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


Millennial Recruiters need flexibility with boundaries and consequences

One of the most popular topics we come across today in our discussions with Recruitment Business Owners when we are creating their high growth strategies is the concept of output-focused working or Results Only Working Environments.

The ROWE ™ concept was developed by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, founders of the consulting firm CultureRx. They published the approach in their 2008 book, “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix it.

In a ROWE ™ recruitment agency environment, you measure consultants by their performance, results or output, not by their presence and hours in the office or the hours they put in after work. In a truly ROWE ™ business you give them complete autonomy over their projects, and you allow them the freedom to choose when and how they will meet their objectives and goals.

WOW – and yes this stuff scares the sh*t out of most business owners especially the Baby-boomers and Generation-X business leaders and managers who have spent the last 10-20 years in our industry. In many cases it challenges their whole philosophy, their fundamental beliefs and values about work.

So why do it?

The answer is your new hires are typically drawn from the age group born between 1980 and 1994 who are termed Generation-Y or Millennials (as they entered the workplace after the millennium). Their attitude and approach to work is different and as such they are changing the workplace globally.

Ressler and Thompson would also argue that:

  • You will attract and retain the best talent
  • Drive greater accountability at all levels within the organisation
  • Evolve managers into coaches who hold people accountable to measurable results.
  • Catalyse innovation in process by removing senseless workplace barriers.
  • Operate in the leanest manner possible by reducing wasteful practices in time and materials.
  • Drive competence in all roles.

It is our experience that all of these are possible but you will also:

  • Increase discretionary labour
  • Liberate your teams latent passion and desire for success
  • Empower your staff to grow themselves and your business
  • Secure wider family buy-in from (spouses and children)
  • Reward optimisation of working practices
  • Reduce sickness and absenteeism

Is this all possible? Well actually yes it is and it is the “Future-of-Work”. Regrettably for those businesses that don’t embrace this way of working you will be deemed out-dated and not attractive to the Millennial Generation. You will struggle to attract and retain the most accomplished staff and skilled professionals.

Some companies are already seeing this.

There has been a huge amount written about Gen-Y and Millennials mainly from the US but in 2016 we passed a significant milestone on the UK Workplace in that Millennials took over from Baby-boomers as the largest generation represented in the UK workforce. This is now true in most developed nations. Although are still the largest proportion of the population many of them have retired in the past few years.

Taken from Guardian 07/03/16

This is changing the UK workplace as businesses increasingly come under pressure from Millennials to change their working practices.

According to accepted research Millennial Generation typically seek many things:

  • Meaningful Work
  • Fun at Work
  • Collaborative Working
  • Freedom of Choice/Expression
  • Flexible Working

They tend to place a greater value on the work-life balance than Gen-X and Baby-boomers. They shy away from ‘command and control’ and traditional authoritarian leadership styles. Small intimate, collaborative working environments where they can make a difference, is what attracts them. There’s a lot here, which, Hertzberg would recognise:

  • Personal recognition
  • Achievement
  • Recognition
  • Responsibility

So it is not all new or revolutionary.

ROWE ™ Recruitment Agency environment

So how do you create an Output focused or “Results Orientated Working Environment”, which recruiters and agency leaders and owners are happy with?

It is simple by defining the key daily activity targets consultants are expected to achieve. A lot of this will depend upon your agency operating model either as a niche recruiter model or generalist one but either way you need to define the daily activities your consultants must to achieve. Typically these will include:

  • Outbound candidate calls
  • Outbound hiring manager calls
  • New Candidates found
  • New Sales leads secured
  • Job Board Searching
  • CVs Spec’d in to clients
  • Market research
  • Social Media Sourcing and LinkedIn Activity

In many of our clients who are achieving high growth their consultants who flex-on and off are achieving their daily activity targets within their hours plus their sales targets are either being exceeded or met on a consistent basis.

As one MD said to me recently “if our guys are over target and exceeding their daily activity targets then I have no issue in them leaving at lunch time one day a week to go to the Christmas Markets or Surfing in Newquay or mountain biking in Snowdonia.”

“It is amazing too! When everyone’s finishing early on a Friday because they are delivering the required results it’s a pretty big incentive for the weaker performers to hit their sales and activity targets to leave early too.”

“Families can leave for Centerparcs, Mums and Dads can see children’s football matches, ballet performances and come in late when their daughter/son has a ‘special assembly’. Everyone wins the company, staff and their families”

“They all have work phones so can still be contactable if they are needed.”

Some clients have to work skeleton cover for workers/contractors on paydays but it is all possible.

Agree Boundaries and Consequences

For this to work as managers, leaders and owners you have to be clear on several things?

    1. Activity Targets
    2. Sales Targets
    3. Consistency
    4. Exceeding targets is consultants responsibility not yours
    5. Agreed consequences of missing targets

Many consultants are like teenage children, after all many of them were teenagers until recently. They will challenge the boundaries and seek ‘special dispensations’. It’s a dangerous road to go down both morally and legally. You must treat all staff equally and be consistent. Failure to do so could result in an employment tribunal if it goes wrong.

One of the easiest ways to achieve this is to adopt the principle that you have agreed the conditions under which your teams can flex-on and off but it is not your responsibilityto make sure consultants exceed the required targets. It is theirs.

Finally as long as these conditions are agreed up front then you should not feel guilty if a consultant is left alone in the office whilst everyone is down the pub on a Friday afternoon. My experience is that next time they will make sure they are the right side of the line.

The by-product of adopting this regime is you will attract people that want success. They will invest the hours and effort they need to do to accomplish their activities in the week. Working on personal development, which improves performance becomes a WIN/WIN. Peer-pressure is a key tool in a managers toolkit and your consultants will want to be seen to be in that ‘winners enclosure’.

So if people want to spend 30 mins at the coffee machine talking about last nights Eastenders or Champions League game they can but they cant really complain if they miss their activity targets and end up staying behind. Thats the consequence of their actions.

Over time good consultants will optimise their ways of working.

Some will make calls in an evening as candidates tend to talk more freely away from work. You may find some spouses are also more flexible supporting working Mums and Dads at bath-time if it means the family can leave for their weekend trip early on Friday.

You will find staff investing greater personal time if they get even greater flexibility. “Flexi-ing” a whole day off for being 125+% over target for the quarter. In this case you might see people committing larger proportions of their personal time in the week to make targets.

When you achieve this you will start to see high performance become embedded in your culture. Gen-X and Baby-Boomer recruiters did this in 80s, 90s and 00s for different drivers, promotion, recognition, financial rewards, etc. Millennials can be motivated to exhibit the same behaviours they just have different drivers.

Tapping into that and harnessing it to drive your overall business performance and achieve high growth is the Art of Leadership, which as they say is our job as leaders.

Meeting the Challenges of an ROWE Workplace

Establishing an Output focused Working or ROWE ™ workplace can be a minefield and there are challenges in regulatory controlled working environments like Education, Healthcare and Social Care but all of these can be overcome with the right structure and controls. You might need some external support from Growth Coaches, like those of us at Recruitment Training Group but there are others, who have been through the process.

So don’t delay talk to your Millennial Workers and start to discuss an Output Focused or ROWE ™ Recruitment Agency Working Environment.

The benefits to your business and profitability can be huge. Call us if you want to learn more or for an informal discussion.

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.



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.