Recruitment & Resilience

Mandy Watson, founder and director at Ambitions Personnel explains some of the ways her agency has met the challenges since 1990

Recruiters are some of the toughest professionals in the world. They are used to working in changing times as well as with the challenges that come with a largely transient client base. For an agency that’s been running for around 30 years, we have certainly seen a huge variety of challenges and changes over that time. Having worked in central London for Reed previously, I was aware of a range of corporate challenges already, but the pace and the diversity of change in that time have been what is so striking. It’s obviously important to be innovative, but more often than not it is the ability to be able to adapt that marks out those who succeed and those who fail in the industry. To be able to react to prevailing trends and clients’ changes and whims is important, but to be able to anticipate what is affecting our clients’ businesses has been one major reason why we have continued to thrive.

Events beyond our control

Talking of challenges, Brexit has been one of those factors that affect so many people day to day already that it has been impossible to predict or mitigate for with too much effectiveness just yet. It has huge potential for impact on us and our clients. This is particularly true in the case of immigration. This is set to remain a big unknown right to last minute and it will be difficult to make meaningful plans. This is why it is important to be aware and have a contingency plan for the different eventualities that might come our way soon.

Brexit has been one of those ever-changing situations that the recruitment industry has had to simply deal with. For niche recruiters in particular, which we fall into at times with dealing with the food production industry, thinking of ways to diversify is getting more crucial. Could you step up your lead generation in a similar but entirely different niche for example?

A change in dynamics

In the highly competitive market that we find ourselves in these
days, gone are the companies being able to sit idly by and wait for skilled, keen candidates to arrive. With a lack of skilled labour out there, companies needing those individuals now outnumber those with the requisite skills. This means that instead of SMEs and larger concerns having the upper hand, it is now the candidates.

The recruitment industry is now candidate-driven. No longer is it easy to recruit by sticking an advert out, you have to effectively market and give candidates a reason to apply and want to work with you. More than ever before, candidates have the power and employers must step up, thinking up different ways of attracting staff – especially the top talent. More passive candidates are the most valuable – we must now go to them rather than them looking for us. Nobody can now afford to be complacent and we must all keep evolving.

How to do that? It’s far from simple. Companies now have a duty to keep up with digital trends and to really understand the ever -changing ways that social media permeates everything we do. Simply following a rigid pattern of activity isn’t enough, trends must be followed and lessons must be learned from marketing. Our journey as a recruitment agency is no different in this respect. We’ve overhauled our writing style for job vacancies by seeking consultancy services from experts in order to appeal to today’s candidates. We’ve had to think what’s in it for them, rather than what we need.

In this way, it is attraction over assessment at the advert stage, which means it is more of a sales pitch in order to get the application over the line. The old ways of simply stating salary, duties and experience expected simply does not wash any more. Coming from the perspective of being an expert also helps. Demonstrating your knowledge and innovation in other ways is crucial. One way we as an agency have shown this is by producing podcasts, talking about industry issues to show both candidate and client audiences that we know what issues they are facing and that there are solutions out there.

Refinement means retainment

The recruitment industry isn’t immune to its own teachings, for example, retainment of staff remains a challenge across all industries. Taking a deep dive into your company culture is essential. We’ve done this internally for our own consultants, asking how we can improve their daily lives at work. As a result, we are now much more agile when it comes to asking for and listening to feedback. More importantly, we are now comfortable in utilising this feedback and maintaining continuous improvement. The credo should be that if you are going to ask for feedback then you’d best act on it. Having said that, we are incredibly lucky to have very low staff turnover for the recruitment industry, 16 per cent of our own team has 10 years’ service or more. We are a family business, which engenders trust and a sense of belonging, making us unique for the industry and we feel it is what marks us out as special. We teach our consultants to go into clients’ businesses and find the ‘shiny thing’. This is a way of quantifying what is the main reason someone would want to work for them over anybody else or their competitors. I’d urge every recruitment business to do the same. Simply stating ‘we do recruitment’ or repeating platitudes about people being at the heart of a business isn’t enough any more.

Trust is a must

Despite all the changes within our industry, some things remain the same. Building relationships will always be at the heart of a good agency and how it operates.

Effective partnerships with clients are the key to lasting work relationships. Honesty has always been important to us. As a true consultancy service, we go in and assess what clients need and seek out what it is about their business and company culture that would mean we match the best candidates to them. We use our market expertise to advise clients on roles and salaries, especially if so far they are struggling to fill. Clients still really value this personal approach, remaining holistic in all we do is how we have endured where others have had to rethink or reevaluate. As our services have grown, something that has been there all along is the human touch, the moment you become a faceless entity is the day you either catapult to stratospheric levels and don’t care for that connection any more, or you simply fail. Again, despite all the changes that have occurred within and alongside our industry, one thing remains exactly the same. People still buy people. If you don’t trust, like or feel like you are on a wavelength with a client, something is bound to not work out.

Mandy Watson, founder and director at Ambitions Personnel

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