Raising the bar

Moving recruitment up the value chain

Recruitment companies are always one of the first to be hit by recession as clients economise and reduce headcount. Survival, and even profit, according to Pete Holliday, Managing Director at Sopra Steria Recruitment, demands a new approach. He explains why he believes it's time for a re-think by providers and clients a like.

London, 22 January 2010:  "Times are incredibly tough but I believe that a recession is an ideal opportunity for the whole recruitment profession to really look carefully at its market and solutions for business. It's a chance to strengthen longterm partnerships and drive home the benefits of outsourced service provision.

For too long the recruitment profession, as a whole, has been happy to play the commodity provider role, so it's no wonder that the perceived value of the services offered is low and viewed as a transactional necessity, rather than a business enabler. This has to change. Indeed, there are clear signs that survival in our industry is about offering a higher level of strategic value and going beyond simply transactional relationships.We've got to move recruitment much higher up the value chain with real solutions and approaches that strategically develop our customers' capabilities.

This is very much the way I approach recruitment and how I expect my team at Sopra Steria Recruitment to operate. We're offering long-term value-add services rather than a commoditised sales approach; we're going to our clients with an intelligent business proposition that works well for everyone involved. It's a proposition that delivers value for our clients, is right for our candidates and keeps our business growing and profitable."

Pursuing market share

"The economic downturn is putting huge pressure on everyone. In our market alone, over 300 smaller recruitment firms have gone out of business because they didn't have the critical mass needed for survival. At the other end of the spectrum, a number of the big-scale recruiters are closing offices and focusing on 'buying' market share at any price. As a result, many are operating at a loss in the current climate. How long can they continue to do so? This is clearly not a sustainable model for supplier, candidate or client.

I am unconvinced of the value of operating at a loss in terms of service continuity for the client. What happens if any of those shareholders do pull the plug? What happens to the contractors and a business's ability to maintain levels of productivity if its recruitment partner is no longer there?

I choose the word partner wisely here. I believe that instead of commodity brokers we should be working as true partners with our clients, looking at 'how' services are delivered as well as 'what', which is why two of our key performance indicators are speed to hire and retention levels, ensuring the effectiveness of the services we provide.

It's about working with each client to see where operating efficiencies can be introduced into their recruitment model without reducing prices to loss-making levels. So, for example, at Sopra Steria Recruitment we would help a client assess their true recruitment costs, taking into account internal administration and the number of suppliers providing services. We'll ask whether managing multiple suppliers is actually adding to their recruitment costs and whether adopting an outsourced managed service model would be more efficient and cost effective.

Long-term partnerships such as these are very much at the core of our parent company Sopra Steria's approach to working with clients. Sopra Steria Recruitment's capability complements the range of services we can offer to our clients. Unsurprisingly, therefore, we too look for long-term client relationships in which our managed services have a strategic role to play in the business"

Transitioning to BPO

"As a leading provider of IT driven business services Sopra Steria is seen as a trusted, financially secure outsourcing partner for the provision of BPO services such as finance and accounting (F&A) and human resources (HR). Inside many clients, Sopra Steria Recruitment is viewed in the same light.

We really do understand the business of outsourcing. We can draw on the incredible depth and breadth of Sopra Steria's outsourcing capability to add value to our clients' businesses. We're good at it and we know how to get clients there safely. I envisage a time when every client utilising Sopra Steria's IT, F&A and HR BPO offers will have Sopra Steria Recruitment as their resourcing partner and vice versa.

Finally, I come back to the recession and how we can help our clients both survive it and prepare for the inevitable upturn with successful transition to an outsourced recruitment managed service. This plays to our strength as a strategic, long-term partner. Of course outsourcing delivers substantial cost benefits in the short-term, but it is as a long-term proposition that the benefits really add up. It allows us to work with clients to put disciplines in place, such as management reporting processes, and to have frank and honest conversations about future resourcing levels in line with aspirations and growth plans.

There's no doubt that there is a huge opportunity for today's recruitment profession to be about quality and the strategic value being added to the client. The challenge is finding a way to articulate the real value of what we can bring to the business. The recruitment profession needs to ensure it puts the consultant back into 'Recruitment Consultancy' - at Sopra Steria Recruitment, we consult to ensure we deliver real value."