The Sun Never Sets: Staffing, Strategy & Social Recruiting in the UK

ukWhile we’re several centuries out from the Columbian contact, hiring professionals from the US can be forgiven if their first impressions of the talent acquisition landscape across the pond can be construed as travelling to the Old World  – and it’s clear that the UK seems somewhat resistant, even today, to American revolutions. Particularly when it comes to recruiting.

After all, staffing firms and third party agencies still represent a staggering share of source of hire; specializing in a function as narrowly defined as sourcing or social recruiting is nearly unheard of, and building a strategic pipeline often takes a backseat to making a just-in-time placement.

Data privacy and safe harbour laws limit access to many sourcing & profile aggregation tools Stateside sourcing practitioners take for granted (like Spokeo or Pipl), and social media lags decidedly behind – for example, Facebook has not yet given default access of Open Graph Search, for example, to UK users.

While recruitment best practices, policies and even technologies may seem superficially anachronistic, however, the truth is that in today’s world of work, the gap between US & UK recruiters and the employers they represent is quickly closing.

I recently spoke with Lisa Jones, a Director of Barclay Jones, a consulting firm which specializes in working with agency recruiters on their talent technology and social media strategies, to get a first hand look at the current state of UK staffing – and a look ahead at some of the trends, tools and technologies shaping the future of recruitment across the world of work.

Because, while the locations for which we’re hiring might necessitate different strategies and approaches for different markets, the ultimate goal of hiring the right talent at the right time for the right jobs is something all staffing & recruiting pros have in common.

Lisa JonesWhat are some of the major talking points or recurring themes you hear when talking to recruiters about emerging technologies and tools?

Lisa Jones – Director, Barclay Jones: “Cool tools” drives me nuts.  The coolest tool should be the CRM. Instead there are 100s of bit of tech designed to speed up process, which often result in the circumvention of the CRM and this creates risk and complication to what should be a simple process.

Yes, I’m a tech geek – I love technology, but I feel that the current recruitment tech market needs to mature.  While tech is free, it makes it too attractive – cost becomes the main criteria for how useful it is. I think that recruiters need to mature, too and BUY technology which works and adds value – not allow their workforce to download every app, extension and plugin in the vain hope that a candidate will be placed.

What are some of the most common myths or misperceptions you hear regarding social or brand strategy from employers in the UK? What are some of the persistent talent acquisition challenges or recurring resistance from recruiters?

Some recruiters have an issue with marketing themselves and seem to feel that being the biggest, longest running etc is a USP.  They specialise in markets that they don’t actively engage in online and thus their online behaviour demonstrates a lack of specialism (but oh, they have a great copywriter!)

Myths and misconceptions?  I’d say a big one is this thought that “Facebook is the devil!”  Or, “candidates don’t want to be approached on Facebook” – I’m not they want to be approached anywhere.  What we need to remember is that it’s the message, not the channel, that’s key.  And Twitter is pointless!  And “what’s Google +?”

The main challenge I see in the recruitment agency market right now is the myth of the 360 recruiter.  I’m not convinced it works and I’m not convinced that they use technology effectively to recruit.  Plus, the older the C suite in recruitment is getting, the more disconnected this level is from the true recruitment process which is common in many agencies.

The volume of data and systems available to the average recruiter is distracting and can create process-creep.  Plus it is not being used to self-sustain – in simple terms candidates rarely become clients once placed.  Perhaps the term “roller coaster recruiting” is where we are at and the speed which we feel we need to work means that everything is a blur and obvious opportunities are missed.

What advice do you have for employers looking to get started on social media? Any lessons learned or words of wisdom?

Look at your process and document it.  Then look at the tools out there that can speed it up and even replace some of the admin.  Document the new process – then train the hell out of everyone, including yourself.  Don’t be afraid to spend money on tools.  Don’t give your keys the business away to the “younger” ones because you assume their comfort with tech translates to strategic use of it!

Don’t be afraid to start relationships online – many candidates and clients are really comfortable with that (and why would a passive come in for a meeting???).

Make sure that data collected online is stored within your own asset like a CRM or ATS – but don’t have unsustainable policies which assume that if I blink at someone on LinkedIn they belong to the company.  Have grown up, practical policies which assume that connecting with people is a good thing, and it is encouraged, and that the business only owns the candidate/client once KPI-related activity kicks in.  Then I would vigorously ensure that these contacts and their related correspondence are stored within my own systems.  I think that’s a fair and sustainable model.

There are some obvious global best practices, but what do multinationals or companies just starting recruiting in the UK need to know that’s unique about recruiting and hiring in that particular market?  Like, what the heck does resourcing mean, for starters…

The UK model is very 360, meaning that many recruiters do the entire process.  I think that this in unsustainable and needs reworking.  I feel strongly that the model needs breaking down (sourcing, advert writing are 2 areas that I feel needs specialists).  The argument I often hear though is that recruitment agencies will find it hard to reward these roles. I think that the UK market needs to get over that and get on with it.

Looking at recruiting and social technologies, what low cost or high value tools should recruiters need to know about? Which couldn’t you live without?

LinkedIn Recruiter is an assumed expense, but my clients who use it renew with a smile and can’t do without it.  Do I think that all recruiters need this license?  No, but I do think that some sectors need to wisen up and look at paid for tools to make them more competitive.

Buffer is a big favourite – in the very least it should help recruiters gauge the effectiveness of their broadcasts and help them choose which will work.

Cloud-based CRM (no names mentioned here!)  Recruiters who are growing need flexibility, mobility, plug and play, visible and easy workflows and consistency.  A few of the leaders in cloud CRM have this nailed.

What are some of the biggest changes have you seen in the way people look for jobs or companies look for talent over the past 5 years? What do you expect recruiting to look like five years in the future?

Clearly LinkedIn became the de facto, theoretical ‘silver bullet’ for recruiters. I hope (but don’t necessarily expect) that recruiters will wise up to a more blended approach to the internet estate that their passive and active talent and clients live in and go where the party is at and not see LinkedIn as the candidate place of choice.  The candidate place of choice is where the candidate is, not where the recruiter is.  I’m not sure we have a candidate shortage – I think we have an “interested” candidate shortage.  The irony is that face to face recruiters can be intelligent, compelling, responsive creatures, but they are not so online.

What companies in the UK are getting social recruiting right, and what can other companies learn from them for their own social media initiatives?

I’m not convinced that any of them are (massive sweeping statement!)  And I don’t have a massive problem with that right now.  If we are talking true social recruiting (using social media for the recruitment process), then it’s fair to say that the majority of recruiters only tackle part of the process (broadcast and fish) using social tools.  Engagement with passives is extremely hard when the traditional process of the average 360 recruiter in the UK does not allow time (and does not reward) for nurturing candidate relationships.  I’ve yet to meet a recruitment agency with KPIs around candidate satisfaction and consultant-candidate relationships. I must stress, I get why this is – I’m not criticising.  We are going through an evolution where recruiter practice (and sometimes lack of it) is now exposed online for all to see and I think it’ll take a while for the tech which is now prolific in the process to adapt and fully support what a social recruiter.  Plus don’t get me started on the “average” recruitment director assuming that tech create bottle necks and distractions, and dims relationships…

Talent Community: Fact or fiction?  Why?

Fiction. They’re an invisible and unquantifiable talent dump.

What’s the most important advice you’d give to someone just starting out a career in recruiting in the UK?

Get a process that works and is self-sustaining (candidates becoming clients – yippee!), then blend in appropriate tech to help with speed and volume – rinse and repeat. Just because a tool is “cool” doesn’t mean it’s going to improve your speed, candidate experience or bottom line.

How do you measure success (or failure) of social recruiting strategies. Is it possible, too early to tell or tilting at windmills?

Again, I think it’s all about process.  Certain metrics can be measured (but currently aren’t widely) – speed of placement, candidate experience/satisfaction – all of these factors can be improved by the tactical use of social media, however, the main metric which seems to be the favourite is “how many candidates did I get from LinkedIn?”

For more from Lisa, check out “Forget Candidate Experience: What About Recruiter Experience,” follow her @LisaMariJones or connect with her on LinkedIn.




ICIMS November