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May you live in interesting times” – 2007 promises to be such a year.  

Saisha Pirvani, Sub Editor – Employment Affairs

   

One thing is for sure -  2007 will be a challenging year for Head Hunting.  The talent market is changing.  The tools by which the market is managed are changing also, as is the commercial model of the modern Head Hunter.

The “War for Talent” was defined by McKinsey a decade ago - and some experts now see what they describe as the “Perfect Storm” raging around the market for talent.  The signs are there: continuing growth in the UK and Europe at a rate which has already prompted Professor Shadbolt, President of the BCS, to worry that “there will not be enough qualified graduates to meet the demands of UK industry”.  

The emerging economies of China and India, having stretched the global market for steel, oil and concrete will now use their new muscle to go global and for that they will require western skills and management, in numbers.

At the same time the internet, now supported by the availability of broadband, is pervading everything.  Mathew Taylor, the Prime Minister’s Strategy Advisor, was quoted recently as saying about the way internet affects democracy  “It has immense potential but we face a real problem if the main way in which that potential expresses itself is through allowing citizens to participate in a shrill discourse of demands.”

In some ways he could be speaking about the effects of empowerment on the employment market, recruitment and changing employers.  As we have asked previously:  “what happens to recruitment when every CV and every job is available on line via your TV screen?”  The fact is that the www is already changing the way the recruitment and head hunting markets work in terms of, both, operations and billing.

Perhaps the recruitment industry is itself recovering from many years of poor results caused by over-confidence in what turned out to be a reducing market.  Today, the movement of investment into head hunting firms is a significant pointer to growing confidence that talent is on the move.  The picture canny investors see may be good for recruiters but not necessarily for business needing to recruit or to hang on to key talent.

 

It is for sure that a lot of money has gone into head hunting and recruitment agencies of late – Piers Marmion has taken his team into Whitehead Mann and Jeremy Hosking, reputedly one of the richest and most canny men in the city, has added other interests to the one he already held in Penna.  Some of this investment is undoubtedly opportunistic, investors putting money into vehicles that are emerging from troubles at a time when the sector is showing signs of growth.  To such people it is the opportunity that matters so it could be recruitment or sandwich making, but there signs enough to convince many that growth is returning - and with it recruitment and head hunting.

There have been a few raised eyebrows in recent times at a sort of musical chairs effect brought about by the work of some Head Hunters who, it seems, operated from excellent 'little black books' which allowed them to set up series of deals wherein FTSIE 500 Directors appeared effectively to be swapping jobs.  As with many things the reality was probably different but the perception was very damaging. Longer term, even crises are sometimes responsible for beneficial change.

 

Some head hunters have come to think of the 'little black book' as being an important, but only one, element in good head hunting which demands much more research and data mining by head hunters to make sure that they are covering the true range of talent that might be appropriate.  I know of several assignments where the initial list has exceeded 100, yes one hundred targets, a scale of activity unheard of not so long ago.  (No I'm not asking for sympathy for poor overworked head hunters, I'm not yet that gaga!)

Moreover, changing jobs is now a much easier prospect for talented managers for who there is a plethora of new enterprises run by quick minded men and women running quick footed businesses that are unafraid to recruit the best with more regard for talent and less to sectoral experience.

In our view all this points inevitably towards greater challenges in both retention and recruitment which is why I am forecasting an interesting year, one in which, if you are to use head hunters, will require that you work only with the best at a time when recognising the best will be harder than you might think.  What was good three years ago may be ineffective in 2007.

The fact is that head hunting and recruitment are moving on – not before time some might say – and old structures and traditional perceptions of what translates to quality need no longer apply.  Ample, good resources make for good head hunting but these cost money and finding the balance between overheads and revenue has always been a problem for the industry. 

We have seen, amongst others, articles from Shena Parthab at EURONET  Search, Mike Taylor at Global Back Office and the work of OSI2 along with some very interesting material at onrec.com, the excellent online recruitment magazine - all of which shows us that change is abroad in more senses than one and how a new approach to allocating work can facilitate innovative change in a staid, mature sector.

Head hunting may be ever more dependent on research, but it relies also on innovation and experience to add value by looking at a range of options from which a selection can be resourced.  Modern head hunters do not just recruit, they look at resourcing solutions and they are also increasingly concerned to ensure that the appointment is right also for the appointee.

As Head Hunting becomes ever more accessible and affordable it will allow the methods to trickle down so that the head hunting approach can be applied to a wider range of jobs with a wider spectrum of salary levels.

Meanwhile, the platforms on which recruitment advertising have operated are themselves under pressure and changing – ITV is vulnerable because of falling revenues and how long will it be before web based advertising becomes the medium for recruitment as the circulation of newspapers continues to fall?  When those graphs meet what will be the effects on recruitment and head hunting….?  Meanwhile, good hunting.

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