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Economy and compliance dominate recruitment summit

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Compliance concerns and the challenges facing the industry during the current economic crisis were the key issues discussed at Recruitment Leaders – the debating forum set up by Brabners Chaffe Street, Outsauce, Saffery Champness and RBS.

Kevin Green, Chief Executive of the REC delivered a robust and engaging assessment of the economy. He spoke about ‘seismic shifts in the recruitment industry’ with economists puzzled by the fact that there has been no GDP growth this year but the private sector created 488,000 new jobs. Together with the assembled senior agency representatives, Green analysed the challenges facing employers and recruiters and he highlighted how the impending skills crisis is an opportunity for the recruiters, who must adapt to survive.

He spoke about the need for education to reflect labour market demands and how recruitment leaders have a role to play in promoting recruitment as a profession and a career of choice. Green described how the market is changing with 2 percent growth expected in the recruitment market place in 2013 despite a decline in the number of recruitment businesses in the market. Discussions then centred on key trends which recruiters need to keep a handle on including greater control of the supply chain, continuing margin pressure, a maturing market, greater segmentation, increased professional flexibility and the demise of high street recruiting. Green also touched on how the recruitment industry is perceived with only 47 percent describing the sector as professional and he urged recruiters to grasp the opportunities on offer from the REC to change perceptions for the better.

It is clear from the above that recruiters have a vital role to play in sourcing the best talent to support productivity. Green concluded that Britain has one of the most flexible labour markets in the world, making recruiters essential to ensuring its efficiency. Continuing pressure on margins within a maturing market, coupled with the demise of high street recruiting, mean agencies must scrutinise their strategies to remain competitive. For many, greater segmentation and specialism is the answer. Recruiters are better off becoming “an inch wide and a mile deep” rather than vice versa. Recruiters should look for opportunities in the SME market which is set for growth.

Green pointed to leading agencies taking advantage of social media and content in order to take the lead in industry debate and attract applicants. Recruiters were advised to embrace social media and use content to build relationships and attract talent. He also reminded recruiters that they need to work hard on building client relationships and to demonstrate value to the client by providing insider knowledge on key areas like the state of the market, competitor activity and salary information. Given recent bad press, recruiters must be “whiter than white”. It was acknowledged that unscrupulous operators create an uneven playing field and more needs to be done by HMRC to tackle immoral and illegal practices if the industry is to avoid an encroaching effect. These views were mirrored in the findings of the Compliance Barometer, a survey of recruiters presented to attendees by Outsauce’s Andrew Webster.

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