When recruitment became a career

The day that recruitment became a career

The rumour is that no one chooses to end up in recruitment. It’s a career path for the short-term, the ill-informed, and the desperate. It’s like London; something you do until the adrenaline of unpredictability and intensity dries up and the suburbs of stability and maturity summon you. It’s why it has a reputation for high attrition (with data putting this as high as 45 percent across the industry). And yet, recruitment is a booming industry. Last year, the volume of recruitment agencies hit a record-high in the UK and there are over 100,000 people working in the sector today, with 818 new agencies registered every month on average according to information retrieved from Company’s House. If we’re to believe that there’s a mass exodus of talented sales people heading for the comforting shores of marketing, HR, and business development, how can recruitment be one of the fastest growing sectors in the UK? If no one ‘chose’ to end up here, then why have so many people stayed? 

Perhaps we have it the wrong way around. With new recruitment agencies popping up every day, including those started up by former recruiters, and the roles within recruitment varying considerably beyond stereotypical sales-based roles, perhaps the reality is that people aren’t falling out of recruitment – rather, they’re falling into it from different angles, role types, perspectives, and experience levels. In fact, our research (soon to be released in our upcoming whitepaper) reveals that recruitment, far from being considered ‘just a job’, is overwhelmingly being thought of as a serious profession, especially among women. Churn in recruitment is therefore not inevitable – it’s the product of opportunity. 

Recruitment is one of the few industries that must – emphatically, must – reflect the society in which it serves. And our society is changing rapidly. It is predicted that 65 percent of children entering primary school today will eventually go on to work in a job that doesn’t yet exist; some of those children may well end up in a company that hasn’t yet been found, in a country they aren’t familiar with, working with people they never would have crossed paths with as little as a century ago. It’s therefore unsurprising that recruitment, accommodating for these kaleidoscopic near-futures, has become so varied. Gone are the 1950s archetype of staffing agencies, and here are the RPO and MSP providers (Lorien), the boutique tech specialists (onezeero.), the tech platforms, and bolt-ons and global conglomerates covering everything from apprenticeships to CEOs. 

Far from being a dead-end role, recruitment has become a vital part of our economy, responsible for generating the lifeblood of the future. As identifying and retaining talent have become an imperative for businesses around the world as their market monopoly is laid bare to globalisation, recruitment has gained a new importance. It has become about people – helping candidates to find rewarding work, and helping clients to navigate the new world and find the skills they need to build better businesses. Recruitment has become as diverse as the society it serves, as close to the heart of the industry action as its clients, and as innovative as the market demands.

The recruitment industry is opening up and expanding in every imaginable direction and for the average recruiter, that means a career path with endless opportunities. Individuals who ‘fell into’ recruitment have found themselves faced not only with the prospect of top earnings, but also with the very real opportunity to do something they love in a sector that always has its finger on the pulse of the real-world. From creating bespoke solutions that tap into exactly what a client wants through to implementing multi-million pound resourcing programmes for FTSE 250 organisations, building employer branding and marketing campaigns that help customers differentiate themselves from the pack, or blue sky thinking via a head of consulting or head of innovation & insight (both roles at Impellam), recruitment offers a world beyond simple find and place affairs. No wonder then, that the recruitment industry is attracting individuals from every walk of life. From industry specialists that wanted a career change (e.g. from tech to tech recruitment) to eager millennials, seasoned recruitment professionals, and creative thinkers from every sector imaginable, recruitment is becoming a hub of hybridised talent. 

And guess what, it’s still evolving. Career development and progression have become of paramount importance in this rapidly shifting environment. As skills within client industries quickly become outdated and need to be replaced, recruitment professionals need to similarly stay ahead of the curve to attract and retain top talent. For example, in the technology sector – in which Lorien and onezeero. operate – it is estimated that 50 percent of subject knowledge acquired during the first year of a four-year technical degree will be outdated by the time the student graduates; we need to keep up with that. 

That means investing in training in-house, something which we, at Impellam, are paying attention to. In addition to our learning and development team, Impellam has a dedicated head of talent – Jill Thornton – who has recently introduced the Virtuoso Programme. The Virtuoso Programme follows the philosophy that by training our leaders to manage well and pass down knowledge, we can grow the next generation of talent in-house. Meanwhile, our head of innovation & insight has launched a programme which will see employees pitch innovative business ideas, with the winning concepts awarded sponsorship by Impellam to become fledgling businesses in their own right. The combination of these programmes will hopefully see employees drawing on legacy experience and knowledge to create new and exciting ideas. 

At the same time, at Lorien and onezeero., we have invested significantly in the development of a mentorship programme that will hone in on the specific skillsets of individuals and help them to sharpen their ability to respond to the changing world. We also recognise that mentorship can build visibility for underrepresented groups in senior management, including women; hopefully enabling more open discussions and inviting new opinions into the mix. We are acutely aware of our responsibility to create a balanced workforce that reflects the make-up of the current population; you cannot build the future by excluding an entire demographic, after all. All of this links back to empowering our employees to pave the way for the future not just within recruitment, but within every sector that recruitment touches. Putting trust in their skills and listening to their ideas will give us insight into where the world is headed, especially if we can give voices to a diverse workforce. 

To call recruitment a dead industry is therefore not only short-sighted, but incredibly damaging. Recruitment acts as the portal through which the future of industries and businesses around the world is conceived. As a sector, it is growing precisely because the demand for insight and expertise is so high, and because talent shortages globally are becoming so critical. If recruitment suffers from high attrition, it is a symptom of the opportunities in the sector and the cavity between those companies that are investing in the future and those that are stuck in the past – and it certainly isn’t affecting the thousands that choose to move into the sector every year. And as for those that ‘fell’ into it? Well, consider this: our very own Claire Marsh, CEO of Lorien and onezeero., joined the recruitment industry almost twenty years ago by chance and, as luck would have it, found her calling and “fell” into a rewarding and fulfilling career. Falling into recruitment has never been so easy.

Lorien, with our sister company onezeero., has launched Cultivating Career Equality to empower people within the recruitment industry to challenge misperceptions, take pride in the work that they do, and ensure that the profession is open and inclusive to everyone.

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