The latest thinking, news and events from the world of Recruitment

Expect the Best, Plan for the Worst


Times are good in the recruitment industry.  REC’s latest report (Click for article) indicates that the recruitment market has grown over 9% in the last year and is now valued at £31.5billion.  Those business owners with sufficient scale and infrastructure are planning for their exit in the next 24/36 months. The headcount in most teams is growing and managers are planning how their jobs will get bigger in the next few years.

Based on this news, I should be predictable and start talking about talent shortages, how you need to retain your staff or train your team on the latest sourcing techniques…

However in the last week there have been a few warning signs that there is potential uncertainty around the corner, RBS has warned all its clients of “‘cataclysmic’ year with slumps in shares and oil and advises clients to shift to bonds and to sell all stocks (guardian article).”  Add in a fragile Eurozone, mixed messages from China and there are now a few variables that business owners and directors need to consider.

My question to the leaders reading this article is “are you preparing your consultants for the skills they will need if a downturn does arise?”

When I reflect back to late 2008 and 2009 my most vivid memory was of seeing many consultants that had billed very successfully in a good market fail spectacularly when they had to be proactive in picking up hard to find vacancies.

Whist it may seem counter-intuitive to be thinking about a downturn in a candidate short market, the reality is that if a downturn does arise you cannot magic up the business development skills needed to survive.  It takes time and energy to develop not only the skills but also the confidence that consultants need to be able to find business in good times and bad.

Some of the skills that consultants need to survive in a down market are:

  •  Confidence in picking up the phone to ask for and win new business
  •  Ability to perform daily sales activity that either finds new clients or expands existing ones irrespective of the volume of open vacancies.
  •  A methodical approach to finding new prospects, qualifying and winning new business
  •  Consistency in the development of current clients to maximise their share of the recruitment spend
  •  Ability to articulate & evidence service differentiation from competitors
  •  A bank of client relationships where the consultant is perceived as a “peer” and “advisor” rather than just a CV machine.

The great thing though is that these skill sets can serve consultants and businesses just as well in a good market as they seek to grow and take market share from their competition.  The challenge is that too many consultants get distracted by having “lots of vacancies” to make time for the hard graft of proactively building new client relationships every single day.

It is the responsibility of managers, directors and business owners to ensure that consultants do not get distracted by the volume of vacancies they have & do make time every single day to grow their client base.  The aim is that you develop consultants that can both hunt for new business and farm existing clients equally well.

And why do this? Because your success as a leader will be defined not by how big your team is at the start of a downturn but by how many of them make it through the other side.

Alex Moyle runs Elevated Recruiting, He specialises in helping managers build a culture of proactive business development with in their teams. Click here to get more information on leadership courses that help develop a Business Development Culture.