Top 4 Recruitment Sectors to AVOID for the next 5-10 years

 

 

Since March 2013 when I wrote my immensely popular blog

Top 5 Recruitment Sectors to be in for the next 5-10 years,

I have been consistently asked what are the recruitment sectors agencies should be avoiding. The first thing to say is that in my opinion, and those of most employment sector commentators, over the next 5-10 years we are entering a period of massive skill-shortages. Only last month the CIPD’s chief economist Mark Beatson indicated that the War-on-Talent was set to intensify.

 

In addition in recent months several reports by the IMF, the EU and Accenture support this view, which I have commented on in numerous blogs on the topic:

The demographics in many developed and developing, countries mean they will be facing declining skilled workforces and populations over the next 10-20 years. As a consequence severe skill shortages are inevitable in these economies. Recently the Telegraph highlighted this issue further in an article:

Britain’s baby boom will affect our economy more than anything Mark Carney does by Allister Heath, telegraph.co.uk June 7th 2013.

In the case of China the issue is so large that the IMF claim it will have a 140m-worker shortfall of skilled workers by 2030 which could have strategic implications for the security of the Pacific rim.

Therefore against this backdrop where demand for skilled labour will exceed supply there will always be an opportunity for enterprising recruitment agencies to plough their furrow. That said there are going to be some sectors where the opportunity for reward will be greater than others.

 

 

So having outlined my caveat here are my five sectors you should be avoiding if you wish to your agency to make the Sunday Times Fast-track 100.

 

1.         Admin and Clerical

11797609_sSince 2007 the US economy has lost 2m clerical workers and the UK 160,000 or 4.8% of the workforce. In the US clerical work accounts for 16% and in the UK 12% of all employment. (Sources: US department of labour projectionsUK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) Working Futures Report 2010-20 (revised August 2012))

In the UK this figure is projected to decline to 10% of the UK workforce by 2020 with the loss of 400,000 jobs.

The reasons are that as businesses grow they increasingly seek to automate processes particularly those involving data collection and data processing and also use call centre to handle customer eqnuires. So the consensus is that this number, as a percentage of overall workforces will decline in most developed or developing regions of the world.

In our blog Can you win the Talent War we considered the McKinsey Report  which discussed the New Employment Structures. We pointed out that McKinsey;

Highlight the trend over the past 30 years of where transaction-based jobs that could be standardized or scripted have been automated or shifted to low paid workers. Now they highlight the knowledge worker jobs such as managers, sales reps, engineers, lawyers, managers, teachers and doctors which they label interaction jobs as being the major growth area and vital for companies and countries a like.

Clearly some recruitment of admin and clerical staff is going to continue and there will be thousands of jobs to be filled. The question for me is however with all the tools of job-boards, social media and direct/in-house recruitment teams how much will be conducted via recruitment agencies? My guess is nowhere near as much as there has been in the past.

During my research I have spoken to several admin and clerical agencies and reluctantly agree. They do pioint out however that those ones with strong long-established client relationships will survive and in some areas prosper especially where their focus is the SME market who do not have effective internal recruitment solutions. For those wishing to remain in this sector perhaps this should be your key focus.

Gone however are the days when thousands of admin workers will be supplied via agencies to FTSE 250 companies. Clearly if you are operating in this sector you might need to undertake a SWOT analysis to review your future position.

You however may violently disagree. If so please let me know. I believe debate on this issue is healthy.

 

2.         Unskilled Industrial/Manufacturing

18124171_sAgain the data that exists on this comes from the US & UK employment figures. The US department of labour projections point to unskilled manufacturing jobs declining between 5-10% during the period 2010-20. In Britain the (UKCES) Working Futures Report 2010-20 (revised August 2012) provides good employment sector data and projections. For those in recruitment it represents a must read even if you don’t necessarily agree with its findings. This report itself points to a decline from 8% to 7% in the number of people employed in manufacturing.

These declines will be heaviest in old traditional industries where offshoring, productivity gains and industry decline will account for most of the reductions. In hi-tech sectors such as IT, Aerospace, Oil & Gas and electronics, much in line with our previous blog on the topic, the declines will be smaller. The overall decline in this sector is projected to be a fall of 400,000 jobs with particularly sharp declines expected for unskilled and semi skilled manual workers.

The reasons are obvious the cost of labour in the UK compared with China, Asia and the emerging African economies means that production of low value items will move abroad. Hence why UK Plc. needs to focus on hi-tech products or those where we can add-value.

In addition where these people are recruited I see an increasing role for In-house/Direct Sourcing teams who can leverage their clients brands to attract the numbers and volumes they seek.

The opportunities in this sector for recruitment agencies operating a traditional model are therefore limited. Again the SME market who do not have access to strong brands and in-house recruitment teams may offer some agencies hope.

 

 

3. Customer Contact and Call Centres

10112935_sWe have seen this area decline for many years now and the decline is set to continue further caused by three factors:

  • Off-shore of customer contact centres
  • In-house/Direct Sourcing Teams
  • Switch to Online and Mobile App purchasing

The combination of these three will see volumes of recruits via recruitment agencies continue to decline. There has been a reversal by some employers of the strategy of offshoring their customer contact centres due to customers complaints and service issues but this trend is being more than offset by the greater use of technology which are creating contactless purchasing systems.

In addition as with the other two areas Direct/In-house Sourcing teams are having great success in attracting staff and filling the needs of their business. They are in many cases more than managing to cope with the level of applicant attraction required to maintain and increase employee numbers.

 

4. Public & Third Sector

public-sector-pagesThe final sector I have highlighted to avoid will not surprise anyone in the UK. There has been much written in recent years about the decline of the UK public services from their peak in 2008, virtually all of it by interested parties on various sides of the political spectrum.

Once again the UKCES Report points to a total 2% reduction in the number of people employed across this sector falling from 27% to 25% by 2020. This reduction is actually masked in my opinion by the switch of roles from the public to the third sector as local authorities and NHS trusts reallocate the provision of some of their services into social enterprises.

For example the Office of Budget responsibility forecast in February this year that central and local government employment would fall by 900,000 between 201011 and 2017/18 as a result of government cuts.

This figure has been challenged by many commentators, who claim the reductions could be even greater, as much as 1.2 million. Clearly some of these jobs will switch to the third sector but it is unlikely that we will see more than 400,000 new third sector roles created and some claim it will be as little as 150,000.

Whatever your political views on this it is unlikely to be an area of growth for recruitment agencies in the way that it has been in recent years.

 

Common factors

imagesYou will by now have noticed that there are some common themes emerging. With the exception of the public services one or more of the following appear to contributing factors in all of the remaining cases.

  • Offshoring of roles and business functions
  • Supply of unskilled or semi-skilled workers
  • Technological advancements
  • Direct/In-house Resourcing of staff

Only one of these is new, namely the rise of Direct/In-house Recruiters. As a young adult of the 1980s I can bare witness that we have seen all this before. The only change here is the jobs being off-shored today are the ones we were saw replacing the old declining industries of the 1980s era such as coal mining, clothing manufacture and steel working. You only have to visit parts of Lancashire and South Yorkshire to see the plethora of call centres and customer service centres that populate the old mining and cotton mill towns. Some even operating on former sites.

Technology and alternative sources of cheap labour have always meant that job functions will shift round the globe where a predominance of unskilled or semi-skilled labour is required for the production, manufacture or delivery of a service or product.

No country is immune to this.  Germany saw the switch of its manufacturing eastwards after the collapse of the Berlin wall firstly into the former East German regions and then into Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. India which was the recipient of so many of the UK jobs  in the 1990s is now seeing many of these transferred further eastwards or even into Africa.

The only way a country can retain its employment is to become experts at leading edge technology industries. Where design and development is a key factor but this too may shift elsewhere with university education globally changing.

As recruitment consultancies we are, to all-intense and purposes, ‘traders of skills’. We must not lose sight of this. We only exist because of the inefficiencies of the supply side of the economy. That is where:

  • Nations fail to direct their investment in skills and training in workers to satisfy their future businesses needs.
  • Where employers fail to invest sufficient in their workers over a period of time to satisfy their future organisations needs and hence have to pay fees to appropriate staff from other employers.
  • Where employers do not have the skills, resources or mechanisms to identify, attract and retain their workforce needs

Is there a better solution?

sc ience UniAs a parent of four children with ages from 12 to 22 you can imagine we have plenty of barbecue discussions with friends around the whole issue of youth employment. As a former advisor to Liverpool John Moore’s University on employability I have debated this subject many times.

I do question whether the time has come for Government, the Further Education Sector and UK Employers, perhaps the CBI, to attempt to address this fundamental issue for the long-term sustainability of the UK economy. Shouldn’t there be a degree of connection between the number of degree spaces for subjects and the projected UK demand for a skill area. Why if industry, commerce and education are crying out for maths, science and engineering graduates are we using scare resources to educate large numbers of people in subjects for which the volumes of meaningful employment does not exist.

In addition it seems ludicrous for tens of thousands of students to be accumulating up to £50,000 worth of debt each to acquire a degree in a subject for which there is no likelihood of them all getting a job. Aren’t we are deluding these young people that they will ‘get a job’? It could be argued we are ‘mis-selling university degrees, now there’s a thought!

The rapidity with which the economy and employment shifts means that the laws of supply and demand which should ultimately rebalance this inequality may not ever have time to take effect.

In the meantime we could be destroying a whole generation of young people and ultimately ourselves as a society by failing to remedy this issue.

 

Conclusion

In the meantime it is clear that whilst supply side inefficiencies exist there will always be opportunities for entrepreneurial recruitment agencies that are experts in their niches but it does beg the question; Are the days of the generalist high-street recruitment agencies numbered?

That however is another blog.

As always these are my thoughts and I’d be delighted to hear your views too.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

calijody-interior

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.

BYOD

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?