Future of Recruitment 2020-2030 – Ian Knowlson speaks at Recruitment Expo 2018

Future of Recruitment 2020-2030

This month Ian Knowlson will be speaking at Recruitment Expo 2018, the UK’s No 1 Recruitment Industry Event in London on 31st January 2018.

In his lively and stimulating talk Ian will share his knowledge, as an employment futurist and experience as a highly successful Business Growth Coach, to help attendees make sense of the complex landscape of reports sighting everything from a Future Nivarna State to a Human Race/Employment Catastrophe.

Your Future Starts Today

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.

Spaces are limited but if you are interested in attending click here to register.

For more information on the event  click here


Transforming Business – Case Study

Transforming Business – Case Study

At the Selling Success we believe passionately in helping our clients grow through the development of their leadership teams and their staff.

We have a wealth of experience in achieving this working with recruitment business owners the length and breadth of the UK and Europe, across a multitude of sectors from IT, Technology to professional services like legal, HR accounting and finance to education, engineering and the public sector.

Whether it is in temporary, permanent contract or freelance recruitment have worked and delivered growth rates between 30-300% year on year. Take Alpha Recruitment…


Alpha Recruitment – Sheffield

Selling Success started working with Alpha Recruitment in Sheffield in 2013. At the time the business had an MD and two staff, turned over £1.2m per annum and operated in the logistics, industrial and construction sectors and were operating out of one room in a rented office. The MD was personally responsible for 80% of the business and was very much working “in the business”.

Over the past 4 years Alpha have grown 600%. The business is currently projecting a turnover well in excess of £7m, has seen a huge increase in the profitability of the business it writes (Gross Margins up 300%) and the MD personally has no day-to-day client responsibility for placing workers or managing requirements instead he now has a team of highly skilled and competent recruiters.

Alpha Recruitment now operate from a brand new purpose built office owned by the Directors; they employ ten staff and have significant expansion plans. The MD spends 80% of his time working “On his business” managing and developing staff.

In addition the business have successfully developed a training and development programme that sees new recruits (with no previous recruitment experience) achieve profitability inside 3-4 months of joining.

The business has new operating models, metrics for managing performance, consultant day plans, daily and weekly reporting, new profitability measures.

With the support of the Selling Success Coaching and Mentoring Service the business has exceeded its three-year vision set in 2013 and recently produced a new 2020 plan to take them on to the end of the decade.

 Your Business too…

Selling Success are currently working with many other businesses all achieving similar levels of growth and success as Alpha Recruitment. We would be delighted to speak to you too about ways we can improve your business performance and growth.


Top Recruitment Sectors for Growth in 2017

It’s here again, our popular annual blog that looks into the future and predicts the recruitment sectors that are geared for high growth in 2017.

2016 has seen some dramatic changes in the World. The UK voting for Brexit and the US voting for Donald Trump have seen a huge shift towards populist voting and a rejection of the establishment and globalisation. With general election in France, Netherlands and Germany in 2017 its difficult to predict what the future will hold.

So against this background this years predictions have been particularly fraught with challenge and some might even say they are courageous.

UK and Global Economic Dynamics

In making our predictions this year we believe it is important to state how we see the UK and World economies behaving as this will temper any forecasts.

As I write this blog the UK is projecting 2.2-2.4% growth in 2016, which is pretty much what was being projected last year. In fact this weeks Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) for the services sector is very robust and there is every likelihood that the UK will top the economic growth league amongst the G7 countries.

No small feat for an economy that everyone was writing off after Brexit.

After a fourth consecutive month of growth most importantly for the Recruitment Sector Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit states:

“Employment is rising at one of the fastest rates seen over the past five years. Employers’ appetite to hire is being whetted by a further accumulation of unfinished work. Backlogs of uncompleted orders showed the largest rise for five-and-a-half years.”

Next year we remain optimistic and expect the UK economy to grow at 1.6-2.0%. Even as we go to press on our blog the economic picture is changing. Only recently the Bank of England upgraded its forecast for the UK to 1.4% and we have still to factor in the “Trump-effect”. Commentators are mixed on this but given his personal heritage with a Scottish mother and significant business interests in the UK we are optimistic that on balance “Trump” will be good for UK economic prospects in the short to medium term if not the world in general.

The final dynamic we believe will impact our world in 2017 is the recent agreement by OPEC and Non-OPEC countries to limit oil production in 2017 and beyond. This has already seen oil prices rise. The UK is an oil producing country and as such this should overall have a positive effect on our economy.

As we look into the next decade the picture is less clear. Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Robotics (Bots) are set to change the world of employment and by definition the world of recruitment beyond all recognition

It has been described as the “disruptive tidal wave of technology” and you might wish to read our full forecast to help you decide if you are going to be a winner or loser.


Top five Sectors for high growth in 2017


No. 5 Accounting & Finance

In any economic downturn the demand for accountants and company financial experts rises. That’s my experience and whilst I doubt we will have a recession in 2017, there is no doubt going to be some economic challenges and a shift in corporate dynamics in the next few years to the end of the decade.

Brexit will require large numbers of businesses to make changes to their business and accounting practices. There will be further examination of cost and profit models that businesses operate. This is against the backdrop of rising long term demand for accountants which is caused by the large numbers of baby-boomer accountants retiring from business and more especially in the public sector where there is a small crisis developing.

Finally the other market factor, which is fuelling the rising demand for corporate IPO and finance experts, is caused by the attractiveness of UK businesses to foreign investment. The 15% reduction in the value of the pound post Brexit has suddenly seen a rise in foreign interest in UK companies. The number of mergers and acquisitions are set to rise in 2017 and this will fuel the demand for individuals with corporate finance expertise in this arena.

Ultra Niche Hot Spot predictions

M&A Specialists, Project Managers (Accounting skill-sets), Commercial Accountants, Project/Systems Accountants


No. 4 Oil, Gas and Energy

This sector has seen a downturn in the previous years projections but with the UK Government endorsement of the Hinkley Point C and Wylva Nuclear Power Stations projects plus the OPEC agreement with Non-OPEC countries to limit production also seeing an oil price rise there is a renewed confidence in many parts of the industry. The magic number is $70 a barrel above which the major oil exploration companies feel confident to speculate on developing potential fields.

In 2017 we expect the $70 a barrel level to be achieved but even before that we are already seeing some RFIs and tenders coming out by firms speculating on an up turn and looking to take advantage of the excess capacity in the industry and hopefully achieve some good sub-contract rates. With this in mind this we believe there will be a healthy rise in demand for people in this sector during Q3 and Q4 2017.

The significantly ageing workforce in Nuclear is likely to create a major skill-shortage here. Currently whilst demand for staff is high the large MSP contract providers that dominate this market are operating at margins that are almost unsustainable for SME agencies, especially when you factor in the cost of finance. It will be fascinating to see what will give first but as the public sector (education and NHS) have found you can’t buck the market for ever. This market seems ripe for niche recruiters to exploit these large skills gaps but we will have to see if this happens.

Our guess is that towards the end of 2017 we will see the dam burst and rates and margins rise as the fight for critical staff breaks out into all out war in some niche sectors.


Ultra Niche Hot Spot predictions

System Design Engineers, (Nuclear and Oil & Gas) Mechanical Design Engineers (Nuclear and Oil & Gas), Electrical Design Engineers (Nuclear and Oil & Gas), Project Managers (Nuclear and Oil & Gas) Systems Control Engineers (Nuclear and Oil & Gas).


No. 3 Construction

In 2016 we predicted this sector to rise and many recruitment businesses have seen solid growth this year but sadly not the levels we had all wished for. As we indicated the politics of releasing funds and capital flows to enable the huge growth in house building did not happen.

Sadly we do not see the seismic shift that is required in the financial markets to affect the large growth in private sector house building that is still required without a government policy shift.

Yes the government has committed £5 billion to boost the housing building but there is also the market factor that a huge growth in property completions will see prices stabilise if not fall and turkeys as they say don’t vote for Christmas and property developers and builders don’t vote for price falls either. The signs are encouraging in that there has been a growth in domestic building in Q3 but nowhere near the levels the government needs in order to achieve its target of 200,000 new builds a year..

The sectors skills gaps are well documented. In fact there is a fear that BREXIT will lead to thousands of EU nationals who have been plugging those gaps returning to mainland Europe leaving us under-resourced. It was reported in the Telegraph earlier this year that “Tony Pidgley, the chairman of house builder Berkeley homes has spoken out, warning of Brexit’s impact on construction workers, and pointed out that 50pc of his subcontractors are from Eastern Europe.”

This represents 23pc of workers in London. The article also claims that the construction sector needs to attract 500,000 new recruits in the next five years to plug the skill gap. Failure to achieve this will see house building drop from the 140,000 a year we are currently achieving to 100,000 a year and certainly nowhere the 200,000 a year the government wish to secure.

So agencies if you have the workers and can retain them then you should be able to make good margins in 2017-18

The significant number of infrastructure projects that the government has committed to since BREXIT (including New runway Heathrow, HS2 Phase Two) which were reinforced in the 2016 Autumn Statement, only goes to increase the demand for skills and ensures this will be a healthy sector in 2017.

Inequalities between agencies

What we are seeing however is that agencies that work with traditional generalist operating models (which are not worker centric) are not making the most of these growth opportunities. They are at best achieving 5-10% p.a. growth rates and in some cases less than that, whilst those with modern, ultra-niche models that put the focus on worker relationships are achieving 200-300% growth rates.

Perhaps now is the time to review your models and make that switch to being a Niche Recruiter. This blog might help Niche Vs. Generalist

Ultra Niche Hot Spot predictions

Scaffolders, Ground-Workers, 360 Drivers, Site Managers, Quantity Surveyors also traditional trades.


No 2 Engineering

The top two performing sectors are so consistently above the rest that it is hard to choose which represents the greatest growth opportunity. On balance we believe Engineering is in second place slightly behind IT and Technology.

The skills gaps in the engineering sector are massive and well documented. An ageing workforce of baby-boomers leaving between now and 2025 is creating a huge pressure on skills, which with the lack of STEM graduates over the past 10-15 years means the talent pool to replace them is woefully small and undersized.

To help you understand the scale of the problem research suggests that 182,000 additional workers are needed to plug engineering-focused graduate and apprentice positions every year until 2022. This is according to Engineering UK.

That’s over 1m more engineers.

According to Engineering UKCurrently the UK produces only 46,000 engineering graduates each year. There will also be demand for around 69,000 people qualified at advanced apprenticeship or equivalent level each year. Yet only around 27,000 UK apprentices a year currently qualify at the appropriate level.

Yes the numbers studying are growing and salaries are rising but the solution is that in the short term to plug this gap we will continue to import engineers from the rest of the world.

So are we surprised that one of the UK’s most famous engineers, Sir James Dyson, is looking to secure his own future talent pipeline by investing £15m over the next five years to secure his need to double his workforce to 6,000 by 2020 in his new Dyson Institute of Technology.

Ultra Niche Hot Spot predictions

Controls Engineers, ICS/DCS Engineers, HRSG Engineers, Turbine Engineers, Power Commissioning Engineer, HVAC Systems Engineers, Plant Layout Engineers, Civil Project Engineers (Nuclear, Rail), Automotive design Engineers, Signalling Engineers, PLC and Automation Engineers, PowerTrain Engineers.


No 1. IT and Technology

This sector has consistently been our number one for three out of the last four years. Our reason for this is simple.

IT and Technology faces all the demographic issues and supply and demand factors that the other sectors are grappling with.

Yes IT and Technology has an ageing workforce, Yes, the insatiable thirst for experts is never ceasing but the greatest impact is the rate of technological change and advance plus the globalisation of demand.

This is not a UK problem or a Western World or US problem it is a global wide problem.

In most markets many executives and business owners have not comprehended the scale or rate of advancement of technology change and how it could make their multi-million pound businesses obsolete overnight!

You have only to look at how disruptive business models that use technology or businesses that fail to keep up can fall from a market leading position to relative obscurity in 3-5 years to understand what is at stake.

Look at Novell Networks, in 1996 they were the provider of the worlds largest networking software by 2000 Windows NT had taken over their market position and Nokia have failed to recapture that since.

Between 1995-2000 Nokia were the worlds largest supplier of mobile phones today where are they ranked? According to WhatTechSays they don’t even make the top 10.

What about Blackberry? 2000-2005 everyone wanted one where are they today?

What about Amazon? Uber? Google? AirBnB? Spotify? Netflix? All of which are the disruptive models of today and considered by many to be “Rising Stars” or even “Cash Cows” if you apply the Boston Matrix.

But where will they be tomorrow?

Who is next to fall from grace?

So we can see how important technology is.

Take Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and robotics. The total effect of these three advances alone is predicted to transform the world of work in the next 5-10 years. Many jobs that rely on the processing of data and simple decision-making are set to become redundant. At the same time the growth in demand for the technologists that will enable this change is set to explode over the next 2-3 years.

In the US the prediction is 6% of all jobs will go. “By 2021 a disruptive tidal wave will begin. Solutions powered by AI/cognitive technology will displace jobs, with the biggest impact felt in transportation, logistics and consumer services,” said Forrester’s Brian Hopkins in a recent US Government report on the issue.

Business Intelligence is already a high growth niche and Data Science is rapidly catching up. The growth in demand for cloud architects and engineers, who will design the infrastructure as a service (IAS) and platform as a service (PAS), are tipped to accelerate rapidly, as is the demand for the developers who will develop the applications. Algorithm experts that support rule based AI is a key skill that is being included in many job specs and you can expect this to grow exponentially over the next 3-5 years.

If you are in IT and Technology recruitment there is a massive opportunity for rapid growth over the next 3-10 years. A terrific MUST READ article is Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017. It not only discusses 2017 trends but the likely longer-term developments.

If you are considering IT and Technology as sector to move into or making further planned growth then this is invaluable source of data and foresight.

As our world is set to be transformed, the jury is still out as to whether there will be a net increase in jobs or a reduction. The scaremongers seem keen to spread fear but are they right? Perhaps if it helps people wake up to the change in reality but history tells us otherwise.

We have been here before in the 19th century before the industrial revolution.

In the Pre-Victorian era, millions of people worked in agriculture. Automation arrived and allowed people to move off the land and into cities heralding in a whole new generation of jobs being created in offices,factories, businesses and retail as the factories made a new range of goods, jobs were created constructing buildings and infrastructure as well as roles in merchandising and the selling the goods that were manufactured.

In the 1960s and 70s we were told that the ‘microprocessor’ and computers was going to make thousands of jobs redundant. In 1982 as a young undergraduate working for ICI Plc. in Runcorn I built a prototype freight forwarding pricing system. The concept was proven and implemented by ICI in 1984 and 100-150 booking clerk jobs were made redundant. In the 1980s this happened in thousands of companies across Britain. Yes those roles were lost forever but thousands of others were created employment in the UK today is nearly 8m higher than in 1985 and the percentage of people of working age in employment at its highest at 75% of the working population.

We are about to enter another period of dynamic change and there are going to be huge winners and losers.

For recruiters there is one key question you should all be looking to answer.

Is this change going to see the jobs in my niche or sector become obsolete by this “disruptive tidal wave of technology” or am I serving an area of growth.

If you are servicing logistics, manufacturing, call centre staff, clerical assistants and distribution workers (drivers) then the answer is likely to be YES.

If your niche is in Product design, Engineering or IT and Technology then you are likely to answer NO but then again within all these sectors there will be some jobs that will disappear and other jobs that are created.

It is hard to identify all the winners and losers in this sector but you might find this article from Robert Half on the Top Ten Technology Jobs for 2017 helpful. Equally this article from earlier this year in the CIO Magazine on 10 Hot IT Job Skills for 2016 may give you a few more pointers.

One thing is sure 2017 is the year to review your market and make changes if necessary.

Ultra Niche Hot Spot predictions

UI/UX Developers & Designers, Business Intelligence Experts, Security/CyberSecurity Experts, Cloud Architects and Integration Experts, Data Scientists, Mobile App Developers, Full Stack Web and Product developers.


So these are our predictions for 2017. They are are based upon our hands on experience of working with 30-35 recruitment agencies across all sectors in the past 12 months. With all of them growing at annual rates of over 30%+ per year-on-year and some 200-300%, we believe we are well placed to know he best sectors to work in.

In the short term we still see healthy times ahead for the UK Recruitment Market but as we implied beyond 2022 with Brexit and the advance of technology the future becoming less clear.

You may have a difference of opinion and have experiences, which are not so positive so please contact me, [email protected] and let us know or share your thoughts.

We’d love to hear them.


BREXIT – 8 Tips for Managing the Challenges Ahead

Whether you voted “in” or “out” few can disagree that the events of the past few days have been seismic and will change the nature of our country and world forever whatever scenario plays out in the weeks, months and years ahead.

This blog makes no assessment of the merits of either in or out but seeks to help Recruitment Business Leaders cope with some of the challenges you are likely to face.
There is a huge amount of uncertainty; fear and anger about and probably will be for several weeks to come. As we return to work, as recruitment business owners and leaders we have to move forward irrespective of our views. Some of my clients have contacted me recently for some suggestions on how to approach the next few weeks or so please find below my suggestions:

1. The Emotional Cycle of Change recognise and understand it.
Psychologists and business change managers will tell you that in times like this the vast majority of us will go through the following emotional cycle of change. There are various models of emotional change but the most famous model of this was developed by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.

Her “Emotional Change Cycle” (shock, elation, anger, denial, blame, confusion, and finally acceptance) charts the typical human reaction to change and has been validated repeatedly. Many of you will see this playing out in the media, in political spheres and across social media. This is the first time we have however seen 16m going through this simultaneously.

Some of you will have been or may still be going on this huge emotional journey yourselves with a mixture of shock, elation, anger, denial blame, confusion before hopefully a level of acceptance that you and I individually cannot change what has happened at a national level.

This emotional journey is totally natural and to a degree healthy.
We all make and experience this journey differently and at different paces.
Recruitment Consultants are by their nature tend to be demonstrative creatures and this change will affect them. The vast majority of your teams are young and in all likelihood according to statistical polls did not vote for this so may be feeling angry.
An awareness of this cycle will help you make sense of some peoples behaviour and enable you to support them through this change in so far as it affects them at work.
My first suggestion is that in the first couple of weeks you may need to be more tolerant than normal of emotional reactions but equally you must assert boundaries if these reactions become unacceptable.

Rather than responding yourself to their passion or outburst I suggest you ask people to go for a cool down, a walk, take the afternoon off or even a day or so. The key thing is to take emotion out of the situation. You may feel the need to do this too and that is cool.

2. Strong Positive Leadership

Whatever your personal emotional state, at work I would recommend assuming a strong positive and determined to succeed attitude. There is going to be a lot of doubt, fear and anxiety around. I suggest you need to keep positive and don’t be taken on other peoples fear journey’s. Help your teams remain focused on the positive. In my experience we may be in for several weeks where the glass is half empty and the future unclear and uncertain.

Look for positive stories in your teams work and efforts and in the world around you. Celebrate them and keep people focused on the positive.

It might help to talk about the importance of positivity in the office with your teams and gain their commitment as a team to engendering a positive work environment.

At the same time be aware and look out for ‘mood-hovers’ in your office. Take them to one side and remind them that as a team you agreed that negativity will not be tolerated.

You may wish to use the cooling off techniques already discussed if they need time to adjust to a work issue which has affected their moral.

3. Remind people the fundamentals are still strong

The underlying economy is still strong, the demand for staff exceeds supply, there are still skill-shortages in most sectors and these are not going to change overnight. There are jobs to fill out there. Even at the height of the last recession 96% of business carried on and the Bank of England and most economists would say we are a long way from those times.
What you may notice over the next few weeks is the number of requirements could reduce and change from permanent requirements to temp/contract needs. Some requirements may become harder to find but all this means is we all need to work harder and smarter.

It is worth remembering the story of the two men walking through a forest. Suddenly, they see a tiger in the distance, running towards them. They turn and start running away. But then one of them stops, takes some running shoes from his bag, and starts putting the on.

“What are you doing?” says the other man.
“Do you think you will run faster than the tiger with those?”
“I don’t have to run faster than the tiger,” he says. “I just have to run faster than you.”

We don’t have to out run our tigers in business either we just need to focus on out running our competition. You might find it helpful to motivate your people to pull together. Evoke their sense of team spirit or may be even create a team incentive beating the competition in head-to-head job fills.

4. Track job flow

From your perspective you need to monitor your business closely.

In my experience-tracking job flow is one of the most important things to do to give you a sense of what is really happening in the market. It will vary from week to week as it has done previously so you will need to watch the trend over a two to three-month period. If there is a severe downturn you will note it sooner this way to allow you to take appropriate action. I do not expect this to be too dramatic myself but I think we will notice fewer Permanent roles and more Temp/Perm jobs. The nature of the jobs may change and their durations so watch this too.

Remind people of the A/B/C Job classification and ensure they focus on getting A & B jobs.

5. There will also be BREXIT work to do.

You will find that there are going to be BREXIT jobs probably temps and contract in IT, Finance, Banking, Engineering, Legal, Procurement, Accounting and Call Centre. Be aware they will come as businesses look to change systems, processes and business centres and well as operating locations. It’s an opportunity so be aware of it and have your teams look for it.

6. Work Harder and Smarter – Focus your teams on Activity
In my experience of all the economic down turns (80s, 90s,dot.com and 00s) a key element for success is as well as remaining positive to just work harder and smarter.

Many of you will know this is one of my pet topics but now it is more important than ever.

In my experience in successful businesses all consultants who are not on target need to be hitting their weekly activity targets. Rather than impose this on the teams discuss it and get agreement.

People may need to work longer hours in the short term to maintain their performance levels. That has to be their choice but they may be willing to do that to keep their income levels and in some cases their jobs.

7. Don’t Carry Passengers
The final comment for your team is don’t carry people who have the ability to do the job but are not delivering and pulling with the team. If it helps with some people you may need to remind them of this first and give them an opportunity to improve performance but try the positive approach and the focus on activity first.

If this fails then you will need to look at your disciplinary procedures in your staff handbooks and potentially start formal processes.

I am always of the opinion that giving people notice of what you expect of them and making it clear on what is good performance and what level of performance will not be tolerated will make life fairer for all.

You must be clear and consistent with all your teams and doing this will enable people to make the right choices about making this work.

Ultimately if they choose not to make the right choices around performance then you may have to begin steps to terminate their employment

8. Live in the NOW

Finally on a personal note I read a book several years ago called the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I found it very useful and it helped me go through a personally difficult time in my life and you might find it helpful too.

In essence it suggests we spend too much of modern life living mentally in the past or in the future and worrying about things.
Our minds are either regretting what we should have done or worrying about what might happen. Tolle reminds us the only place where we can actually affect the future is through the actions in the present today therefore we need to remain totally present and focused. In addition I would add that remaining present ensures we do not miss opportunities that exist now, today. They are all around us and we need to keep a watchful eye otherwise we will miss them.

When I started practicing living in the NOW it was difficult and I was shocked how often Tolle was right. I was living in the future or the past mentally but as I started to live in the NOW I also noted that the problems I had been worrying about started to shift and sort themselves out before they actually happened.

My last suggestion to you is therefore learn to live day to day and focus on the reality of what is happening today.

Certainly for the next few weeks try to live each day in the present and ignore speculation about what will could or might happen. Detach yourself from it.

I will not be watching the morning news other than to grab the headlines. To help myself I will be resuming my daily meditations you might want to look at this or practice mindfulness. Yoga is a great outlet and for some of you make sure you increase or maintain your physical exercise regimes.

One of the benefits of practicing living in the NOW is that you will notice the level of fear in your life diminishes.

One of the acronyms for FEAR is that it stands for

Fantasized Emotions Appearing Real

That is FEAR is not reality. In my experience having experienced events, which are truly frightening you do not feel fear when it is happening only afterwards when you reflect on what has just happened.

Fear occurs therefore through the expectation of an event, which people are imagining. There are various NLP techniques we use to help people become aware of the power of the mind and FEAR, which we can teach.

We at the Recruitment Training Group hope this has been both timely and helpful and would love to hear from you if you believe we can help you.

We shared this with our clients first and we share it with you in the interests of helping all of us build and create a new and better world post BREXIT.