Category Archives: Recruitment and Employment Confederation

The Recruitment sector needs a rottweiler not another toothless industry body.

Charming, lovable, full or personality and loyal. A perfect mascot for a fantastic industry.

Charming, lovable, full or personality and loyal. A perfect mascot for a fantastic industry.

Mitch Sullivan prompted me to write this in response to a discussion post he made in the IoR LinkedIn Group which you can find here – Mitch’s IoR Discussion . It was rather novel to find a real discussion point in the group for a change. For months it has just been a constant barrage of people trying to sell their services via thinly veiled blogs like training, SEO, Social Media Solutions, Applicant tracking systems, umbrella company services….. blah blah blores… So it was quite refreshing to see some people getting involved again. Anyway, I digress. Mitch asked the following question:

“What does being a member of the IoR say about you and / or your business? For me what it says the most loudly is that you find the changing recruitment landscape too bewildering and what you really want is someone/something else to solve your problems for you.

What do you think? Am I being a little harsh here? If so, why?”

As someone who was an open critic of the IoR when it was first mooted and someone who openly challenged it as an organisation I stated my reservations from the beginning. I don’t care about badges or status or being part of a club. To be honest the IoR offers nothing in this context, there is no camaraderie that I can discern other than a few cliques, the few events they do hold in the North of England are usually more about selling me services or enabling some other service provider to sell me services. There is no active promotion of ethical recruitment, solution or quality focused services. Even if you are actually at the cutting edge of radical recruitment innovation the only support or promotion you receive is offered on a pay for basis. You could for example develop the most profound, game changing exceptional recruitment innovation to date and would have to drain your bank account to get the IoR to support it. In fact it is circa 4 months since I swallowed my pride and joined and I can’t think of one singular benefit thus far of the membership from a business or personal development perspective, although many have been offered with a ££££ attached.

Saviour of the industry, or just another looking to generate revenue?

Saviour of the industry, or just another looking to generate revenue?

I’m yet to understand how funding the IoR to develop a whole raft of revenue generating training courses, vocational qualifications and apprenticeship schemes benefits me or the industry. The IoR is yet to fully advise me of the outcome of the multitude of meetings they have attended at 10 Downing Street. In fact I suspect that there should probably be a public enquiry into exactly why 10 Downing has nothing better to do with their time than keep meeting with the IoR. As yet I’m at a loss as to how some of the most significant innovators, the absolute creme de la creme of entrepreneurs and successful brands such as Micheal Page and Robert Half and many other managed to create such great businesses without any vocational training in recruitment. How these and many other companies such as Adecco, Kelly Services and all the fabulous boutiques actually trained some immensely talented recruiters without some form of recognised apprenticeship program? Yet they did. But I digress. This post isn’t about training and courses and qualifications. It is about the impotence of yet another recruitment industry body.

There needs to be some form of regulation or at the very least there needs to be a loud voice that can influence and lobby government and other associations on behalf of the recruitment industry both external and internal. There needs to be an organisation that can create a partnership and a collaborative dialogue with the CIPD for example. But ultimately there needs to be some form of professional complaints body, somebody with bite who can investigate, mediate and who can punish the guilty or resolve disputes forcefully. Personally I am an advocate of their being an Industry Ombudsman who can mediate disputes and complaints and where necessary have the power to discipline or even exclude. This body would have to be impartial and have jurisdiction to some extent over both parties, in the same way as the FSA or the Banking Ombudsman would. Is the IoR the organisation to do that? I very much doubt it.

What we really need is an RIR, a Recruitment Industry Rottweiler. We need some kind of organisation that is independent. Someone who companies faced with questionable invoices, bad practice and legal disputes can refer to for not just advice, but action. We need a body that will arbitrate between recruitment firms to settle disagreements, act as a protective representative for candidates with genuine concerns such as breaches of confidentiality, duplicity and so forth.

The IoR isn’t a rottweiler by any stretch of the imagination. My disappointment thus far with the IoR is not just it’s lack of bite it is the people behind the it. Many of them are not actually recruiters and even the ones who claim to be often haven’t recruited for over a decade. Harsh as it may sound but the organisation and many connected with it, the so called Genius Team for example are wholly engaged in their own little personal status and promotional crusade. Many of the Genius Team (not all I hasten to add) are precisely the people who have worked diligently over the last decade to dumb down the recruitment industry, to simplify it, dilute it and to focus it on volume, process and KPI’s not quality. We have people that apparently we should aspire to on that team who have created recruitment businesses built around offering bargain basement multiple job board advertising, a kind of Poundland of recruitment where they provide a service which simply auto posts job vacancies for £499 + Vat across 3000 job boards. This has undermined the whole concept of great, even exquisite recruitment. We have representatives in the IoR who were personally responsible for driving the concept of Preferred Supplier Lists, who developed and drove the idea of automated recruitment processes and as a result are directly responsible for all those poor recruiters whose only contact with their clients is an automated email with a vacancy description and a demand to be the first to provide a handful of anonymous CV’s pulled off the same jobs boards with no due diligence or care at 12% margins.

So no, the IoR isn’t the answer. It is in many ways littered with dinosaurs. It is influenced by people protecting their assets, looking for ways to milk other recruitment businesses assets and generally keep things the way they want them. One thing the IoR can do is provide you with a plethora of ‘big billers’ or ‘industry leaders’ to come and train your organisation and consultants to keep doing things the same way, poorly. They talk about conversion rates, call rates and worse of all they encourage quantity above quality.  They don’t train you how to really blow your clients away, they don’t educate clients that there is no short-cut to exceptional recruitment. You don’t see the IoR in The Times extolling the virtues of service excellence, of recruitment processes that focus on accuracy and understanding and consider cultural fit and attitude as well as experience and skills. Similarly what is the IoR’s view and advice on those recruiters who send unsolicited CV’s with terms attached and then send a company an invoice when they recruit the very same candidate through alternative, direct or more structured channels. What is their stance when a retained recruiter successfully finds the right candidate and 1 month later their client receives an invoice from BOBaJob Recruitment Ltd on the basis that they sent that candidates CV to one of their hiring managers 5 months ago? What is the IoR’s stance when a client refuses to pay a placement invoice with 30 days payment terms for 120 days and threatens that businesses very existence because of cash flow issues?

Can anyone tell me of any actual action, mediation or resolution that the IoR has been explicitly responsible for? Have they investigated or punished anyone? Have they actually established any strict guidelines which automatically resolve issues around candidate ownership, mass mailing of CV’s, exploitative terms in PSL’s. Is there a HR Director somewhere who breathed a sigh of relief and now has a whole new perspective of the industry because the IoR has protected them or resolved a major issue for them? Is there a recruitment business member of the IoR who have had a disputed client invoice paid without the need for legal action and expenses because the IoR mediated and delivered a solution or compromise?

My guess to all the questions above is probably not.

Don’t fear the doubters and those who won’t conform.

Every brave initiative meets resistance and have no fear, there will be an abundance of recruiters and recruitment business owners who will aggressively argue against any kind of housekeeping, who will rally against any such Recruitment Industry Rottweiler. But the question should be why they feel this way. It isn’t wrong for the valiant, for the virtuous and the sincere to crave equality and quality in equal measure. There is no shame in wanting your industry to operate and deliver the very best in world class solutions. The only people who would fear that are those who thrive and are nourished by the lack of controls and restraints.

Which corner do you stand in? Given the choice if there was an alternative do you think your client organisations would rather work with a recruiter who complies and signs up to the Recruitment Industry Rottweiler or one that doesn’t?

Personally all you need to do is show me where to sign…

MaverickRecruiter goes to the movies….

The Recruitment Industry – Do we need an Ombudsman?

Anyone that knows me or follows me on Linkedin is probably aware of how passionately I defend the recruitment industry. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not that blind and naïve fool who thinks everything in the garden is rosy, not by any stretch of the imagination. Let’s face it those do exist in all industry sectors and walks of life.

I do however believe that the recruitment industry is unduly maligned, vilified and chastised as the Pantomime Villain of the job market and the world of employment. Surprisingly more often than not it is by the people who work in it. I am absolutely not one of them. But I’m not wearing rose tinted glasses. There are issues, there are rogue elements and there are undoubtedly the unscrupulous and the exploitative. In all walks of life, in every profession there are those who cause problems, have a different set of ethics and morals, narcissists and commercial sociopaths who thrive on doing things the wrong way, who think that financial gain and acquisition of a fast buck is the testament to success. Unfortunately in recruitment because of who we are and what we do a little bad news can travel very fast, especially in the social media world we now live in where a single incident which had no original malicious or unscrupulous intent can be rapidly exaggerated as catch all testament to the industry as whole

Earlier this year a debate raged on the Institute of Recruiters (IOR), Linkedin Group. I spent a week or so defending criticism of my industry from a certain quarter. These people (one individual in particular) were suggesting that the recruitment industry needs licensing. It was quite a lively debate, and in all fairness I suspect the real context was lost due to the misleading opening point of the discussion where it was implied that virtually all recruitment businesses are worthless, because they don’t have a license. Suffice to say that this angle was robustly defended by many and some including myself rather took offence at the insinuation. But maybe in hindsight I should consider eating some humble pie.

I was recently asked for advice from a former client on a serious recruitment issue they were trying to deal with. Basically they use a number of recruitment firms to recruit highly skilled and pretty rare technical engineering staff. Much of this is on an ongoing contract basis which is very lucrative for the recruitment firms involved. Some however is permanent recruitment, which of course from a one off fee perspective is particularly rewarding.

My client has discovered that one of their suppliers has been responsible for some rather unethical activity within their organisation. Basically the recruiter has been placing candidates on a perm basis and then soliciting the same candidates immediately they are out of their probationary period or to clarify, once the rebate period on the fee has transpired. This hasn’t happened just once either. My client has undertaken a solid investigation and it appears that this activity has taken place on at least 5 occasions in the last 12mths across their various business areas and departments.

Worse still! Yes it can get worse. The same recruitment firm provides a lot of contractors, but what they have been doing is poaching other recruitment agencies contractors out of the company and its projects and placing them with competitors and visa versa. What makes it worse still is that they have been paying referral fees to their own contractors for names and phone numbers of competitor’s contractors, effectively undermining their own client’s projects by extracting their skilled agency contractors!

Now, if you work in recruitment and have ethics and morals you are probably squirming in your seat at the sheer audacity of this. If you don’t work in recruitment or don’t understand how this market works you may not really appreciate how bad this scenario is, let me explain.

The recruiter gets paid a fee for a perm placement of for example £8,000 for placing Bill Smith in a job with Oxygen Power Services. 3mths later when there is no rebate clause period remaining so the recruitment fee is banked and safe. The same recruiter goes back to Bill Smith and offers him some more money to move to another firm down the road. He gets another £8’000, but at the same time he gets to fill Bills job at Oxygen again with a candidate he previously placed at another firm and gets another £8’000. In reality there is no limit to how many times he can do this, well until he runs out of companies and candidates. If he moves 5 candidates through 5 companies and they all work in the same place once, then over a period of 12 – 18mths he can replicate the same fee up to 25 times! Unlikely but it is mathematically possible.

The same kind of formula can be applied to the contractor side. He is basically shuffling contractors from one recruiter to another project and has created a merry go round type scenario, which is also pushing up pay rates or reducing everyone’s margins. This is basically ‘Sharp Pracitice’ and was traditionally the holy grail of a few firms of cowboys and charlatans in the Sales Recruitment sector in the 80’s and 90’s who oddly always had a tendency to emulate Gordon Gekko. Image

My client has asked me who they can escalate this unprofessional conduct to in terms of a serious complaint. The problem is he can’t really! Okay if the recruitment firm in question were part of the REC or the IOR or similar then he could complain to those industry bodies. But they aren’t a member and to be honest, industry bodies don’t usually have much bite, although the recently formed Institute of Recruiters has promised to be robust. He can complain to the governments Employment Agency Standards office, but technically what this recruiter is doing is not illegal and they are not really responsible for commercial disputes. The EAS is really about enforcing protection, fair play and rights for workers.

What this recruiter is doing may be unethical, it may be considered bad practice by 99.9% of an industry worth an estimated £20billion+ a year to the economy, and it may even be in contravention of the terms and conditions of business of supply. But as far as I know it is not illegal. It should be but it probably never will be.

So maybe there is an argument, a case or at least a point worthy of consideration in regards to licensing the recruitment industry. Maybe there should be a government ombudsman who can rule on customer complaints with an iron glove, there is in just about every other people business. The healthcare, utilities, financial services, legal and accountancy and others all have some kind of Ombudsman set up, who is responsible for handling complaints and hold an entirely objective and impartial stance.

Maybe this could even be a more practical solution to the candidate ownership and fee debates and incidents that invariably turn legal. Yes, there would of course be a cost to set up and run an Ombudsman but if the end result is a cleaner, more robust and business conducive environment that engenders trust and thus increases positive perception could it be a win win for everyone?

What do you think?

On a final note, in reality the true scale of issues, bad practice and or intentional malpractice in the recruitment industry is actually very small. Genuine complaints, by this I mean those that are found to have grounds and be reasonable as opposed to being merely a matter of perception are relatively rare. I have worked in this industry for nearly 20yrs and the vast majority of people I have worked with or have been acquainted with are immensely passionate and ethical about what they do. But it only takes a couple of bad apples to spoil a barrel. No industry is perfect and every industry can be improved of course, but genuinely I think the industry has never been better.

So is a real licensing strategy based upon protecting hiring companies, candidates and the industry actually a good idea, it has been debated for years and historically did exist, should we bring it back? If we did, who would police it and how would it work? Would an Ombudsman suffice?