I don’t want to spend ages having to try and explain and sell the employer brand – it would be great if there was already some collateral out there which has done a pre-sales job for me” said one delegate. There was however a note of caution in that it shouldn’t be up to the marketing specialist to make the first move in direct engagement – potential recruits want to be talking to the people they will be working with – not the marketing department. There was also a frustration around the table that we don’t tell enough good stories to encourage people into the sector. “There aren’t many industries where you can start at the bottom – with no real qualifications – and work your way up to the very top – we need to be shouting about that more.” However, there was also a feeling that the emphasis is often on the client/candidate brand and that collateral showcasing the company as a great workplace often gets put to the bottom of the list. Others shared their models of using a multi-channel approach – particularly with social media such as using Facebook as an alternative to a career site to showcase what it is like to work there. There was also agreement that there should be a ‘warts and all’ approach to give authenticity . “After all – some days are great – some are really crap – it’s back to the old champagne and razorblades allusion.”
  8. 8. The in-house dilemma “If you work for a consultancy which has brands that recruit finance or marketing or IT then you are naturally expected to use your own people to source your own talent.” But it’s not just front line recruiters who cause hiring headaches. There is also the support area challenge of sourcing good marketing, IT or finance talent. And often the biggest barrier to this is the recruitment consultants themselves. As one delegate explained: “If you work for a consultancy which has brands that recruit finance or marketing or IT then you are naturally expected to use your own people to source your own talent. But because they are also expected to deliver internally at a reduced rate then you’re never going to get presented with the best candidates because the consultant knows they can place that person elsewhere and make more money!” Clearly then there is a case for not having a fee differential between an internal and external client. Often recruiters will bemoan the PSL agreement that pushes down the agency’s rate arguing that there is no incentive to deliver the very best candidate. Perhaps they should look a little closer to home! As one delegate put it: “We spend all our time persuading external clients to pay a decent rate and then castrate our own businesses!” A profession of the future? “I am now beginning to see recruiters whose parents were also recruiters – this second generation consultant trend makes me feel that we are on the way to becoming recognised as a profession.” As a sector though, we often underrate the role we play – finding someone the right job is really important and we need to be proud of it. While the UK may be the most mature recruitment market, we are still ever so slightly apologetic about the job we do. However, as one delegate explained: “I am now beginning to see recruiters whose parents were also recruiters – this second generation consultant trend makes me feel that we are on the way to becoming recognised as a profession.” And while this is obviously good news, there was a feeling that we need to be engaging with potential talent at a much earlier age. “At school, kids will understand what a lawyer or an accountant or a teacher is – most won’t have a clue what a recruitment consultant is unless there is someone within the family employed in the sector – and that needs to change.”
  9. 9. Conclusions Ultimately the employer brand has to be owned by the CEO – and has to filter down from the top encompassing the culture and values of the particular firm. We are still unfortunately in a sector where, in some firms, bad behaviour will be tolerated if the billings are high enough and that breeds a culture that no-one really wants to be part of. Recruitment processes need to be well thought out and fit for purpose so that the candidate experience is one that we can hold up to our clients as an example of best practice. The employer brand needs to be developed to not only paint a realistic picture of what the role of a recruiter is – but also highlight the different career paths available – and crucially that brand has to be marketed not only to the talent of today – but also the talent of tomorrow. It’s a huge journey – but also a massive opportunity - to become the profession that we deserve to be. Other BlueSky Think Tank Reports – to receive a copy, please email tracey@bluesky- pr.com or visit www.bluesky-pr.com/resources Today’s Recruitment Sector – Challenges & Opportunities:  The impact of RPO models on the recruitment sector  The impact of the development of in house resourcing teams  The globalisation of business and talent  The increasing use of technology and social media The Challenge of Marketing in Today’s Recruitment Sector:  In a marketplace where ostensibly we all do the same thing how do we differentiate ourselves  How is marketing really perceived in the recruitment sector  How can marketing departments demonstrate ROI  How are we managing the different routes to market

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