Crystal Balls and the winds of change – are you thinking, are you ready?

This week APSCo – Association of Professional Staffing Companies – hosted one of 70 meetings they host through the year for their members. It was a two hour session with a presentation from an employment law legal expert as we all as a panel Q& A session.

The panel on this occasion was made up of 4 in-house recruiting managers, all members of The FIRM coincidently – shows the spread of the Group – from some of the largest branded companies in the world. I bet the words of Alfred, Lord Tennyson “…………Into the valley of Death, Rode the six hundred” were no doubt playing in some minds.

The questions from the audience of agency owners and managers were not very challenging. The expected questions were asked “What do you think the market will look like as we come out of the recession and what changes will there be?”, “How can agencies be of better service to companies?”, “Do you see RPO as a value or a threat to the in-house recruiter?”, “How can we get onto a PSL?” and many more.

I am not entirely sure that all of these questions could be answered to the satisfaction of all attendees and I don’t think the answers that were given came as any major surprise to the audience either. What was clear is that the market is causing concern and the people running the agencies are looking for ways to make the changes they know will be needed to ensure they can continue to provide a service to their existing client base or attract new ones.

Three things stand out for me;

1. The advent of social media and its adoption by corporate recruiters has the agencies worried. They know we can find any potential candidate we might want. Not only that our brands make a direct connection far more valuable to a prospective applicant than an agency contact;

2. Agencies underestimate the function, ability, pace and authority of a structured in-house recruiting function

3. Agencies are so used to chasing targets that they forget that they need to focus on adding value. So target driven are they that they don’t know how to change! Simple – forget about fees and the petty irrelevant targets they set for their sales people. If they equip their people with better soft skills, train them on building relationship and adding real value to the person they are dealing (candidate and client) they will stand a better chance of getting the relationships right. Get them right and the fees will automatically follow.

Recruiting is all about timing. This recession is a place in time where in-house recruiters are able to say “we don’t need you”. The one phrase that gives a bit of hope to the agencies is “at the moment”. We all know that things change and the companies that don’t use agencies now are very likely to have to in the future, it is sort of inevitable. Everyone must be ready. Invest; don’t waste time chasing business that isn’t there right now. Look inwards at how you do your current business, which clients have you been more successful with and why? What can you do better internally and at other clients in order to evolve to be ready?

  1. Interesting post Gary. Social Media is starting to drive a level of information transparency that means adding significant measurable value is going to become critical for third party recruiters. While there is much talk about it, I don’t yet see much evidence of many companies changing their approach. The stock response seems to be “but we already add value”. The next few weeks, months and years should be very interesting!


  2. Great post and very aposite. I don’t think I’d completely agree with your point 1 about in-house recruiters being able to “find any potential candidate we might want”. I think that is a touch overstated – but I accept your drift.

    • Actually I agree with Gary that we CAN find any candidate we want. The point is whether it is cost effective or efficient for us to spend the time and effort finding them, or paying agencies to do it. We have the same tools that agencies do – sometimes however, we don’t have the time, capacity, skill or inclination to use them.

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