Q&A with Darren Topping, Business Solutions Director – Manchester
An industry veteran, Darren has over ten years of experience designing and delivering agile permanent and contract recruitment solutions for the Northern market. Darren has acted in both operational and strategic roles at Lorien, including as Regional Director for Manchester, where he led a team of experienced tech recruiters, account managers, and recruitment business partners. At the beginning of 2019, Darren was appointed to the role of Business Solutions Director, where he is responsible for building innovative best practice recruitment models, plus developing our service offering for our clients.
How did you get into recruitment?
Like many people, you could say I ‘fell’ into it. After graduating from university I struggled to find my niche. I was working in a call centre upgrading mobile phones when it hit me that if I didn’t act soon, I might run out of prospects. I applied for Lorien – a recruitment business that looked like it was doing something a little different in the market place. And after seven interviews and an initial rejection (it was a tough process), I finally made it past the ochre gates. It’s been an amazing journey ever since.
What’s the thing that gets you up in the morning?
It sounds really cheesy, but I’m really passionate about making recruitment ‘better’. I get really frustrated by imperfection, so I’m always striving for a better way to do things. I speak to candidates and clients on a daily basis, so I’m always making mental notes for how we can improve their experience and help them to engage better. I’m also part of Lorien’s innovation team, so I’m always learning about what’s new in the market. I get my energy from fixing problems, no matter how small or significant. In my new role, this is something I’m going to be doing more and more of, so I’m very excited to see the impact that Lorien can have on the industry!
What’s the Manchester office like?
I know it’s a cliché, but we are just like a big family. Our attrition rate is so low that I’ve worked with the same faces for many years and, as a result, we all know each other really well – including how to support each other, get the best from each person, and (naturally) wind each other up! We’ve more than doubled in size over the last five years, and throughout that time we have never had to hire anyone above entry-level. For me, that’s a huge achievement. Starting out as a resourcer with Lorien myself, it gives me enormous satisfaction to bring people in and play a part in their development as they progress their career with us.
As an office, we’re very diverse and reflective of Manchester as a whole. We don’t do hierarchy, so everyone pitches in and it’s created a culture where everyone is aware of their part in the bigger picture and is committed to bringing their best to the table – not just for them, but for their teammates too. Everyone is a strong performer and I’m incredibly proud of all of them. I think it says something about our people that, even as we’ve grown, we’ve managed to retain such a powerful culture; one that undoubtedly enabled our growth in the first place.
What’s the biggest challenge you think clients in the North face?
Candidate attraction is probably the biggest sticking point. We develop a lot of talent in the region, but for some reason we still have some leakage down to the capital. My gut instinct on this is that the tech community is good at talking about opportunities in the North at a certain level, but at entry-level candidates still aren’t aware of the amount of opportunity we have here. I like to think that’s on the turn though; as more and more companies move up North and start-ups grow, opportunities will develop and that naturally attracts talent.
How has Manchester’s tech landscape changed over the last five years?
Something really exciting about Manchester’s scene at the moment is the number of new businesses springing up every day. We have a real start-up hub here in the city, which has created an eco-system of organisations of completely varying sizes operating and helping each other all within the same space. This has led to a vast amount of innovation and exploration into new and emerging technologies. I think Manchester is rapidly developing into a centre for change, all built from a strong and collaborative tech community.
It wouldn’t surprise me if we start seeing some major breakthroughs coming out of the North in the coming years. In response to this, I’ve also started designing some alternative and potentially revolutionary recruitment models that fit with this thriving community – I believe that a region at pace needs an agile model, and this is something I’m really keen to bring to market. So watch this space!
What future developments in the recruitment industry are you most excited about?
I’m really excited to see how developments in AI change how we interact with our clients and candidates. In my opinion, for too long clients have measured candidates based on rigid criteria, with limited results. New assessment technology could change all of that. Tools that support cultural alignment matching and psychological assessment will give clients a better understanding of a candidate’s ability than previous experience does.
This will be invaluable for long-term talent retention; we already know that with each generation, the job market is becoming more fluid and people are staying in roles for less and less time. Being able to match candidates to opportunities that will genuinely resonate with them and will maximise their skillset will become so important.
There’s a chance this may have a knock-on effect for candidates too, as clients start to build custom teams around broader skillsets matched to a candidate’s innate aptitude. For candidates, this means greater job satisfaction and better development opportunities.
What do you think we will be nostalgic for, 50 years from now?
Talking to people! I’m constantly amazed by the things technology enables us to do, but at the end of the day I really don’t think you can replace human interaction with technology. One is great for driving efficiency, the other for building relationships and getting a deeper understanding of what’s important to that person. You need to know when to utilise which.
What’s the best thing about working at Lorien?
For me, it’s about the ownership and the level of trust you are given in order to do the best by your clients and your candidates. There is nothing dictated to you other than to ensure that those two parties are happy. That kind of freedom breeds new ways of working, helps to identify efficiencies, and drives quality. We’re not a static business and improvement is driven from the ground-up as well as the top-down, so we’re more attuned to our people and to the clients and candidates we work with. It’s kept me here for ten years, so it must be doing something right!
Interested in finding more about Lorien’s Manchester operations? Contact Darren Topping to find out more about the Manchester market and how Lorien is helping our clients to attract better local tech talent. Alternatively, get in touch with Nigel Bigger to find out more about career opportunities with Lorien (we have offices in the UK, Ireland, and Germany).
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