Sleepless night?

EXCLUSIVE CONTENT - Stephanie King, head of recruitment practice at BlueSky PR on recruiter’s worries.

The recruitment sector is evolving at a dizzying rate. And against a backdrop of economic uncertainty it’s perhaps unsurprising that many recruitment professionals we speak to are entering 2017 with trepidation. But in this era of change what are the key challenges keeping recruiters awake? We surveyed over 300 in house and agency recruiters to find out.

Our data shows that time to hire is a real concern for both agency and in-house recruiters. This is perhaps unsurprising given the negative impact slow hiring can have – not only can it mean lost productivity for the hiring organisation, but it can also mean both the agency and employer lose out on the very best talent as candidates fall through the time to hire gap. Clearly then, the candidate experience is absolutely crucial.

A potential candidate who has had an unhappy or poor experience with an agency or employer may have historically shared their dissatisfaction with friends or family.  Today, however, they have all the tools at their disposal – from social media sites to employer review website such as Indeed and Glassdoor – to share their experience with a far greater audience. Clearly the potential damage to a brand is huge. Conversely a smooth, considerate candidate experience can translate to a glowing review and positive image of the recruitment consultancy and brand. So what can be done to ensure time to hire doesn’t have a negative impact?

Perhaps the answer lies in the ability of both agency and in house recruiters to work effectively together to design an effective recruitment process. One that includes an agreed timeframe that is achievable within the business – but crucially ensures candidates are kept informed at all stages of the hiring process. Doing so will mean far fewer fall through the time to hire gap, employers get the talent they need, and the employer brand is protected. And for recruitment companies, demonstrating a good candidate experience that is fit for purpose can be instrumental in winning new business – after all if you can use your own processes as an example of best practice an employer can see that their employer brand can be trusted in your hands.

Despite the business benefits of a robust recruitment process, our research revealed that too few agencies have got it right. A Rec2Rec consultancy, for example, told us that one reason candidates don’t join a recruiter is down to the recruitment process – which is pretty embarrassing given the sector we are in. It is vital, then, that steps are taken to tackle this issue.

Attraction and retention

Our survey data also revealed the importance placed by in house teams on attracting and retaining the right talent – a theme also highlighted in PWCs annual CEO survey as one of the things that keeps CEOs awake at night. And much like the time to hire, employer branding plays a key part in a company’s ability to attract and retain the talent it needs to thrive. So much so, in fact, that a report from Aberdeen Research, reveals that “best in class companies are 68 per cent more likely than others to involve their marketing department in employer branding” demonstrating the investment being made in this area.

It comes as no surprise, then, that agencies are also struggling to attract talent – and while we have discussed that one reason relates to the candidate experience, there is perhaps a bigger hurdle facing recruitment firms. And this is the perception of the industry. As CEO of APSCo, Ann Swain, explains: “It’s no secret that the profession, for whatever reason, has historically not been positioned or perceived as a ‘career of choice’ for bright young recruits. However, it is imperative that this changes if we are to compete with established graduate programmes – such as those offered by large accountancy and legal firms – in the mighty ‘war for talent’.” And while APSCo has launched a campaign to attract top graduate talent to the recruitment sector, more needs to be done. School children understand what a lawyer is, what an accountant is, or what a teacher is, but do they know what a recruiter does? Despite the work of APSCo, recruitment is still a long way from being regarded as a true profession. With this in mind what can agencies be doing?

Perhaps the answer lies in the old adage ‘practice what you preach?’ Good recruitment companies spend time advising their clients on how to build talent pipelines, how to engage with candidates, and how to build up an employer brand – but are they taking their own advice? I’d argue that too few are doing this effectively. So what’s the answer?

Recruitment is a fantastic career but recruiters need to ensure they are not selling a dream. It’s tough and not everyone will make it. Of course, there are fantastic rewards to be had for those that make it, but as one recruiter we spoke to pointed out, potential recruits “need to know that year one will be the hardest if their career – one week they’ll be on the crest of a wave – the next week they’ll crash and burn – it’s the champagne and razorblade effect”.

Building an employer brand

Clearly then, recruitment consultancies need to be building honest employer brands that tell it like it is. And there are countless reasons why a candidate joins a business – career progression, work life balance, culture, money – and these need to be promoted.   So how do you do it, and who should be involved? A recent round table we hosted with directors of recruitment firms suggested that it should be a partnership between management, internal recruitment, marketing and the recruitment team themselves. While the management team will probably develop the brand and culture, marketing then communicate it, the people potential recruits will be working with directly engage with them and internal recruitment deliver the final candidates.

So with this in mind, how can you build up your employer brand? Content is absolutely key – and whether this is for your website, blog or social media channels, not only must it be regularly updated but is must also speak to your potential recruits. Use your company blog to create engaging content describing what it’s really like to work in the business. Include case studies of consultants who have progressed through the ranks and demonstrate the benefits any new recruit will have access to. And above all, share the content you are producing. It’s no use writing great content that appeals to your audience if no one is going to read it. Use all the social media channels at your disposal to increase its reach, and crucially, ensure the entire business is behind the strategy and get them involved!

Aside from your blog, engaging in your own PR can also do wonders for your employer brand. And contrary to popular belief this doesn’t require a huge budget. Identify which publications your talent pool is reading and liaise with journalists about potential opportunities to provide comment or articles. By appearing in the press that your target audience is reading and engaging with will ensure you are on their radar and will also offer insights into your expertise and the company you work at. Another great way to increase your appeal to potential staff is to enter (and win!) industry awards. Being recognised as an employer of choice in a recruitment industry award, for example, will demonstrate your commitment to staff and the robust training and development you have on offer to potential hires.

The future

Another key theme that came out of our research was the impact government legislation would have over the course of 2017 and into 2018. This comes as no surprise given the uncertainty surrounding the future of current EU employment regulations. Aside from the impact Brexit will undoubtedly have, other changes – including the Apprenticeship Levy, gender pay gap reporting and changes to salary threshold for tier 2 migrant workers - are weighing on the minds of agencies.

While it remains to be seen what 2017 has in store for the sector, the latest Deloitte and APSCo UK Recruitment report reveals that as well as growing in size as a sector, recruiters have improved their financial performance. Consequently, the firms that invest in their employer brand and candidate experience stand every chance of experiencing further growth in the future.