Is the recruitment industry going to change as much as they say?

There is a lot of discussion about the future of recruitment consultancy and the changing nature of the industry.

These conversations largely focus on the threats posed by insourcing or social media (specifically LinkedIn), and throughout these conversations people and businesses are thrown into either one of two buckets:

•  The innovators – those embracing the new technologies

•  The ostriches (soon to be dinosaurs) – who stick their head in the sand and ignore the problems

The problem is that too many of these discussions narrowly focus on the recruitment industry. This may seem a strange statement from a recruitment consultancy discussing the future of the recruitment industry, but it is important to remember that the recruitment industry sits within the wider system of the job market, which is turn determined by the wider business landscape.

The flow of influence is not from the recruitment industry down to the business but rather from the business landscape. Many of the insights into the changing nature of the recruitment industry will then come from looking closely at the changes happening in the business landscape and not narrowly on the recruitment industry. So with that in mind, just how much is the business landscape changing?

Accelerating change

While change has been a constant in the business world we are facing a new challenge – if you go back 100 years there was nothing growing exponentially like we have going on now.

Today there is a long number of global internet connections (around 10 billion devices, approximately), vast data storage centres, breakthroughs in scientific research such as DNA genome sequencing… not to mention the rise and rise of Facebook and other social networks.

A new new normal?

Looking at the rate of change is to only see one side of the puzzle. While in the not too distant past when exponential change was accompanied by growth, that is no longer the case. When rapid change is accompanied by rapid growth success is relatively easy; you just have to show up and not drop the ball.

Since the economic collapse in 2007 businesses are facing a new normal where the change is unrelenting but the growth is lacking. This has brought about a whole new playing field and rules to the game, and success in this landscape requires a different way of operating and a different mindset.

What does this mean for business industry?

It means we are living in a time of increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, which will ultimately lead to increased competition — hypercompetition! We don’t have to look too far to see the effects of hypercompetition on something we use every day:

So what does this mean for the recruitment industry?

Disruptive innovation

The recruitment industry will look different in ten years than it does now. This means that whatever you perceive as the status quo now in your market will be disrupted, and probably by something you can’t even conceive of at the moment.

The idea that things could look so drastically different in just a decade might be hard to believe, but just think about it, ten years ago we didn’t have:

•  iPhones
•  iPads
•  Kindles – or any established ebook reader market
•  Crowdfunding
•  Facebook
•  Twitter

…and you can’t deny how much of a massive impact these things have had in the business world. And that is where the real changes are – in business – it’s not all about technology, although technology does of course have an impact on the rate of change.

A continuing and intensifying war for talent

We need to focus more on people and how we think about motivating and developing them as much of our thinking is outdated and no longer fit for purpose. The only way you can innovate into the future and establish a sustainable competitive advantage is by filling your company with people with the right talents and attributes to create the future.

This means that candidates will need a whole new set of skills and clients will need to be reviewing the positions and attributes they are looking for in candidates.

Jeffrey Immelt, General Electric CEO and Chairman, states that 21st century leaders will need to be systems thinkers who are comfortable with ambiguity. The problem is that organisations and people are not set up for such an ambiguous world.

“The vast majority of CEOs anticipate even greater complexity in the future, and more than half doubt their ability to manage it. The majority of Mid-market CEOs believe substantial changes are needed to react to the increasingly diverse external factors facing their organisations.” (IBM, 2010 CEO Study – Capitalising on Complexity)

So in conclusion, the recruitment industry is in for some big changes over the coming years but it has less to do with LinkedIn or ‘big data’ and a lot more to do with the systemic changes in the underlying business landscape. This will have significant implications for the type of talent required and this is where we chose to focus our attention.

As a recruitment consultancy we see it as our role to work with both clients and candidates to future proof their businesses and careers. That starts with having the right types of conversations.

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