Ian Knowlson Speaks at NPA Worldwide Conference in Cyprus

Ian Knowlson Speaks at NPA Worldwide Conference in Cyprus


This week Ian Knowlson is speaking at the NPA Worldwide Conference in Larnaca Cyprus.

NPAworldwide has been connecting independent global recruiting firms to facilitate split placements. NPAworldwide is the oldest recruiting network of its kind, with an international membership of recruiting firms located throughout Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa and the Americas.

Ian will be presenting on speaking about – What will the world of employment and recruitment look like in 2020-2030? What changes are likely and unlikely? Will artificial intelligence and Bots replace everyone and everything? Will recruiters still have a job and if so what will that job look like?

Ian Knowlson will consider the plethora of industry reports and commentaries on the future of work and employment from such esteemed and notable personalities and organisations as Simon Sinek, Elon Musk, PWC, McKinseys, the REC and BIOR. He will discuss and help you draw conclusions on the future of employment 2020-2030.


With Ian you will start to make sense of the timeline ahead and how the landscape of employment/recruitment will change. You will start to understand which sectors are predicted to grow and which are forecast to decline. How this will impact both niche recruiters and large-scale global recruiters and the consequences that this will have for those of us planning to be working in the sector during this period.

So the delegates will be invited to join Ian and take a time machine into your future to see if it is one that fills you with dread and fear or wonder, awe and excitement.

Recruitment Agency MDs – Will you Adapt or Fail?




Was anyone apart from the board of directors of HMV or Blockbuster surprised when their businesses went into liquidation? I know I wasn’t and most people I have spoken too weren’t either.

After all technology changed the way their customers could purchase their products and both HMV and Blockbuster were slow to adapt their business models. When you can buy your music and video choices on-line why would we go to a shop unless they added value.

The same is true in the World of Recruitment. With technology increasingly making the sourcing of mainstream talent and resource easier, employers will not use agencies in the future unless they can supply their ‘product’ with an added value. Only where acute skill-shortages exists may agencies still have a role but only if they can source the best talent.


The burning question is with their existing business models will they be able to?


7788113_sIn my recent blog Third World War begins now I discussed how the scale of the ‘War on Talent’ is about to accelerate dramatically. I questioned whether recruitment agencies would be allies of corporate businesses or mercenaries but the choice agencies face is far starker than that.


What is at stake is their very survival.


The traditional recruitment agency’s business model has been set up around attracting candidates; contractors and temporary workers who predominantly come from the ‘baby-boomer’ (born pre 1964) and ‘generation-X’ (b1965-1981) age groups. Only now are they starting to engage the ‘Millennial Generation’ (also known as Gen-Y born after 1982 and started work since the millennium).


A lot has been written about this generation and if you have not read it you need to quick.


Millennials have very different expectations and attitudes to work and so they will increasingly make different demands in the way they engage with agencies and employers. In a future world with acute skill shortages, highly educated young talent will progressively become harder to find.  Sourcing these millennial candidates is therefore a must if any recruitment agency is to thrive.


In my Third World War Begins now blog many of you will remember that in the next two years ‘Millennials’ are set to become the dominant generation in the work place. This is going to come as a shock for many ‘Baby-boomers’ who as a generation, have dominated the workplace for over thirty years.


It’s a timely reminder in the week that she passed away that Margaret Thatcher’s reign _66808649_66808648coincided with the ‘baby-boomers arrival as the dominant generation in the UK workplace. It was a period of huge change in the UK and US both within work and society.


New management practices came in and the old large monolithic business hierarchy’s dismantled. The Baby-boomers readily embraced IT into mainstream corporate life which saw swathes of administrative and clerical functions computerised and abolished. They embraced the free market economy and entrepreneurial spirit, which the US & UK governments were so keen to unleash at that time.  Whether one was a product of the other is debateable but the ‘Young and upwardly mobile’ Yuppies certainly exploited the opportunity that in the UK, the Thatcher government created.


Similarly todays ‘Millennials’ are poised to have a major impact on the post 2015 world.


So what are the key areas that make ‘Millennials’ different?


Meaningful Engagement – Most research indicates that the millennial generation are unwilling to perform dry boring work. Kevin Sheridan, the Senior VP of Avatar HR Solutions (an organization that specializes in employee engagement and talent management.) recently told SHRM On-line.


“In a gargantuan difference between Baby Boomers and Gen Y, the latter set their career as one element within their life, not the single element that makes their life. Gen Y wants their job to provide personal fulfillment and support a positive work/life balance.”


Clearly the work they do has to have a value and meaning. As recruiters we will find it increasingly difficult to find young people to undertake boring, repetitive and tedious roles and certainly not doing over 45 hour shifts. Recruiters might need to think differently how they sell the jobs they are seeking to fill. Millennials will increasingly demand more job information before attending interviews.


Fearless and Intolerant – One of the main qualities that sets Millennials out from the rest of us is their fearlessness and intolerance.  If there is something they don’t like they will not suffer in silence. They will not bite the bullet, or get their head down and get on with it.


No, they will challenge it and if  unsuccessful they will simply walk.


Increasingly the skilled and educated ones will know that they can get another a job. As greater numbers of this generation have travelled the world they already know first-hand that there are many countries where they can get work, Australia, China, Brazil, Russia the Middle East to name just a few.  Employers and agencies seeking to control Millennials with the fear of unemployment will simply find it ineffective.



Flexibility – Millennials demand working environments, which are flexible. They will not work rigid 9-5 days. They will demand the flexibility to complete their tasks when and where it suits them. Employer’s business models will therefore need to reflect this desire including recruitment agencies own models.


Already a great many global companies who are aware of this are migrating to operating models where employees are evaluated on performance rather than presence. The ROWE (Results only Work Environments) is one of these such environments. Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson are the Founders of CultureRx and creators of the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) and their site is worth a read. This model will not work for every industry and there will be a need for some people to work core hours but entire workforces working rigidly will be a thing of the past.


Dynamic Environments – Stayed and monotone working environments will not appeal to Millennials they demand change. They also have low attention spans and will rapidly move on if the work isn’t stimulating and challenging. They are not afraid of tough challenges and will strive for ambitious goals. So recruiters when taking briefs you need to check how stimulating the work is otherwise your refund clauses could be used a lot more frequently that you might like. Money is not their primary motivator in making career choices.


Recognition and Management – Millennials crave feedback, instant reaction and gratification. They will not wait for annual appraisals they have been brought up on social technology and are accustomed to getting frequent responses. They will not suffer pretentious and insincere fools as managers. ‘Authentic and honest’ superiors whose knowledge they can respect is what they seek. 1970s and 80s autocratic leadership founded on hierarchy and status will not work. If your clients operate this way prepare to find them very difficult to recruit for.


Diverse, Fun loving Team Players – Millennials like most of us are fun loving at heart and for them work is not supposed to be an austere place. They will expect to work in multi-cultural and multi-disciplined teams with other workers who have knowledge they can respect and learn from. When attracting candidates your techniques and approaches need to reflect this.


Technology Sensitive – If your clients are luddites and do not embrace new technology then Millennials will shun them. Filling jobs where employers shy away from investing in the latest and most efficient technology will see the Millennials leave. BYOD ‘Bring your own Device’ employers are expected to become the norm. Agencies that employ old methods of applicant attraction, which do not embrace the latest technology, will also see themselves lose out too.


To this end Social Media is therefore the most effective way to engage them.


This is the battleground recruitment agencies are already losing. The Millennials, who seeking ‘meaningful engagement’ are connecting with employers who are already ahead of the curve. Astute and forward thinking corporate HR departments are aware of these demographic and social changes and are reshaping their businesses to accommodate them. They are also learning to leverage their corporate brands to recruit and attract the best talent using In-house/Direct Sourcing team.


Like Network Rail, who at the CIPD conference in Manchester this year, outlined how they had used Facebook very successfully to hire virtually their entire 2013 apprentices, businesses are creating and cultivating their own talent pools not by tweeting incessantly that they have vacancies but by placing meaningful and highly relevant and interesting Unknowncontent into a Facebook Group.


A move to in-house recruitment at Network Rail has saved the company 85 per cent in hiring expenditure, the CIPD’s annual conference in Manchester has heard.

The reduction in recruitment agency fees has seen costs per hire drop from an average of £3,500 to £500 in five years, said Adrian Thomas, head of resourcing at the rail maintenance firm. The company – which employs 35,000 people – externally hires or internally promotes around 10,000 people a year.

Now, 73 per cent of external recruitment is done through direct resourcing, with only 7 per cent fielded out to agencies, delegates were told.

The majority of candidates were now generated through a revamped careers website, explained Thomas. Other initiatives included a specially designed Facebook forum for the Network Rail apprenticeships scheme, which generated 6,000 applications for the 200 places on offer, he added.


Other companies are similarly using YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn to post relevant and domain specific videos, articles, case studies and industry news for their target audiences to feast on. Only once their core following is established do they start to post jobs news into it. Like good farmers they spend hours preparing the soil before planting the seeds.


This is nothing that niche agencies in IT, Oil and Gas, Engineering, Biotech or Nursing couldn’t do but they choose not to. It requires patience and investment without immediate returns. Sadly for the agencies however by the time the industry accept the returns are there it may be too late. Agencies will have lost the high ground and the commercial advantages that go with it.

So MD’s will your businesses also go the way of HMV and Blockbuster or do you have the courage to start to change now. As Network Rail demonstrates there are models out there that work.

Globally the number of people under the age of 30 now exceeds 50% of the world’s population.  Somewhere between 2014 and 2015 the Millennials will become the dominant generation in the workplace. The time to change is upon you.

The War for Millennial Talent has begun. The only question is do you have the courage and wisdom to triumph?






Third World War begins Now – Recruitment Agencies Mercenaries or Allies?



Dramatic? Possibly but the scale of what the world faces over the next few years is beyond anything we have ever experienced in our history and the consequences for the global War-on-Talent are massive. Read on and form your own opinion.


In recent months there have been a number of reports released which collectively reveal how the global employment world is about to go through a seismic shift. It may seem odd when we have high levels of unemployment in most of the major industrial nations but there is a global shortage of skilled workers.


Recent research by Accenture Management Consulting indicates that business leaders believe access to appropriately skilled workers is essential for economic recovery but worryingly more than 50% say it is difficult to recruit entry level workers with the desired skills.


Alarmingly Accenture’s Turning the Tide: How Europe can Rebuild Skills and Generate Growth points to the issue continuing as businesses cut back on training despite acknowledging their own needs for staff. As demographics start to impact our workforces demand for entry level workers is about to accelerate.


According to the McKinsey Global Institute’s report,“Preparing for a New Era of Work.” in the United States, the gap between the number of people graduating from college and the number of college graduates businesses require will be 1.6 million graduates by 2020.


In Europe a shortage of 23 million college-educated workers will exist by 2020. Whilst new IMF paper – “Chronicle of a Decline Foretold: Has China Reached the Lewis Turning Point?”states that by, 2030 China will have a total workforce shortage of almost 140 million workers. “This will have far-reaching implications for both China and the rest of the world,” said the IMF.


China cannot avert their demographic cliff, as a result of the effects of low fertility rates – and the one child policy. It will take them over fifty years to turn it round. Even now the Chinese battle for our talented youngsters is starting.


During a recent open day I attended at one of the UK’s top universities for fashion design, the University of Westminster, the head of department stated that China was rapidly becoming the number one destination for many of his students with the Chinese paying good money to attract his top talent.


The IMF study found that—thanks to global competition, changing demographics and persistent “geographic mismatches” between the supply of workers and the demand for them—a stark skills shortage is emerging worldwide.


When you consider that 140 million is the combined population on the UK and Germany you don’t need to be a genius to realise that some of these shortages have strategic implications for nations.
Where are the shortages going to be most acute?


A review by Adzuna which was summarised in the  Daily Telegraph , at the end of last year pointed to IT, Healthcare and engineering as being the sectors in highest demand. The boom in Oil and Gas has been one that is globally overheating too with well publicised shortages there too. With the number of new recruits to these industries showing no signs of exceeding short term demands its clear the role for niche recruitment agencies operating in the sectors is set to continue.


Will recruitment agencies choose to exploit this market and sell their skills to the highest bidder or will they align themselves with the major global corporate players who will need their support and secure lucrative corporate contracts. It is going to be interesting to watch.



For me the the critical battle ground will be Social Media. The ‘millennial’ generation are the ones where the skill shortage will be most acute and these are the most social media savvy generation. Win this battle recruiters you win the war and your prosperity is assured. Lose it and you will become as current as the dodo. The choice as they say is yours.



In next week’s blog I will be looking at ways the industrialised nations can respond to the Global War-on-Talent.

Four Steps to turn an Ad-hoc client into a Corporate Cash-cow



It is every recruitment consultants dream to turn their great individual client relationships with single line managers into lucrative corporate customers that will ensure their lasting success and prosperity. After 30 years in recruitment sales I now find myself, as a business development expert, trainer and coach, being asked this question repeatedly several times a week.

In the current economic climate it appears to have become a burning question for so many niche and SME agencies and recruiters.

In my career I have turned ad-hoc supply relationships into corporate clients many times and feel it would benefit my audience to share the key steps that you need to take to achieve this.

The first step on your quest to winning corporate clients is to get to:

Know your Client.

By this I do not mean the line manager with whom you have your existing relationship, their 7645227_sfootball team preference or how many kids they have but understand their business in its totality. You might like to start by finding out:


  • Who are the other recruiters and stakeholders in the business?
  • How do they inter-relate?
  • What are their business objectives corporately and as individual functions and departments?
  • Can you obtain an organisation chart?
  • How do they normally recruit staff?
  • Which managers recruit and what sort of staff?
  • What projects are starting, running and ending?
  • Are there any resource deficiencies?
  • What are their business/organisations challenges?
  • Where are their sites located?
  • How does their business work?

These are just some of the questions I would typically look to ask. The list is quite extensive and often one answer leads to a myriad of follow up questions.

Having established a sound understanding of your customer the next step you need to take is:

Know their Business Challenges

15845975_sTo achieve this you have to have truly understood your client in step one as well as grasped their business drivers and their current situation. Typically their challenges will be focused on:


  • Legislation or Compliance issues
  • Technology changes
  • New Markets penetration challenges
  • New Products launches
  • Risk of Failure – Business or Personal
  • Project slippages
  • Averting a crisis

In recruitment terms their key challenge will normally be a resource pinch point that results from a skill availability issue. This can be temporary or long term and is sometimes linked to business growth or restructuring challenges.

Once you have fully understood their challenges as well as the interaction between their business dynamics you are then ready to move to step three, which is:

Appreciate the Consequences of failure or success


10856674_sTo understand their consequences may need some lateral thought. They generally require you to project yourself into your client’s shoes to fully appreciate their predicament. In large complex organisations this is hard, as you will have multi-stakeholders with different agendas and different views on the same situation.

In addition they will all have different personalities and ways of looking at the same problem. A Financial Controller is likely to view a failing project different to their HR Partner and both may see it totally different from the Head of Compliance or a Marketing/ IT/ Engineering Director. Gaining and understanding these multiple perspectives is an essential step in this process.

For a lot of consultants this requires a huge shift within themselves. Having the ability to project yourself into someone else’s situation is a massive life skill which sadly some people never learn.

Typically the consequences of failure or success for your client may have different impacts for different stakeholders. As you explore these with your contacts during meetings and phone calls you will gain a collective sense of how important the delivery of their outcome is to the organisation overall. Crucially how much value they place upon any solution.

You may also sense that in some cases they have not fully comprehended the full impact or consequences of failure or success. This is not unusual as it is through sharing their problem with a resource expert like yourself that the true picture actually starts to emerge.

If you discover this to be the case you need to show understanding and be respectful of the journey your customer is also on. Allow them space and time to comprehend their situation. Don’t immediately seek to close them. Inappropriate pressure at this point will cause you to break rapport and lose your clients trust. Learning to read clients body language can be quite useful at this point.

To assist you in identifying issues here are a few typical consequence which you might identify:

  • Business failure or success
  • Project failure or success
  • Loss of credibility with customers
  • Loss or increase in market share
  • Financial penalties
  • Loss or increase in profitability
  • Loss or increase in prestige
  • Loss or increase in reputation

In addition the executive sponsor or project lead may have a personal loss or gain too. This too may affect the dynamics of the sale.

By now you will in your own mind probably have started to gain a sense of the optimum solution that works for your client. The final step in this process is to:

Be Creative with your Solution


12353883_sNow that you fully understand your client’s challenges and their consequences of failure/success that you will have a sense of the value you client places on finding a solution.


To find the optimum solution for your customer you need to be creative and imaginative in identifying the one that delivers the greatest value. The specific solution will depend on such a wide array of factors that its impossible for me to be specific. If you would like to contact me I’d be delighted to discuss any specific situations that you are wrestling with and offer specific advice.

Your clients however will ultimately pay more the greater the value your solution offers them. I have many times secured deals with clients, which cost the client thousands of pounds more than my competitors solution because my solution delivered the greatest value.

Remember the price a client is willing to pay is about value, which is not always intrinsic to your product or service but your clients need or business circumstances.

To discover more about our bespoke four day training programmes where we train and coach your sales teams through this for real call Ian on 07552 555858 or email us on [email protected]