Training in a Tough Climate

There is always a need for effective training argues Teri Etherington MBA, Head of Talent Development at APSCo.

Training and development across the recruitment sector started 2023 with a bang. At APSCo we’ve seen demand grow for individual training courses alongside a greater need from members for clear training roadmaps for staff. This trend is very much in line with the focus on skills development that we witnessed during and after the lockdown months two years ago.

But that doesn’t mean that everyone is getting training and development right. In fact, our own study – Remuneration Reward & Retention in the Professional Recruitment Sector – revealed that less than half (47%) of recruitment firms grew their own staff through training and development last year.

With the markers shifting while candidates continue to have the upper hand, skills development in the staffing sector will be more crucial in 2023 than it has been for some time.

Investing in people

Getting good recruiters is tough in a normal environment. Doing so in a world where competition for the best talent has been rife for over a year is more difficult. But I’d argue that attracting and retaining the best professionals requires more than just an appealing pay packet. Providing clear career paths with dedicated training to get an individual to their ultimate professional destination is a huge influencer for today’s workforce.

Those of us with experience in the profession know all too well that no one joins recruitment to stay in one role and keep doing what they were doing from day one. They enter into a job with the promise of a good commission and a chance to grow. If they aren’t able to achieve this, they’ll swiftly move elsewhere.

As we face an uncertain economy, the ability to offer structured training programmes will become more important on a number of levels beyond the attraction and retention issue, though. When times are good and the opportunities are flowing in – as they were for most staffing firms last year – it’s easier for new recruits and those new to the profession to just get on with the job they’ve been directed to do.

Once the climate becomes more difficult, though, there’s a whole new set of skills that need to be utilised to bring in new business and engage new candidates. Knowing how to convert an undecisive lead, how to persuade a hiring manager to consider applicants from new avenues and having the ability to identify what a business really needs beyond the rigid job specification are all crucial attributes for a recruitment role. These skills can’t be learnt without clear guidance and structure, and for many recent recruits, there hasn’t been the time or perhaps even the inclination to learn in the last year due to the scale of demand that so many firms have faced.

Balancing financial costs

When the recruitment sector is thriving, investing in training and development is easier to justify financially as a business, but when the economy is facing uncertainty and confidence is starting to waver, scrutiny over budgets understandably comes into play. However, when we consider that there are staffers who were hired to deliver during the highs of 2022 who don’t necessarily have the recruiter skills that will enable them to excel when competition becomes more difficult, investing in people now makes more sense.

Of course I’m not suggesting that recruitment businesses throw caution to the wind and channel money into reams of training, but identifying where skills development is needed for the business as much as the individual will put a firm on the best path to growth in a more difficult climate. It’s for this reason that structured and bespoke training is going to deliver greater ROI for staffing companies this year.


It is also important to add that balancing financial budgets with training needs is possible if controlled appropriately. Bringing in a trainer on full time basis adds an unnecessary burden on fixed costs. Using an external partner, in comparison, gives a healthy balance of expert insight and financial flexibility.

As a case in point, APSCo’s training courses – which are designed specifically for the recruitment sector – can be fully or part outsourced. We have individual training courses that staff can join or we supply training that’s designed for the unique needs of a firm’s workforce.

Just as a staffing firm’s clients would be encouraged to scale up or down their reliance on a recruiter as required, employers in the sector also need to adopt this mentality with workforce training and development.

Practice what you preach

That leads me quite nicely to a key point that is often overlooked when we talk about training recruiters: the sector needs to practice what it preaches. We hear from so many recruiters that they are working closely with their clients to build an attractive recruitment package for a role that boasts more than a good salary.

One of the common themes that comes out of these conversations is a need for employers to have clear training and development opportunities within the business in order to aid hiring. If recruitment firms are saying this to clients, they need to be living it themselves too.

And before the question pops into your mind, I’ll say now that we do the same at APSCo. The value that we place on skills development in the recruitment sector is built into our own ethos. Everyone has access to training and we have rolled out the Personal Effectiveness course across the entire business – I myself have been on a number of the courses we offer. We have also recently launched a new Women in Leadership programme – developed at the request of members – to address the challenges that can hold women back.

I am a real advocate of practising what you preach and if staffing firms are encouraging their clients to invest in development programmes to attract the best candidates, even in an uncertain economy, they need to show that they truly believe this themselves.

Getting the approach right

Staffing companies that are serious about their training and development opportunities do need to consider what approach would work best for their business. This includes how and where any courses are delivered. While we are seeing more demand for face-to-face training, this doesn’t suit everyone. In a similar vein, not all learning styles are suitable for virtual courses.

The recruitment sector isn’t necessarily known for its focus on a formal education which is both a blessing and a curse. On the positive side, it means that anyone with the drive and passion can become a good recruiter (with the right career guidance, of course). But on the flip side, it means there’s limited examples of best practice.

Those staffing firms that become – or continue to be – the pioneers of best approaches to making recruitment a career with professional development opportunities will be the ones that win the best candidates and the best accounts.

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