• Alastair Blair

The future of recruitment?


If you are asked to spend a few hours in the company of over 40 HR and recruitment people then there are worse places to do so than the convivial surroundings of Edinburgh’s Brewhemia bar – conveniently located (literally) within a stone’s throw of Waverley Station.

As well as being handy for those drouthy souls who were able to travel by train, the room we were in was just the right size for the meeting. And, as I know you’re agog to find out, all these people made the effort to come and hear an alleged expert (i.e. me) talk about “the future of recruitment.” This brief presentation was largely based on an amalgamation of various papers and talks I'd heard at a number of other conferences recently, augmented by my own, naturally biased, opinions.

Organised by the recruitment team of CIPD SE Scotland, the session was one of a number of similar events that take place regularly in and around Edinburgh. Based on what I have heard, these are well attended and provide a lot of interesting debate and comment, as well as being a great opportunity for HR people to meet each other.

The secret, as far as I can see, is not to allow the speakers to drone on, thus leaving only five minutes for questions - which means no-one asks anything, in case they miss their train/bus. Instead, I was instructed “to keep it to 20 minutes and if you go over we’ll throw things at you.” This left plenty of time (half an hour at least) for questions, of which there were many.

Ably organised and hosted by Tony Harding and Rob Moore, the evening consisted of the aforementioned 20 minutes of me telling everyone present that recruitment is doomed to difficult times ahead, with certain caveats to make sure no-one went away feeling too gloomy.

Essentially, I asked everyone to lift their eyes from their inbox and the end of the next month/campaign/project and consider the macro-economic picture and the variables that will undoubtedly impact on recruitment over the next few years.

Foremost among these are the demographics of the country, specifically the need to respond to the growing number of older people as well as the millennials, and to think how to deal with the vast gap that exists between these two groups’ aspirations and approach to life and work.

In addition, I suggested that Brexit should not be considered as an isolated event in itself, but rather recruitment plans for our leaving the EU needs to be assessed in light of the swirling economic turbulence that can come from unexpected directions; from politics principally but also as a consequence of factors beyond the politicians. Of course, one of the very likely causes of such turbulence is the next recession, strongly predicted by some for 2019/2020. Add in a serious downturn to Brexit and the mixture could be too rich for many companies and their recruiters: conversely, a period of grace and sustained growth might just get us through with far less problems than many predict. It’s not quite steering a path between Scylla and Charybdis, but you get the idea.

Finally, I gave the assembled multitude my thoughts on Google for Jobs, and in particular my view that in the next few years GfJ will shaft the job-boards which are supporting it now and, as companies find they can avoid paying the likes of TJ and S1 to get listed, they’ll start to sell recruiters Google Ads (AdWords) to reach the passive audience we are all so desperate to find. Moreover, depending on our post-Brexit immigration policy (please, please do not cock this up Mrs. May as it is key for recruitment), Google will also offer a means to reach into most of the world, beyond the country-wide parameters of many national job-boards. For tech and engineering recruiters especially, that potentially could be a bonus.

For the final, lengthy Q&A, I was joined by Tony Harding and a welcome guest – Mr. Joe Slavin, who has run more major job-boards than you can shake a stick at and whose experience, expertise and lucid comments helped shine light into areas in which others (i.e. me and Tony) simply are not qualified to comment.

No-one threw things and, judging by the post-event chat and the next day’s comments on LinkedIn, a good time was had by all. For all the above I am grateful, as I am for the IOU for a £20 Amazon voucher presented at the end of the evening. This has now been converted into an actual/virtual Amazon voucher. It will just about cover the cost of parking in Edinburgh for two hours…

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I created thePotentMix in 2011, after nearly 30 years in recruitment marketing and advertising in a career that began in the media ...

 

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