Remodelling for Relevance

Gordon Stoddart, Co Founder and Strategic Advisor at The Recruitment Network discusses priorities for 2021

The pandemic wreaked havoc on ‘normal’ practice in 2020 and continues to do so. As well as the tragic loss of life, the impact of Covid 19  – the restrictions and lockdowns in particular –  resulted in many businesses being devastated. Many have not and will not survive and whole industries have been brought to their knees. 2 of my brothers run successful and market leading businesses – one is the very best gastropub group in the UK (yes I am biased but they’ve won every award you can win) and 1 in leisure (the biggest European inland surf centre called the Wave) and I’ve seen first-hand the challenge of navigating their way through shut downs. They’ll survive, many won’t. So much of our focus in the last 10 months has been on reacting to Covid influenced changes and the subsequent economic impact which have been outside our control or influence. The best businesses and recruiters who have been negatively affected by Covid 19 have reacted with agility firstly to ensure they survive and secondly to remodel themselves to be fit for purpose – rightsizing, focusing on efficiencies, refocusing the resources on business development, identifying new markets and building new products to take to market. Across The Recruitment Network, it’s been inspiring to see how our members have reacted to prepare themselves for markets coming back and the latest jobs outlook shared recently by the REC should give us all reason for optimism. Talking of optimism, on the  Optimism Index which we run every week, members are on average hugely optimistic about 2021 – current levels of optimism are at 9 out of 10.

So we’re seeing agencies now fit for purpose, on the front foot again and looking forward to a really positive 2021 (accepting Q1 and the restrictions will frustrate although let’s face it, we’re getting good at lockdowns). However over and above the recent Covid influenced changes that have forced many recruiters to remodel for survival, there is also a need to remodel for relevance.  We have to recognise that beyond the Covid 19 chaos and the short term economic and market conditions , there are some significant and long term changes and trends happening in the world of work taking place, which present some real opportunities to evolve what we do and offer as recruiters to be as relevant and valuable to our clients as we can be. These changes, some of which are being accelerated by Covid are affecting how our clients evolve as employers and how they look at the resource they need to deliver their strategic ambition. The question every recruiter and every business should be asking themselves continuously is ‘how are we different from the competition in a way that customers value?’

Tom Hadley, (formerly Director of Campaigns and Policy from the REC) from Hadley’s Comments has been doing some fascinating research with both the International Labour Organisation and the World Employment Confederation. Both Tom and Kevin Green, who has as good a view as anyone when it comes to the world of work and what’s happening, shared their view to TRN members recently of what they were seeing and predicting in 2021 and therefore what we should be aware of.

As we head into 2021 I have concluded that there are 8 significant areas of focus for employers which have becoming strategic priorities for many (NB the consequence of Brexit would be number 9 however I have excluded it on the basis that it doesn’t/isn’t affecting every employer right here and now – we’ll see the medium term impact in due course)

Those 8 priorities are:

  1. Continued short term restructuring (to deal with the impact of Covid and the economy)
  2. Changing workforce design, including flexible working and automation
  3. Strategic workforce planning
  4. Diversity and Inclusion
  5. Talent shortages in critical skillsets
  6. Employer branding
  7. Wellbeing of employees
  8. IR35

Some of these are not new, some have become priorities because of the Covid experience (flexible working etc). others make this list as a priority because of other social changes  (ie Black Lives Matter has contributed to Diversity and Inclusion rightly having the profile and priority it should have)

All of the above offer a recruitment agency the opportunity to evolve the offering, add significant value and stand out from the competition. We’ve seen many recruiters evolve their products and services – building innovative talent solutions, getting involved in developing talent as well as sourcing it and developing their capability and expertise in stakeholder management and workforce planning and design.  The transaction  opportunities are still there, but focusing on additional value and a different type of relationship, partnership and strategic collaboration creates a real long term opportunity.

At TRN, we were determined to help our members add value and stand out and we experimented in 2020 with developing some online solutions for our members to take to market which would create opportunities and competitive advantage. Outplacement is a great example. Back in June we worked with a couple of agencies who wanted to support their clients with career transitioning solutions for affected employees facing redundancy. It worked and we decided to turn it into an online solution for all our members to take to market in recognition of the rising number of organisations being forced to make redundancies. The success of this  – the Scottish government, FTSE 100 businesses and global conglomorates are among those now using the TRN Outplacement Cycle via the members – has been a great example of how recruiters can evolve the value of their offering by becoming more relevant. Redundancies are a reality for many, so how can we help them get through it? Innovative solutions open doors we couldn’t otherwise open, leads to conversations we might not otherwise have and creates new opportunities (one of our members was given exclusivity on contract opportunities worth £154k in exchange for offering the Outplacement Platform for free). We’ve recently released an IR35 platform in partnership with Brookson for members to offer out (a member rang me last week sharing that the free IR35 Cycle he offered to a new client had opened up an exclusive contract opportunity worth £45k), and a D &I online solution is being built as we speak.

The point is this, the 8 trends I suggested are real and happening. They each offer an opportunity to remodel our business for relevance and offer additional value which is aligned to the support, advice and expertise our clients need and want in 2021. Whether we position ourselves as strategic partners, bring innovative talent solutions or work planning to our clients, offer the best market insights and data, become experts in sourcing diverse talent and ensuring an inclusive sourcing strategy, become genuine experts in our space or simply get better at accessing the very best talent pools what is clear is this:  there is opportunity everywhere if we evolve based on relevance and value and our customer value proposition is aligned to the trends and employer priorities that exist.

The shift from transactional recruiter to trusted partner and expert in talent related solutions is there for the taking.  Bring it on.

For further information on The Recruitment Network or to access your very own Outplacement, IR35, Diversity and Inclusion or Wellbeing Cycle to offer to your clients drop me a line at

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