The Road Ahead

INDUSTRY INSIDER - Simon Greening, APAC Regional Director, Bullhorn, offers three key tests for Australian recruiters.

In 2017, Australian recruitment agencies have shown great energy and enthusiasm. The industry is continuing its trend of growth, and these agencies played a vital part in it. Nonetheless, economic, political, and cultural uncertainty lies ahead, and it’s essential that Australia’s recruitment agencies prepare for it. To continue growing and prospering, there are three key tests that Australian recruiters should aim to pass with flying colours in the near future.

1. Adapting to the gig economy

The old 9-5 working model is just that – old. Many in skilled occupations are opting for contract work, preferring the flexibility of the emerging ‘gig economy’ as a primary or supplementary source of income. Currently, these are alternatives to conventional working models. In time, they may simply become conventional working models, especially in Australia, where the contingent workforce is growing steadily.

Recruiters will need to adapt to this new normal. Fortunately, it does not have to be painful. The specific needs of employers can vary, but employers will often prefer hiring employees on a contract or project basis to hiring them full time. Recruiters who tailor their services to businesses with smaller labour budgets and can supply contract workers like these will be at a distinct advantage.

If you can adjust your business model to suit the preferences of employers and candidates – offering contingent and permanent opportunities alike – you’ll be better placed to effectively serve both.

2. Securing elusive talent

Like everyone else, recruiters are subject to basic supply and demand rules. When talent is scarce, clients aren’t happy, candidates require far more courtship, and the day-to-day functions of an agency become harder and harder to perform.

Unfortunately, talent shortages are a real problem for the Australian recruitment industry. Bullhorn’s 2017 Australian Recruitment Trends Report highlights this: some 66 per cent of respondents consider the talent shortage among their three most pressing challenges – a trend that is especially prevalent in certain professions such as engineering and IT (indeed, developers and engineers had the hardest-to-find qualifications). The report also found that many candidates lacked sufficient technological competency.

Recruiters can only do so much about this. Political and economic barriers stand in the way of many talented candidates from overseas, and they typically have many other options available. If securing a visa is overly complex or bureaucratic, many will simply choose not to. Bullhorn’s survey found that 30% of recruiters believe Australia’s labour restrictions will have a negative impact on industry performance.

Figuring out how to address talent shortages will be essential for recruiters in years to come – so it’s especially important to try and get the most out of existing databases.

3. Age discrimination

What if I told you that recruiters and employers were unknowingly ignoring a full third of the talented, hard-working, and proven candidates available to them? It sounds fanciful, but it’s true. A University of South Australia report found that a third of people experienced this form of discrimination over a period of 12 months. Ageism continues to hamper the industry, even as it moves towards equality in other respects.

This discrimination is rooted in the belief that older people struggle to keep up with changing skillsets, and that younger people – even well-qualified young people – lack the requisite experience to perform at a high enough level.

Recruiters can’t afford to think like this. They need to make a case for employees everywhere on the age spectrum: if they have the qualifications and experience, then that should be all that matters. Employers may take some persuading – but that’s all part of the job.

How to pass these tests

These tests are difficult, but not impossible to pass. It’s incumbent on recruiters to prepare for them – when you’re comfortable, you’re vulnerable. Complacency is never going to be rewarded.

In the new relationship economy, the connections we forge with candidates and clients are more important than ever. These connections can be made stronger by addressing the three challenges listed above: by tackling hiring discrimination, by finding unorthodox candidates to fill orthodox vacancies, by building new working models into the way they service clients and identify potential hires.

Whatever they do, they cannot let these changes simply wash over them. Recruiters can’t afford to simply keep up with the times – they must move ahead of them.