Recruitment in Big Business: The Red Queen's Race

Sam Fletcher, Head of Intelligence

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“…here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.” (Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass)

You’ve probably seen a number of approaches to recruitment in large, listed organisations. In-house, RPO, Master Vendor and HR-led PSLs to name the more popular set-ups.

Have you ever seen a solution that met the needs of the business entirely? One that the HR team, as well as hiring managers, praised and the finance team was able to point out lines on the P&L and notice a real impact to the business?

If you’ve been in a leadership role a while, you may have scoffed at that. For most, the recruitment nirvana I just described has been written off long ago as unattainable. You may even have come to think of recruitment as a necessary evil, an inconvenience that is always going to be a pain point regardless of how it is managed.

What if it wasn’t? What if businesses have been going about it the wrong way?

Your business might have been through the agency, in-house, RPO and then back to agency or in-house model a number of times to find a workable solution. Why must recruitment be made to run a Red Queen’s race, continually having to change and transform just to remain relevant?

One of the key mistakes companies can make is treating recruitment in the same way that finance can be in large organisations. It is included in the ‘shared services’ basket and businesses see efficiencies in managing recruitment as a repeatable transaction like processing invoices or payroll. In-house teams are set up in low-cost shared service centres, expected to recruit for sites in countries they will never visit and work with hiring managers they’ll never meet.

At this point, you would rightly point out that businesses can succeed in this approach by hiring strong in-house recruiters, able to manage stakeholders and remotely hire into a number of different locations. Some businesses do this well yet all too often, recruiters are hired on low salaries to reflect the low-cost nature of the shared service solution. It’s no surprise that you don’t attract excellent recruiters with a low-cost approach when they can work in a recruitment company and take home significant amounts in commission.

Managing recruitment in this way rarely leads to hiring manager satisfaction who see recruitment in the same light you view the customer service department of your mobile phone company. They view their recruiter as unaccountable, unable to understand their needs and powerless to do anything other than stick to their script.

At some point, recruitment comes back into the crosshairs of executives who want to see an improvement. As the in-house option is viewed as a failing model, the next logical step might be to bring in an RPO solution.

This can work very well, depending on the provider and many businesses run the model successfully. The only real complaint from the business can be in looking at cost. Asking a recruitment company to move in and manage all your recruitment can be very expensive, but is a much more efficient process and usually cheaper than farming out vacancies to a number of recruitment agencies.

When the business is doing well and delivering strong value to shareholders, this cost is acceptable. When the businesses aren’t as successful, isn’t in growth mode and needs to cut overheads to keep shareholders happy, the RPO provision comes to the attention of leaders looking to reduce expenditure. The way recruitment is managed in the business is forced to change yet again to suit the current business climate. Historically, recruitment might have reached a constant state and operate unhindered for many years. In the current climate characterised by constant change and disruption, it is often the case that businesses must adapt from year to year to survive.

You may be wondering at this stage what the solution is. What can you put in place in a large business that goes beyond filling open jobs and adds real value in support of your business strategy?

The solution is, as you might have expected, a bespoke and often hybrid approach. Your business needs an approach that puts recruitment ahead of the curve rather than in the cross-hairs, adding to the bottom line as well as headcount.

The first step in the process is to address talent acquisition as an investment and a strategic function akin to sales or marketing and to change the businesses approach to maximise the return on investment of a more agile recruitment function. Proactive resourcing strategies should be employed, delivered by recruiters who are embedded in the business and fully accountable. A range of recruitment provisions should be utilised based on their unique strengths to complement the overall model rather than used exclusively. For example, adding an RPO element to the existing team to add scalability to match organisational and market demands and contracting with specialist agencies to capitalise on specific market knowledge.

6 Group never takes a one-size-fits-all approach to resolving an organisation’s challenges. We start by exploring the exact needs of a business and build a plan to match. We work with your business over the long-term to ensure your people strategy is prepared for the next step, whether that is making the most of growth opportunities or adapting to turbulent market conditions.

To learn more about what we can do for you, get in touch.

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