filed in Uncategorized on Jun.08, 2009
Times have been hard. First the banking crisis, then the economic crisis, followed by swine flu crisis, the expenses crisis and now a crisis within government. And the chain of events of the last year or so has affected everyone differently. You hear a lot from friends, read even more in the papers and as for the internet, well everything from the end of the world to saying this is the best thing that could have happened. So the only known that I can depend on is what I have personally heard and seen.
Many friends and former colleagues have suffered. I have lost count of the number made redundant, particularly within my sector, recruitment, and at all levels. I know bankers who have worked 60 hr weeks and have come away with the same bonus as their ‘9-5′ colleagues (nothing), but also bankers who are not doing at all bad thank you. The only consistent thing is the fact that it is an unfair world out there, winners and losers, but there have been many more losers than winners this last year.
Anyway, I have digressed somewhat there. Going back to consistent trends though, something that I have increasingly experienced over the last 12 months is the following responses from prospective clients; ‘it is our new policy not to use agencies and source candidates directly’ or ‘we have recently cut the number of suppliers to a handful of core providers and invested in an in-house recruitment team’.
So what has been driving this? Relying only on anecdotal evidence it seems to be very much driven by cost. But surely this goes against all literature on the advantages of outsourcing? Surely ‘Insourcing’ is brought about to gain more control of the function, not to make it cheaper? Surely a business whose sole purpose it is to attract job-seekers is going to do it more efficiently and effectively than a company who specialise in making computers or making money (or creating wealth as the banks often put it)?
Perhaps in most cases yes, but within recruitment the online job boards have revolutionised the way that agencies look for candidates. And since the agency with the best candidate is in a pretty prime position, it goes without saying how important this has been! When compared to offline advertising (papers and TV) it is very cheap and you have a ready-made target audience who visit the site.
Whilst I do not profess to speak for every agency out there, I know of one very large multi-national agency and many smaller ones who rely almost entirely on the online job sites for their candidates. So what is the problem with that some might say?
Well, they have almost ‘outsourced’ the very function that they sell to their clients i.e. their ability to attract the best candidates. Surely that is a dangerous thing, and surely enough clients have cottoned on to this and thought to themselves ‘why am I being charged so much for what is basically the ‘middle man’’.
So, in the name of cost cutting many businesses have taken on ex-agency staff and are doing themselves what they feel many agencies offer. So is this the future of recruitment, have the online job boards spelt the end of many recruitment organisations?
In a word, No!
I believe the saying ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ spells it out. The best recruiters out there are the best networkers. Simple. And companies should ignore them at their peril, for whilst costs and efficiency are perhaps the biggest driver at present, allowing your company’s HR strategy (and I could bring out many a saying about ‘people being a company’s most important asset’) to be dictated by the most cost-effective method will never ensure the best people are always hired. Or even that the best people are hired the majority of the time.
10, 15, 20 years of networking cannot ever be replaced by an online job board, or even several of them. For all of those businesses who are increasing their reliance on online job boards, ask them if they know how many people find their job online. When you are next out with your friends do a quick straw poll and ask how many of them found their last job on a website – if you think it is a high amount you will probably be very surprised by the result. And at the same time ask them their preferred method of finding a job, I am betting ‘through someone I know’ might well be top and ‘through the internet’ might well be at the bottom. If you were looking for a job would you want to be looking at a computer screen all day, or ‘twittered’ by someone you know (no matter how loosely) asking if you would like to meet up and discuss a potential role.
Do a Google search on literature on the subject and unfortunately it is fairly limited but most seem to suggest 10-20% get a job through direct advertising such as newspapers and online job boards. However, most literature seems to suggest up to 70% is through networking i.e. through someone they know. Now that may have been facilitated by the web (e.g. Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn), but it is not easily accessible for a price on the web i.e. it cannot be bought.
And so this is, I feel what the recruitment industry must not forget. And I know that there are hundreds of agencies out there who have not forgotten this. But equally there are hundreds who maybe have and rely too heavily on a candidate source (and without a candidate you can never make a placement) that is neither under their control, is easily accessible to clients for a relatively cheap price and moreover represent perhaps less than 1 in 5 of all job seekers.
So in a nutshell I see the future of my recruitment world being not in larger offices which feel and look like call centres, but I want my consultants out in the field, meeting clients, meeting candidates and networking to ensure that they are one of the ‘friends’ that up to 70% of jobseekers get their next role through. Otherwise the recruitment industry might suddenly wake up and have its own identity crisis!