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Four days of conferencing is full on. It’s not just the formal sessions, it’s the networking
and socialising that barely gives you a moment to stop and think about and
process what you have heard.


The contrast between the two conferences was huge.


For the first two days I was mainly surrounded by corporate recruitment and procurement
types, hearing about the ways in which companies are sourcing and managing
their contingent workforce. The following two days were spent amongst
Australian and NZ recruitment agency owners and managers as we heard from various
experts on leadership.


If you wanted any evidence that the recruitment industry globally is struggling, you
only needed to pay attention to the stats that ATC Conference Chairperson,
Matthew Rodger (MD, Contingent Workforce Solutions, Alexander Mann Solutions)
showed us on the first morning:


2008 revenue USD$ billions
2012 revenue USD$ billions
% Change
+ 2.6
+ 0.4
Kelly Services


These figures are the result of three very significant changes to the recruitment


1. The
rise and rise of LinkedIn

2. The
growth of internal recruitment teams and RPO providers

3. The
impact of global talent marketplace communities, such as Freelancer, Guru,
eLance etc

Although all three of these changes have been apparent for at least the last five years, the
recruitment industry as a whole has been very slow to react. The traditional
recruitment agency business model of last century (non-exclusive jobs,
success-only temp and perm income streams services by salaried employees) is
still the predominant model some thirteen years into the new century.


Undoubtedly the clients of recruitment agencies want the following:


(a) Higher quality

(b) Delivered faster

(c) At a low (or lower) price

(d) With minimal risk

(e) And evidence   that
each of (a) to (d) above is occurring 

Clients have
always wanted (a) and (b); nothing’s changed there.


The focus on
(c) has come about because of the perceived lower cost of DIY


The focus on
(d) has occurred due to increased legislative obligation on employers with
respect to such workplace issues as OH&S, anti-discrimination,
and employment status.


The focus on
(e) is the result of both human resource and recruitment departments becoming
far more accountable as well as the involvement of both the finance and
procurement departments in ensuring a company’s recruitment
are both accountable and cost-effective.


From all of
this I offer you the following four conclusions from my four days of
conferencing that I see will be very important in having the future of
recruitment agencies being one of growth and prosperity rather than of struggle
and contraction:


1)      Technology
If you still have piles of manual resumes on desks and
you wade through these to find candidates for jobs then I would advise you to
pack up now and find something else to do. The importance of being able to find
assessed and available candidates within seconds is the competitive advantage for
a vast majority of the recruitment industry and unless you have a full book of
retained client work you need to get on top of this NOW.

As Merrill Skyring  , Head of Strategic Sourcing at Deloitte   said
at the ATC conference when giving her views on the various suppliers in the
contingent workforce space; ‘those with the best technology will win the
most business’.

2)      Connectedness
van Stokrom  ,
CEO of DFP Recruitment
spoke at the RCSA Conference about the
importance of connecting with the people within his business and continually
checking the ‘temperature’ of company morale via technology and personal visits
from company executives.

Robert saw it as critical that his employees saw their job as important and
they were doing it within a company that cared about them as individuals. In a
job as tough as agency recruitment, the culture created by the company’s
leaders is a core part of long term success.

DFP Recruitment’s success in growing their business as well as being the most
recent recipient of the RCSA’s Corporate Social Responsibility Award
demonstrates that commercial success need not be sacrificed in the pursuit of
creating a caring place of work.

3)      Market niche/Business model/remuneration
Rob Davidson  , Co-founder and Director of
Growth at Davidson Recruitment,
gave a fascinating talk on the first day of the RCSA Conference, sharing his
journey as a recruitment executive unshackled from operational responsibility
and free to explore how his company might grow.

Rob shared how Davidson had expanded beyond recruitment services and how they
are focused on increased specialisation of their recruiters to ensure they have
deep and acknowledged expertise
to position each person as a recruiter and   a consultant. Rob also shared
how Davidson are changing their remuneration model based on what Rob had
learned from one of Europe’s most successful recruitment entrepreneurs, Miles Hunt.

Simply put, it’s about bringing smart, entrepreneurial recruiters and other professional
consultants into an equity or profit model sooner rather than later (or never).
This model of specialisation and reward is very similar to the one that is
driving the growth plans of Kennedy
the brainchild of one of Australia’s most successful
recruitment entrepreneurs, Stuart Freeman  . When two of our industry’s
very smart owners start doing something different, you would do well to pay
attention and learn.

4)      Don’t just be better, be different
Former Wallaby captain and entrepreneur, John Eales
shared some excellent examples of what he has learned from his time in
professional sport and business. The example that stuck most in my head was the
one of the differing fortunes of Kodak and Fuji.

Last century Fuji invested heavily in R&D while Kodak focused on film. As
John concluded ‘Kodak became better at what they did but it was at something
that was ultimately less relevant’

Kodak focused on the market as it was while Fuji focused on how the market
might be in the future. Fuji’s strategy of diversification enabled it to
continue to be a relevant player in the digital photographic age while Kodak
filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy early in January, 2012.

As I shared earlier, Rob Davidson has freed his time to work on   his
business, not in   his business. Smart recruitment agency owners were
present at one or both conferences to do just that. The other owners who
thought about attending, and ultimately didn’t attend, are those stuck in the
paradigm of getting better at what they do now, or worse, just doing more of
what they do now. 

In my mind,
it’s absolutely crystal clear that the recruitment industry in this country is
now starting to split based on the tough decisions (or lack of them) made by
owners. The winners haven’t all seen all the benefits of their tough decisions,
yet and all the losers haven’t felt significant pain, yet.


Nobody rings
a bell to signify the game has changed but the game has changed. The traditional
recruitment industry business model is in crisis. The old model is no longer
the clear pathway to growth and profitability like it has been for many


the bell silently tolled.

Did you hear
Related articles:

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‘gravity of success’ prevents innovation: Summary of the 2011 RCSA Conference

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