Going Back to make it Right
Simon Kent reports from an industry discussion into the challenges and potential of delivering an efficient back office function.
At The Global Recruiter’s UK Summit in early March 2020 a number of Recruitment Live discussions were held bringing together expert recruitment leaders from a wide range of businesses. In a session held in association with People Group, the subject of the
back office function came under scrutiny. In this discussion, senior recruitment managers and business leaders with responsibility for the back office function came together to
discuss the challenges of dealing with the administration side of recruitment and how
positive changes could be identified and introduced to the business.
Around the table were:
Yahya Essack, Financial Controller, Cobalt Recruitment
Warrick Glossop, Financial Controller, Major Players
Mark Stanton, Organisational Effectiveness Manager, Annapurna Recruitment
Mark Baker, Director, Clarement Consulting
Luke Dyer, Director, IMC Locums
Will Whay, Associate Director, IMC Locums
Rachel Warner, Operations Manager, Remedium Partners
Jason Medcalf, Sales Director, People Group
Kam Jitter, People Group
Simon Kent, Editor, The Global Recruiter
To begin with it became clear that in recent years the back office function has become more complicated to administer. Ever increasing compliance issues mean those
responsible for delivering the flow between front office consultant, the placed talent, the
client and the recruitment business have seen challenges increasing across the board. On the one hand the increasingly diverse ways in which talent is now delivered and works within organisations is having an impact on collecting and managing the required
information. At the same time there’s no doubt but that increasing compliance is also
One participant noted that even going back three years to the time before IR35 changes were brought into the public sector it was ‘relatively easy’ to process time sheets and worker’s details. Today, there are many more questions that need to be asked and
answered before the same financial details can be processed. Alongside this complication was the sense that many front office staff do not appreciate the complexities and moreover simply expect the back office to make everything work for them. In other words, they place the talent, make the booking and then leave the back office function to sort out all the
details. This, however, can lead to slower processing times if the back office has to go back to the consultant for further information before they can process the placement
accurately and compliantly.
As these challenges have continued to grow, many around the table discussed ways and means to enable the front and back office to work closer together, sharing information and opinions about stress points.
At Annapurna, Mark Stanton has been given a specific role to try and make the process run more smoothly. He found himself asking many questions about the relationship
between the front and back office and was ultimately was given the chance to investigate further and make suggestions where appropriate. Part of Stanton role is therefore to be a go-between across the business helping consultants to understand what they can do to make the business operate more smoothly and highlighting the information and actions back office needs them to do to operate more efficiently.
Others around the table looked to technology to help them deliver a smoother process. One business had identified a discrepancy between a placement’s start date and the
invoice date and therefore introduced a new data collection piece within their technology to remedy this. This was just a single extra boxes which needed filling by front end
consultants during the process, but made a significant difference to the overall
performance of the front to back office flow.
There was a discussion around how to introduce such changes – big or small – in a way which consultants and the front office would accept and engage with. There was a general feeling that the idea of change itself can be a challenge within recruitment businesses with many employees feeling that the old system is/was always better and anything new is
difficult to adopt.
Warrick Glossop noted that the same can be true on the clients side. When he introduced online timesheet to his business his thought everyone would find the new system quick, easy and effective. However, the clients still preferred to use the paper work, even if it meant they had to print it out, sign it off and then scan/fax it back to his company.
Making a technology solution fit into a recruitment business efficiently was felt to be the job of the recruitment business itself. Those around the table thought recruiters should be
responsible for customising the technology systems they use for themselves, rather than expecting an ‘off the shelf’ solutions to perform immediately for them, or to take on the
expense of supporting an external consultant for the time it takes them to understand a business and then make the changes required.
That said, the room also made clear that any adaptations and customisation made should be recorded and maintained for future reference so that any further changes – or indeed full-on system migrations – could be delivered. While back office leaders appreciate that sometimes their solutions are not the most efficient or up-to-date options, the prospect of having to switch between entire systems is not something anyone views with any relish. Indeed, sometimes even small aspects of a customisation, the reason for which may be long lost, can compromise the effectiveness of a migration.
It was clear from the conversation that as recruitment businesses grapple with compliance and organisational change it can be hard for them to implement and maintain technology solutions which deliver efficient back office processes. While technology promises
efficiency, integration and more, faced with the prospect of large scale organisational change it can seem more attractive to stick with the technology you have and adapt it – a case of better the devil you know rather than plunging into a period of upheaval and change.
Despite this, it is also clear that at the heart of making progress and introducing innovation is the idea of selling the change and the benefit of that change to the people in the
business who will be affected. At the end of the day there has to be an appreciation that everyone plays their part in delivering a sensible and efficient system. The act of filling out a certain box on a computer screen may not seem to have an immediate impact for the person doing it, but if they do it, the processing of that job or placement will be easier, more accurate and therefore, further down the line, the consultant is likely to be paid sooner and more accurately.
At the end of the day, the back office system is part of the overall business of recruitment, not just an administrative burden. If a recruitment business can ensure everyone
understands how they play their part in achieving greater efficiency and service – both
internally and externally – then change can be introduced in a positive way and benefits experienced by everyone.
Jason Medcalf, Sales director at People Group commented: “As a supplier to the
recruitment industry the session was invaluable. Understanding the dynamics inside
recruitment businesses, and why positive change can sometimes be resisted, helps us to manage key stakeholder engagement and new product roll out. Whether businesses are adopting our payroll solutions, pre-employment background-screening package, or
workforce management solutions our roll-out plan ensures upfront input and ongoing
support especially during the early stages. This has helped us to deliver projects on-time, fit for purpose and successfully add value. Our ultimate goal is to help businesses drive growth by optimising the processes that underpin work.”