I was genuinely chuffed to present at a recent Career Development Association of Australia event, looking at the world of recruitment and how it interacts within the greater Career Development Consultant market. The research into the presentation included a look at staff turnover rates for most industry sectors. Most were pretty average and indicated and level of comfort and engagement within a number of these industries. The usual two industries often noted as having the highest – retail and hospitality at 29% and 31% respectively – maintained that standing…yet they were both superseded significantly by one other.
So, in essence, 43% of employees who start a role, leave within 12 months. That is almost half and indicates that an almost full office of recruiters is replaced every 24 months. Suggestions that a significant number of employees leave the industry for good add to an already problematic situation – and one that really threatens the industry as a whole
At more than 10 percentage points higher than the next highest, it is a figure that should sound alarm bells to the industry as a whole. Whether it actually is creating concern or not is a matter of opinion (mine says it’s not…), but whatever the resonance from this statistic is, the fact is it is a very unsustainable rate.
So why is it so grim for the industry?
Is it too salesy?
No. Outside of the myopic view by some that cold, unsolicited calling still has some part to play in modern-day recruitment (it doesn’t), sales is incredibly vital and it must be in the kit bag of any recruiter. On top of that, it has such a visible element of the role that no one new to it will be unaware of its requirement. Savvy agencies realise that sales is not cold phone-based, but involves deeper understanding of industries and business and being able to build business via branding and more modern marketing techniques.
Is it a rotten job to work in?
For all the comments I have made about its negatives, recruitment, when done right, is a fantastic job to work in. Imagine being able to directly help in getting a candidate to realise their career goals, or to be influential in making some pretty important decisions about their jobs? Or help a business find that elusive candidate they have been struggling for months to find? It can be a really fulfilling and exciting career.
Do certain agencies perpetuate this problem?
I know of agencies that give consultants minimum training (usually of the internal database and recruitment software), give them a list of clients and tell them to find roles. Worse still, some are actively giving consultants only a relatively short time to make ‘sales’ or they are booted. This is the oft-touted ‘churn and burn’ in recruitment, and it has no place at all in the modern industry. It is archaic, misinformed and a highly contentious policy to play – and agencies subscribing to this method are part of the problem, not the solution.
Does it attract the right people?
This is a key issue. Problems within the industry are not consultant-centric. They are management’s doing. The industry is not an attractive proposition to those who would give the industry a much-needed boost – those who are people-centric, personable and driven to meet the needs of candidates, clients and internal colleagues equally – and it is the failure of management or those responsible for hiring consultants to properly secure these people.
Is there enough ‘can’ or too much ‘should’?
How agencies allow consultants to play their own game, give it the ability to become engagement models. What a consultant can do offers flexibility in the way they find clients, negotiate terms, locate candidates and complete roles. Compare that with agencies who tell consultants what they should do (or even worse; must do) to see where the more favourable – and engaged policies – lie.
Does it lose the right people
Unfortunately it does. If the industry is lucky enough to hire these quality candidates, it doesn’t take long for the ugly side to come out and for these folks to be turned off and ultimately escape it.
Does it actually have an ugly side?
When recruitment goes wrong, it does so spectacularly. Forced KPIs that fail to acknowledge changes in markets and which are changed on whims, the ever-present spectre (real or not) of ‘cowboys’ and the self-centred, money hungry, crash or crash through approach to recruitment, antiquated sales techniques forced on consultants, usually to the detriment of more modern and effective techniques and an obsession with the ‘old ways’ all seem to set modern-day recruiters up for fail. When these are present, the role is an ugly one to be a part of.
Is the views of outsiders impacting?
Oh, definitely. The agency recruitment model has one of the worst reputations in the business world. Comments throughout social media, publications and general viewpoints offer clear examples where the industry is falling over. Whilst some would say that only negative comments make it to the public domain, they are ignored at their peril.
Is it a transient industry?
By this, I mean is it like hospitality or retail: used as a springboard into another industry / career option or as a tool to get one’s permanent residency? It certainly appears that way – in some cases, whilst in others it is held onto as a career in itself. Can it be solely attributed to high turnover? I’ll lean to a ‘no’, but it is something that needs careful looking at. Using the industry as a ticket to other outside areas is not sustainable. Recruitment is not hospitality nor retail, where transience is common. Serious thought needs to given to making it attractive to the point where importing consultants from overseas is not a necessity.
Are employees engaged properly?
A-ha! Bingo. Here lies a big gap in the industry. Engagement levels hover at a lower-than-average and are a hugely untapped area for the industry that could really change its standing. This goes way beyond Friday drinks and the Christmas party, and more into both structured and organic programs designed to make a consultant feel a part of the organisation, in tune with what they are doing and how it impacts and happy with where they are and where they can be. Whilst some agencies have semblances of engagement programs, it does not go deep enough for long lasting engagement, and its most common result: retention.
Is the recruitment industry serious in addressing this unsustainable turnover figure? Do they want to set up their agencies for success within their own employee base, as well as their profit margin?
Let this be a wake up call.