Those of you who know me know that I’ve been a bit of a conference junkie. Going to conferences is a great way to learn new things, meet new people, share interesting conversations and see interesting places. My policy: visit a museum on every conference trip.
Recently I went to the two leading international conferences for the retained recruiting industry – the AESC Americas conference, and the World Executive Search conference. Bear in mind that I’m accustomed to attending design conferences, but the first thing I noticed was that every guy there, except me, was wearing a suit and tie. Oops. Aside from the dress up issue, here are a few of my observations:
1. Retained recruiting is growing.
Last year was a great year, and 2015 forecasts are quite promising. Reason being, the global competition for talent is intense. Every company wants the best people. Plus, the workforce is aging, there are huge gaps everywhere in succession planning, and the mix of needed talent skills is changing rapidly. Proactive, retained recruiting is more important than ever, and the good firms are growing to support market demand.
2. The main growth is in the small, specialized “boutique” firms.
The big traditional recruiting firms, referred to as “the big five”, are loosing market share. They are being eclipsed by new boutique, niche recruiting firms that are specialized on a job function or an industry. Why? Specialist recruiters add more value than generalists because they know the category better, take more time to know the positions and the candidates, and have higher success rates with their placements.
3. Increasing internal capabilities.
In addition to using more specialized boutiques, and because proactive recruiting is so critical, many companies are building up their internal recruiting departments. I just met a recruiter at Amazon that said they have over 500 of them! And Microsoft, for example, is using internal staff recruiters to fill all of their positions, including the senior executive positions and even the board of directors. Many would argue this has more limitations and is not as effective, yet others argue that internal staffing is closer to the customer.
4. A more consultative approach is needed.
Much like the evolution of design firms that have expanded to offer research, strategy and broader service design solutions, good recruiting firms are becoming more strategic and consultative as well. Here too the specialized boutiques can add more value than the big generalist firms because they know their specific category better.
5. International networks.
Today just about every company from mid-cap up is a global company, faces global competition, and has global talent needs. Rather than the traditional branch office model of the big firms, there is a newer expansion of international networks of independent recruiting firms, much like ours, that are connected globally to share resources, even candidates, and collaborate on assignments.
6. “They” don’t know what Design is.
Being the only design savvy recruiting firm at these conferences, I got nothing but blank looks when I told people that our specialty is in design, UX and innovation leadership talent. Common responses were “What is design?”, “Do you mean advertising?”, or “Oh, like fashion?”. The conference attendees just didn’t seem to understand Design, with a capital D, and it’s important role in bringing new products, services and innovations to reality.
I see all of this as great news; validating our unique focus and competency, the exclusivity of our IP and network, the importance of our desire to learn, and the unique value we provide our clients.
But still, no tie.