The year ahead for recruitment – flying the flag for industry best practice and continued growth
It’s fair to say that the recruitment agency landscape is going through something of a purple patch. Some estimate that there are more recruitment agencies in the country than ever before, and as a result the estimated worth of the industry is also on the increase. Some 4,000 agencies are estimated to have started out in 2014 alone. However, this phenomenal growth and fragmentation brings with it its own problems. Employers, for example, now have a bewildering plethora of agencies to choose from, and this can lead to more pressure on businesses to place candidates and earn their crust, with increasing potential for corner-cutting. Some of this can have a direct impact on business success – of those 4,000 start-ups in 2014, it is estimated that 2,500 have already failed. So, how can recruitment agency growth be supported, when there is a relatively finite number of employers out there with positions to be filled, but an ever growing number of agencies seeking their attention? And more importantly, how would a young business know if it was straying outside of ethical practice, without an industry benchmark against which it can measure itself?
This, among a number of other factors, is why there is currently considerable debate in the industry about development and support for an independent set of standards to champion and promote best practice in recruitment. It’s a debate that is long overdue. When the government ended licensing 20 years ago now, it was seen as a crucial part of the evolution of the industry, one that would encourage healthy competition. As the current growth figures show, that is certainly the case, but sadly it has also had the unintended consequence of removing any framework or set of analytical principles to benchmark what makes a good business or not. In the modern employment landscape, with more open EU borders and stringent vetting procedures needed for crucial positions, this is dangerous.
This is precisely why next year should be the one where the sector as a whole embraces a set of best practice accreditations, undertaken by an independent party. This last part is crucial. For accreditation to be the standard, behind which all of recruitment can rally as a kitemark of good legal and professional conduct, it has to be undertaken by an independent external party.
However, such an independent benchmark has the potential to harness and focus the phenomenal growth and energy in this sector. For well-established firms, it will underpin their experience and credibility, demonstrating their expertise and reliability. Such a process will stand as a necessary rubber stamp to mark out organisations to be trusted with potentially a highly sensitive area of business. It’s a matter of trust, a critical factor in this new age of compliance and HR governance, and the evidence shows that it’s time to embrace a new era of accreditation and add to the professionalism of the industry.
I look forward to the year ahead of us, not only to watch recruitment businesses go from strength to strength, but to watch them reach their full potential by coming together and championing the practices and rigour required to deliver trust and success, no matter the sector they serve.
John Randall, engagement director, Standards in Recruitment
This article first appeared in Recruitment Buzz – 21st December 2015