Getting sticky with it

Gordon Stoddart reports from the latest Recruitment Network Huddle – from transactional supplier to strategic partner.

How recruitment agencies can evolve and shape their offering to redefine their client relationships was the key focus at The Recruitment Network’s recent Huddle held at the stunning Plaisterer’s Hall in central London. ‘Sticky’ relationships, where agencies become indispensable partners and develop longer term embedded relationships and partnerships with clients is a hot topic and a real focus at TRN. 2019 saw many of The Recruitment Network’s members evolve their service offering and ‘productising’ what they take to market. At the Huddle 4 Recruitment Agency leaders – Katy Rees from Smile Education, Nick Charalambous from Few and Far, Paul Smith from Deploy and Chris Dunning-Walton from Infosec – shared with the 180 recruitment leaders how they had evolved their product offering in 2019, the significant client wins and even more importantly how they developed strategic and ‘sticky’ relationships with key clients. All four businesses had developed different service models to market, in an attempt to build more strategic relationships and disrupt the market – from talent assessments to onsite client partnerships to search to total talent solutions to retained to disruptive digital solutions – all of which add huge value to clients and help you stand out from the competition. Some consistent themes emerged from their experiences and successes: you won’t get it right first time, be flexible, think big and back yourself, involve clients on shaping the offering, be relentless with getting feedback, processes really matter if you want to scale it, be patient as it won’t fly overnight, develop a clear marketing plan to take it to market, be obsessive about the problem that you are trying to solve for the client (rather than what you want out of it). It’s clear that doing more of the same will produce the same results which is why we find ourselves working with so many members to develop their offering and productise.

Dealer’s choice

We presented 15 different product offerings that an agency could potentially take to market. Yet what’s clear from any new service offering that an agency develops, is that it needs to be designed around solving our clients’ problems. So we decided to bring along a panel of senior HR and procurement practitioners and get their take as to how agencies could and potentially should evolve their approach to become even more sticky. The responses to the questions posed were possibly not what the TRN members were expecting. TRN members all share the same ambition and the same philosophy – let’s build a successful, profitable business and the best way to achieve that (apart from working hard with the right team) is to it right and embrace best practice – which is why they invest and join TRN to learn from peers, experts etc. We are very confident that this philosophy is what enables the vast majority of members to grow profitably. Yet this drive to best practice does not reflect what the panel of HR and procurement experts experience from the majority of recruiters in the market, even if they recognised and worked with many quality recruiters with whom they had strong relationships – their perception was that the majority of recruiters still didn’t really consult, weren’t professional, focused on short term wins rather than long term win-wins, didn’t understand or didn’t try to develop the right or relevant expertise to be seen as talent acquisition experts. Within 24 hours of the Huddle the panellists shared with us multiple examples of unprofessionalism from recruiters. What’s the relevance of this in the context of developing new ‘product’ offerings? Well, the reality is that clients’ expectations and perceptions are still low on their experiences, so agencies need to work hard to develop trusted, valued relationships where they do > Gordon Stoddart reports from the latest Recruitment Network Huddle – from transactional supplier to strategic partner. THE RECRUITMENT NETWORK HUDDLE 29 the basics consistently well before bringing new offerings to the market. Clients crave consistency; consistency requires process and buy in; process and buy in only exist with the right leadership. TRN members, highlighted by the four members who shared their successes of taking new frameworks to market, work incredibly hard to ‘earn the right’ to have different conversations and discuss strategic partnerships, by meeting expectations consistently.

Open and willing to share

After lunch, we did what we do best, unlocking the potential of the TRN community. Our 180 business leaders shared ideas and experiences, challenged and questioned each other and generated ideas to make 2020 ‘sticky’ with clients. The five questions we asked and answered collectively were: 1. What problems do we solve for our clients as recruiters? 2. Which service model – of the 15 we shared – solves which problem best? 3. What can we do to de-risk the relationship we have with clients? 4. What else could we do to make the relationship even sticker? 5. What commercial/pricing structure would enable scalability and sustainability? These interactive sessions inevitably challenge existing thinking. As international Performance coach Jamil Qureshi, who ran an incredible session on how to change the mindset challenged us at the Huddle: ‘How many of our new ideas are at the mercy of what we believe to be true?’ The output of the session was some clear guidelines about how we can develop new offerings which will lead to more strategic partnerships and this was all loaded onto TRNWorld 2.0 Did I mention TRNWorld? We are very excited about the feedback we are getting. The Recruitment Network was delighted to make two significant announcements at the Huddle. Firstly, a strategic partnership with the REC who passionately support what we do, believe in the community we have built and that fact that we are in the words of one member “a community with a purpose”. TRN and the REC will work closely together to share data, best practice and expertise to the benefit of both sets of membership. The second announcement concerned TRN World. The new platform contains everything a growing recruitment business needs to grow and succeed. Business plans, commission schemes, insights from 100s of successful recruitment entrepreneurs, unlimited training videos, and proven tools that can facilitate execution. Free for TRN members, the most exciting aspect of how it can help the community build, grow and succeed is the Business Roadmap functionality which enables recruitment business to shape the destination (Vision of Success for both three years and one year) conduct a comprehensive business audit (Pulse Healthcheck) and develop a clear roadmap. With that in place TRN can support you, hold you to account and provide solutions to get you there quicker. It gives shape and direction and helps you get there. The feedback has been phenomenal, leading one member to say ‘TRN is like the best of every other network combined and on steroids’ (not words we use in our marketing but we’ll take it!). Here’s an example of how the capabilities of TRN World helps recruitment business leaders achieve their ambition: at the Huddle, we asked every member to complete their Pulse Healthcheck from TRNWorld and an analysis of the results allowed us to develop some bespoke solutions for those members who identified gaps. For example, only 38 per cent of members had a plan and were confident about funding their growth plans. Within two weeks the 68 per cent of the membership – approximately 110 business leaders – were invited to join us for an online webinar with three leading experts on funding growing businesses (Nick Russell from Sonovate, Neil Driver from Davis Grant and Paul Glynn from Aristar). The output was a comprehensive framework for funding growth. Identify the problem, produce a solution. Simple. We’re very excited about TRN World and encourage people to check it out. As Britain’s number one motivations speaker and our opening speaker Brad Burton shared – ‘chasing squirrels will take you up the wrong tree’. TRN and TRN World helps recruitment business leaders chase the right squirrels and will help you get you where you want. Everyone ended the day holding up a mirror and thinking about what we can do differently to have the biggest positive impact on the business and be even ‘stickier’.

To find out more about The Recruitment Network or TRNWorld please drop us a line at

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