Only the nimble will prosper in a rapidly changing global recruitment landscape
The global recruitment landscape is changing at a rapid pace with a number of key trends having the potential to revolutionise how we conduct business in the future. As with everything these days, it seems that the pace of change is accelerating, leaving those recruiters who fail to evolve and adapt facing extinction. On balance, the transformation that is happening in the global recruitment market presents enormous opportunities for recruiters – but only for those who are ready for the challenges ahead.
There are numerous trends I could touch upon, but three in particular stand out. These are – in no particular order – the professionalisation of the staffing market; the growing purchasing sophistication of end user clients and the increasing globalisation of the labour market. What does this mean for UK recruiters?
Firstly, the professionalisation of the staffing market - placing high-end, senior people on a flexible basis - has accelerated in recent years. As with many things, the UK leads the way. Let’s take Adecco as a useful barometer. Around 70% of Adecco’s revenue in the UK & Ireland was generated last year by what it calls its ‘professional’ business line. This is particularly surprising as Adecco is very well known for its high street offering. This trend should be seized upon as an opportunity for recruiters. Generally speaking, the professional end of the recruitment market commands higher percentage margins on higher pay rates, and with margins being squeezed, this can only be a good thing.
This brings me neatly to my next key trend: the growing ‘sophistication’ of the end user client. I use the word ‘sophistication’ loosely as it’s debatable whether many recruiters would see it as that! It is this so-called ‘sophistication’ which has led to the squeeze on margins. The percentage of companies with procurement leading staffing selection has risen sharply in recent years, from 37% in 2005 to 69% in 2010. This trend is only likely to accelerate, particularly in today’s cost-conscious economic climate. Recruiters should therefore be looking to offer value-added services, such as market intelligence, in order to carry favour with procurement people for whom – let’s face it - cost is often the chief consideration.
My final trend is ‘globalisation’ which has had an enormous impact on the recruitment market over the last decade. Recruiters who expanded into foreign markets have fared much better during the recession than competitors who were dependent on the lacklustre UK economy. APSCo was quick to recognise this trend. We led trade delegations to Qatar and Abu Dhabi in 2008 and Singapore this year - with another trip planned for Brazil in the Autumn - to support UK recruiters who want to expand overseas. Our conference this year, which is being hosted in association with Henley Business School, is titled ‘The World is Our Oyster’ and has international expansion as its theme. Whether it’s opening an overseas office to service a client’s needs or off-shoring a back office to generate efficiencies, the globalisation of the UK recruitment market is continuing apace.
On balance, there are a number of clear trends that we can see as either a threat or a huge opportunity for recruiters. Consequently, success is about making sure that your strategic plans are responsive enough to change to capitalise on the trends that are out there.
By Ann Swain, Chief Executive of the Association of Professional Staffing Companies, who has over 30 years of experience in the UK recruitment market. Ann is a well respected authority in the industry, a popular international speaker and a passionate advocate for the UK recruitment profession.