Category Archives: decision making

Recruitment Agencies…. They aren’t going anywhere

Those of you who know me will know my Recruiting background.  Started in a Recruitment Agency, well fell into it, as we all do.  Went to an in-house role for 8 years, somehow ended up back in Agency land again, and am now back in-house.

One of the things I learned whilst working in house was the utter despising of Recruiting Agencies by most people I came across, both from the business point of view and the candidates.  I had been blinkered maybe, “Did people dislike me that much when I was working for an agency?” Well I didn’t think it was me, but the function.  Really?  Sadly the answer was YES.

The reasons are not too hard to fathom.  So many cowboys and cowgirls out there, giving everyone a bad name.  It is the industry where a quick and hefty buck can be made, and I’m sure we all know a few or know of a few that have done that.  I knew a guy who placed the same person into a permanent role 3 times in a year! Twice in the same company, just asked her to go by her maiden name the second time around so as to not arise suspicion.  He made a fee each time upwards of $20k (in the days of 3 month replacements), and would brag about it.  I’ve heard of agents blatantly using their sexuality to try to get work to the point of offering “the full service” for work. I had a boss, who actually tell a young “lady” that she’d better go to the ladies to fix her dress as the straps kept falling off, “it’s not accidentally happening” he was told.. (True story)  Worse, agents, who once in to a company try to pilfer people out once they’ve sniffed around a little and learned the lay of the land.  Heard of one agency, threaten to “empty your car park” if said company wouldn’t use their services!

These type of stories, along with what can and has been perceived as the exorbitant pricing has started a shift away from the model, with more and more in-house teams popping up (bragging about their lack of need for agencies), LinkedIn’s Recruiter tools and “Social Recruiting, have left some doomsayers predicting the death of agencies as we know them.

In past lives as an in-house recruiter it was inconceivable that I would use Agencies, roles I couldn’t fill would remain unfilled and pressure would just build up on my team.  The amount of cold calls, warm calls and reverse marketing calls I would have to knock back probably didn’t do much for my popularity in the Recruitment world.  It was a directive from the people that paid my salary, an unbreakable rule, and we were able to deliver most of the time.  (* I remember telling one boss that he was notorious in the IT Recruitment industry for being a hard ass and putting people through the ringer.  I used to put his name deliberately on young Recruiters working for me who’d made too much money and were over confident, just to bring them down a peg so I could work with them once more!)  I have however recently broken out of that mould a little bit.  Of course there is a need and a place for this multi-billion dollar (Euro, Peso etc) industry.

I don’t see a need to use them in my day to day “normal” hiring, you know those role types that I will need to fill 80-90% of the time.  That is for me to build a successful, engaged and prepared talent pool of people who are already through our process, who just need the final tick to get started.  That is my core business, that’s where we should be spending most of our time and money.  If I used Agencies for this, then why would my company pay my salary?

However, for those “different” roles, for sectors of the market where I/we don’t have expertise, don’t have the network, where there is a speed to fill urgency, why wouldn’t I use an Agency?  Take on a Contracting resource makes a hell of a lot of sense to me.  I did come up with some raised eyebrows from the powers that be, until that is I reminded them of one thing… I got to set the rules!  I can choose who I deal with and who I don’t, it’s based on my relationships.  If a company calls me up, at a time when I have a need, promise the world and then don’t deliver, that’ll leave a bad taste, and I get to choose if I deal with them again or not.  If a company is perceived to be acting unscrupulously, then… I get to choose whether to work with them again or not.  If I see them advertising on a job board for my role, guess what? I get to choose whether to work with them again or nor.  I get to set the buy rate (I honestly don’t care what margin the agency makes, it’s none of my business, as long as everyone is happy), to ensure that the arrangement is still profitable for us.  It’s a no lose situation.

If you’re smart you can also get a fair bit of industry knowledge of your Recruiter (if they are any good), I have in the past felt a little insular, a little blinkered to the wider market when sitting in an in-house role, my focus (rightly or wrongly) being on my company alone.  Recruiters should have a great deal of industry knowledge in their mind, they are talking to companies, people and yes competitors on a daily basis.  Why not get an industry overview from?

This model has been a paradigm shift for my company, and so far it seems to be working well.  We’ve formed some strong working relationships, we’ve hired some great contractors in a very timely fashion and solved both our and our clients problems in the process.  I am yet to feel or perceive the “stereo-typical” Recruiter push or sleaze (for lack of a better term).  I’m using Recruitment agencies as another channel to market, you cannot know everything and everyone.  You know what? It hasn’t diminished the value in what the Recruiting team provides in my company, it’s actually allowed us to solve more problems.

With most businesses, Recruitment Agencies should exist to solve a businesses problems.  Do that, agency land, and you will be here to stay (nobody say like cockroaches!)

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4 factors changing the face of in-house Recruitment… Are you up for it?

 

I am an evolutionist.  I love seeing things evolve, people, places, teams and functions.  Looking back to 2002 (yep, all that way) when I first landed into the world of in-house Recruitment, it’s interesting to see how things have changed as much as they have stayed the same.

I went in-house for the same reasons of many, I hated the agency land, whilst I enjoyed the cut and thrust as I am a competitive bugger, I struggled with the closing and ended up hating the fact that no matter how we dressed it up, or changed our titles from Account Managers to Consultants etc, it was still hard core sales.  I struggled to come to grips with the worlds perception of what I did and it clouded my own perception of myself, my self worth.  After having a good trot with one agency (5 Agency years, I think that is 30 normal human years), and a couple of false starts in a few others, I landed a job inhouse.  Thinking it will be a cruisey way to ply my trade without the fear of those daily stand up meetings answering “Have you made 50 calls today?” “How many new roles?” “How many client visits?” “How many submissions have you made?””How many interviews have you scheduled?” and of course “How much MONEY have you billed today?”

I thought it (the in-house) role would be all the things I loved about this job function without all the shit that goes with it in Agency land.  Sadly, I found that in-house roles came with their own brand of shit to deal with.

It was a function viewed as a subservient part of a glorious HR realm.  A poor cousin if you would.  It was something that the HR people thought they knew how to do, just didn’t want to lower themselves to actually participate in the activity.  They had more important things to deal with like, L&D, OH&S, Remuneration surveys, and writing policies! (I remember someone in an HR team actually saying “I’m not here to talk to the people, I’m here to do HR!”) However, they were happy to give their 2 cents (OK a little more) on how to do it.  Multiple lessons in egg sucking did occur.

On top of this, is was still near impossible to escape the tainting that being an Agency Recruiter gave me, even in-house.  I was still known as “Agency Dan” (and no I don’t think it was for my great skills and winning smile!) behind my back.

That role did transform, and I’ve noticed the evolution happening throughout the market, as the importance of your incoming talent increases.  I hear GE just hired 30-40 Recruiting people for a centre of excellence in Melbourne, that’s got to tell you something!

With that evolution, comes more responsibility, more roles to play within an organisation.  The advent of Social Media, I feel has begun to transform the role once more.

4 areas largely impacted or bolted onto the role now seem to be:

  • Strategic planning
  • Marketing
  • Public Relations
  • Entrepreneurial or Future facers

Strategic planning:

Formulating, internal and external succession plans.  Building and maintaining an engaged (had to say that word, sorry) talent pool, not just a mailing list.  I’ve seen Recruiters being involved in spotting companies for acquisition, I’ve seen Recruiters being the person “on Point” for the company when looking at moving into a new geographic region, exploring the market and the main players in it. (Not sure any of these things would have happened 10 years ago.

Marketing

This is the tough one.  There is now a blurred line between the two areas.  The term Employment Brand versus Corporate brand has really put this into focus for most Recruiting functions.  The realisation (in some companies) that any external marketing has an effect on Recruitment has changed the landscape.  10 years ago, who would have thought about having Recruitment have a say in the website development (apart from the tiny careers page) ? Who would have seen the Financial Controller/CFO have to include input from the Recruitment department in the making of the Annual Report?  But we do now! These are things that the discerning candidate will check.

Public Relations

Again, the rise and rise of social media has seen the need for Recruiters to start dabbling here.  Messages about your company, your brand can come from anywhere within or outside your company.  Who keeps tabs on this?  Away from products, most things mentioned on forums etc are employment based.  “This person is crap to work with” “Their Recruitment process sucks, they never got back to me” “stupid test” “they have no idea” “I heard they lost their Microsoft accreditation” As a Recruitment department you have to be across this.  The messaging going out impacts our lives as Recruiters, the messaging will change perceptions of what we are going to market with.  We need to be inserted into the planning.

Entrepreneurial or Future facers

With technology streaming ahead, there is an imperative to keep upto date with what is going on.  To evaluate what will and what won’t work for you.  Getting an edge, could help you out do your competitors, or vice versa.  You need to be trialling new things, have you trialled video interviewing? Sourcing from Facebook or YouTube? Is your ATS upto scratch?  Whilst I agree with the saying “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” I love a bit of tweaking.  You need to have some flair, take a risk, see if it works for you and your company.  Are you looking to the future and assessing what trends could mean for your company and your workforce? What does outsourcing or insourcing mean for your company? What does the increase in virtual teams or working from home mean for you? Is there an implication for your company with the well documented “ageing workforce” and the impending rise of Gen Y or millenials?  Does BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and Cloud technologies have an impact on your business and the way you work, and thus what you can offer a workforce?  These are all thoughts a Recruiting function should be considering.  10 years ago, I wasn’t aware of it happening, even in the agency field.  Do you as a Recruiting leader have the support within your business to be able to make mistakes?

I can see how in large companies this could be a political mine field, blurred lines of responsibility, lots of autographs to get to get something done.  But in smaller companies, without these restrictions these are growth areas for the “Recruiter”.  Do we have the skills to handle it? Can they be learned easily? Can we break out of our own moulds and embrace it? I’m excited! Are you?

The art of being Wrong

This was a good week. I either learned something or crystallised a thought I had bubbling under the surface, depending on the hour and my ego will depend on which way that falls.

I have been with my company for almost 7 years now, and thought I had the whole place worked out, well I hoped I had. I know the IT industry, and how it works in my market, and I know the main players. I work for a company which provides IT services to tier one tier two companies, and my job is to hire everyone (permanent workforce) to achieve this.

We had a challenge at the start of the financial year, we needed to grow our Business Development team. We have a really strong and successful BD team, but we wanted to take it a different way. We had grown by repeat business and word of mouth for the last 16/17 years, which is a very strong and secure way to grow a business. However to get to the next stage, I needed to hire some hard core hunters.

There are a lot of similarities between our business and an Agency, and yet the differences are vast. My company had never hired anyone from an Agency (ie hired an ex TPR) to do sales for us, and I thought this was strange, as the BD people I had worked with in TPR were the hardest core sales people I have ever seen.

I put my case forward, to the Managers of BD and our Directors and was given the go ahead. Hunting Agency BD people I went.

As always finding the right sales person was a challenge, wading through the BS for the reality. I found a person who was dead set right, a phone warrior, a fearless hunter, a strong cultural fit and a great guy to go with it. Added to this he seemed to have his ego in check too. GOLD!

Unfortunately what I thought we needed… we really didn’t. Yes, he definitely opened doors, got new business and did what we thought we wanted.

I wanted the hard core hunter.. got it..
I wanted someone to build business… got it..

However, I needed someone to do this AND build on our core strengths…. our relationships, our non discounting, our ability to engage our people at all levels of the organisation, and the fact that those of us who don’t actually deliver a project or a solution, are there to support and develop those who do… We didn’t really get this.

I know that relationships are built in TPR’s at all levels of an organisation, that as sales people for these organisations you solve business problems, yet I’m not convinced we can call that solution selling. Which I really needed. The sales cycle is traditionally quicker in TPR world. More transactional if you will. It is one person, one problem normally.

Not saying one is better than the other, I have just seen the different skill sets, I’m sure people can and do make the transitions between both. Yet I have learned that it is not a simple transition like I initially thought. I was wrong.

This actually excites me, the outcome is unfortunate, and trust me.. I hate being wrong, however you don’t learn without failure. We took a risk, OK, it didn’t work out as we’d hoped.. but we had the (to quote WWE) intestinal fortitude to take it. (The fact that I was allowed to take this risk as my CEO was against this plan, encourages me as to the culture of my company, please note, I’m not sucking up, I’d be surprised if my Executive had time to read blogs). It was something different, the upside was compelling enough to give it a go.

Even in this economy, should we still be taking risks? Or if we don’t are we letting opportunities slip? Will I be allowed to take such a risk in 3 months time? Will conservatism take over and kill off the entrepreneur, especially as economists and accountants get more and more involved in decision making? It’ll be interesting to watch!