Onwards and Upwards - an interview with Global Recruiter on what the future holds for Sopra Steria Recruitment

Published by Global Recruiter

Onwards and Upwards

UP CLOSE – Sopra Steria Recruitment enjoys success and forms its future in recruitment.

A recruitment company with almost 40 years’ heritage, Sopra Steria Recruitment continues to thrive amid a shifting recruitment landscape. In October, the company picked up the APSCo Award for Excellence in the category of Best Company with over £50 million turnover for the second consecutive year, a feat that was achieved not only thanks to its impressive financials, but also its progressive and inclusive approach to recruitment. Part of the Sopra Steria Group, the business, which has offices in Reading, Manchester, Edinburgh and Delhi, works in partnership with public and private sector organisations to deliver contract, permanent and interim resources across all technical and business disciplines. The company also provides outsourced candidate screening and assessment, advertisement response management and consultancy to organisations driving their own candidate attraction. Working with major national clients, the firm continues to enjoy growth in revenue, profit and market share year-on-year.

“The recruitment profession has historically been perceived as largely transactional,” explains Pete Holliday, the firm’s managing director. “We are doing things differently and working in true partnership with customers to build long-term relationships and achieve long-term growth. We’ve worked hard to embed this into our DNA.” 

Pete credits the brand as being a leader in recruitment transformation, a claim that is backed by its recent APSCo award win and other accolades it has achieved. “We’re leading in what ‘good’ looks like and demonstrating that there’s more than one way to do recruitment,” says Holliday. “We’re constantly adding value. It may sound like a cliché, but it’s true and what we have become known for. From managed recruitment, to championing disability in the workplace, to challenging legislation that impacts the sector and our clients. We’re assisting our clients’ organisational transformation by constantly innovating how we source, secure and manage candidates.”

From the start

Sopra Steria as it is now was born from the merger in 2014 of two of France’s longest established digital services companies, Sopra and Steria, founded respectively in 1968 and 1969 and both characterised by a strong entrepreneurial spirit as well as a firm collective commitment to serving their clients. While Sopra Steria Recruitment now fits within the wider Sopra Steria brand, as Pete notes: “We haven’t lost that legacy, it’s embedded in our wider values.”

Today, Sopra Steria Recruitment effectively has several relationships with Sopra Steria Group, namely as its parent company and key client. However, Sopra Steria Recruitment’s differentiating strengths are rooted firmly in its recruitment expertise and an approach which is based on retaining and growing a carefully selected client base of organisations with shared values, rather than trying to be all things to all people.

“We work with a core number of key clients, and we’re not trying to please everyone”, explains Holliday. “By doing so, we are better able to resource our customers’ needs through our own resource pools which we have specifically built and grown for each client. We’re certainly not trying to sell one candidate to hundreds of companies. It’s a completely different engagement model. We see success in client retention and longevity.” This approach most likely explains why the company routinely achieves over 95 per cent positive client feedback on service effectiveness. Holliday sums up the company’s approach by emphasising, “We have the scale and expertise to deliver to any recruitment volume and breadth, yet we are still small enough to keep our service personal and stay close to our customers.”

These close relationships could not be forged without great employees and people performance, development and a commitment to career success are at the heart of Sopra Steria Recruitment’s values. The company is continually evolving its training programmes to develop the skills of its recruiters and consultants to help them become experts in their roles and ensuring service quality to clients. The brand’s internal Recruitment Academy, for example, offers access to everything from training on competency based interviewing techniques to APSCo’s ‘Stepping into Firstline Management’ training. “A commitment to company-wide training and education is the foundation of providing our clients with certainty of delivery and compliance”, explains Holliday. “One hundred per cent of our team’s training requests have been met through the Sopra Steria Recruitment Academy and we have invested heavily in training supported by organisations such as the Business Disability Forum (BDF), for example.”

The company has long been an ambassador of BDF and has worked closely with the organisation to run a series of training and education sessions – which were attended by every single employee across the company. On the decision, Holliday notes, “Whilst a significant investment for our business, both in monetary and time commitment, we felt this approach was critical to equip our employees with the best tools and skills to support our ambitions to be a champion of Barrier-Free recruitment.”

This commitment to personal development is obviously paying off, as Holliday explains. “We have retained employees through cross training, enabling 20 per cent of our employees to move into new roles internally, for example, to new opportunities created by a new service model, to meet the needs of an evolving market and business.”

Challenges met

Sopra Steria Recruitment’s success has not come without its fair share of challenges. The company’s biggest hurdle has been recent changes in legislation. In conjunction with APSCo, the business has successfully lobbied government to challenge the proposal that tax liability for off-payroll public sector contractors should sit with recruitment companies. Despite this, the legislation still had a significant impact on the business. “The change that had to be implemented following IR35 was monumental,” reflects Holliday. “Like many other companies we implemented processes to ensure the compliance of all workers to deliver against off-payroll reforms. There was a lot of change in a short time period, with new contracts, partners, and internal processes. It was a re-engineering of our business model – but we did it – and the operating model is now fully compliant.” Today, thanks to this experience, the company is working closely with its clients to jointly manage risk from emerging legislation – advising on managing risk, assuring compliance and retaining contractors. 

The organisation continues to ensure legal and ethical compliance through close relationships with recognised professional and regulatory bodies including BEIS, APSCo and HMRC. “Keeping up to date with current legislation is vital,” says Holliday, “and we are continually aligning the business with changes and directives to conform to best practice.”

The ability to keep its finger on the pulse, not only in terms of legislative changes, but also reflect market demand has been integral to the company’s success and continues to inform strategy moving forwards. As Holliday notes: “The recruitment market is changing, and Sopra Steria Recruitment has adapted in response. Transformation of our service has been essential for our business growth.

“More and more companies are doing their own recruitment in an effort to retain control of employer brand.” Holliday continues. “This presents a challenge, but we have developed services in response such as solutions for screening checks, or response management when in-house teams are inundated with CVs. Another area of the business which has grown is the consultancy service, where we are providing our clients with recruitment advice to help meet both their people and business objectives. There has been a change in dynamic and we saw that change coming and developed a range of tailored services which we provide under our trademark, Optimum Vendor®.”

The introduction of Sopra Steria Recruitment’s Optimum Vendor® model recognises that customers increasingly want choice. As Holliday explains: “In the past, clients only had the option of Master Vendor of Neutral Vendor offerings. The third way is Optimum Vendor® – which gives each client a tailored solution for their needs. Optimum Vendor® ensures clients get a choice of service options that are not locked into a defined delivery or service structure, breaking down the elements into defined services that would ordinarily would be part of a larger delivery model.”   

By challenging the standard client engagement models, and introducing a revolutionary managed recruitment service, Sopra Steria Recruitment aims to provide increased flexibility to clients around how they engage recruitment services for their business, giving clients certainty of delivery and predictability of cost, which Holliday stresses is very different to the standard Managed Service or RPO models offered by the company’s competitors in the marketplace. 

As a company which has always been bold enough to disrupt the market place with a revolution in approach, Holliday is confident the future is bright: “Our strategy is certainly paying off. Revenue growth from clients increased, we doubled in size in the last six years and plan to double again in the next three.”

“Looking forward, there will be an increased focus on maintaining organic growth and increasing market share across our full and comprehensive range of services,” Holliday continues. “The need to offer a more flexible offering in today’s constantly changing marketplace is key. We’ve been operating as a recruitment business since 1979, and in that time we’ve learned not only how to adapt to thrive, but also the qualities that clients consistently value most in their recruitment partners. Consultancy has always been absolutely integral to our offering and a cornerstone of our success, however, the launch of Optimum Vendor® takes personalised service to the next level. We’re redefining what clients should expect from their recruitment partners, which will ultimately raise the bar across the entire recruitment market.”