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The world of recruitment has changed enormously over the past 30+ years. The world has changed, economies have changed, and businesses have changed. If businesses have changed, then the way in which they acquire talent has changed too.

Recruitment is no longer primarily a simple administrative transaction. As it turns out, a great talent acquisition approach can be a source of immense competitive advantage.

Over recent decades, technological advances, globalisation and changing social norms have all impacted how companies hire. The job market in 2023 is a great deal more complex than in 1973, or 1983 – back in the day, hiring was a transactional function in a Human Resources department. Today, talent experts are a valuable part of a People and Talent ecosystem, serving both employers and job seekers professionally and effectively.

Changing the Use of Recruitment Services

Changing market dynamics and the availability of specialised recruitment and executive search services mean that you have options when it comes to hiring. In addition to a more sophisticated talent marketplace, technological advances and the expansion of online recruitment platforms and job boards mean that recruitment processes have been significantly improved over the years.

Hiring practices have shifted too. Companies no longer only activate hiring processes when a need arises. Proactive talent identification and sourcing requires greater active collaboration between hiring managers and recruiters and an investment in employer branding. This is achieved most effectively through the use of Managed Recruitment Services offerings in which you are able to hone your messaging to suit targeted audiences. No longer are print ads for vacancies the go-to approach for hiring, but offline networking and relational referrals remain valuable parts of the recruitment process. In-house recruitment teams are largely the domain of large corporates.

What is Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) or Managed Recruitment Services (MRS)?

Let’s face it – most business people don’t enjoy having to ‘do’ recruitment for their businesses, but it is a necessary part of running a business. More often than not, it is an inconveniently occurring process that interrupts the flow of ‘real work’ – or so it is experienced. Recruitment Process Outsourcing provides companies with the benefit of having a specialist and efficient talent sourcing and recruitment team on hand, with the associated benefits of flexibility, scalability, and cost savings, while freeing up business leaders to focus on the core of business operations.

An RPO arrangement means delegating recruitment operations to an external provider who manages the full recruitment lifecycle process on your behalf, working closely with your business to deliver against an agreed set of requirements and standards. It is a long-term strategic and collaborative partnership in which recruitment strategies and processes are designed to align with your business goals, culture, and talent requirements. The result is a process that happens largely in the background, requiring a time commitment only for the actual interview stage.

How Has Recruitment Changed?

Recruitment changed a great deal over the past ~80 years. For a lot of this time, job seekers would send their CVs directly to a company hoping to find employment there. Those were the days of “send me your CV and we’ll keep it on file”. As recruitment companies gained traction, outsourced and ad hoc recruitment processes became the norm, improving efficiency for companies on the hiring path. RPO/MRS services started to emerge in the 1990s and grew through the 2000s, seeing bulk recruitment executed by outsourced but embedded service providers running streamlined processes and delivering economies of scale.

As the competition for talent increased, recruitment services businesses started to play a more proactive role in business planning, if from an overwhelmingly operational angle initially. As social media emerged and matured as a tool for business during the 2010s, recruitment companies supplemented administratively heavy recruitment services with value-added services such as employer branding and leveraged technology that yielded data for talent-oriented insights. We now find ourselves in a technology-enhanced world where artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are both assumed and expected. Data-driven decision-making and behavioural tracking are becoming the norm for most recruiters and corporates.

Quality recruitment service providers have become strategic business partners and trusted advisors while delivering transactional value. They provide customised talent acquisition solutions aligned with their clients’ cultures and long-term strategic objectives, incorporating workforce planning, honing employer value propositions, retention strategy input, and more. Their ongoing optimisation of processes, cost reduction opportunities, and delivering a competitive advantage give businesses using the right talent partners access to significantly more comprehensive talent services at an affordable price point.

Over the past 20 years, recruitment has changed from a relatively simple sourcing/screening/admin/reporting process to multi-channel sourcing and assessments, with testing, technological integration, employer branding, and candidate experience being essential. The recruitment journey for clients and candidates is now a personalised one informed by data analytics and insights. Talent advisory and strategic talent planning, along with the potential for global talent acquisition, have yielded a more complex talent universe commanding intricate and proactive partnerships between companies, talent specialists, and candidates.

The world of Talent Acquisition is finally being professionalised. Talent consulting and advisory services feed into business talent acquisition strategies and inform succession planning and performance management. The impact of the partnership is measured and analysed, and the opportunity exists to compare your business’ talent acquisition strategy to the rest of the world, where the recruiter and the hiring company are opposite sides of the same coin.

Which Talent Partner is Best Suited to Your Needs?

Your knee-jerk approach to recruitment will likely consider budget and hiring speed, possibly contemplating your service provider’s level of specialisation in your type of business. If, however, you have acknowledged that talent is a strategic imperative, budget and speed are relegated in importance against considerations such as alignment with your company’s culture and operational approach, flexibility, quality of hire, retention levels, scalability, cost efficiency (value rather than cost focus), agility, and a greatly enhanced candidate experience for your future hires.

Not having to work with multiple service providers truly frees up time to focus on value-adding core business functions and employee development, ensuring you remain competitive as a business. Contingency services tend to be more expensive; they give you less control of the hiring process, and ad hoc service providers are not committed to your business specifically.

While a longer-term commitment, Managed Recruitment Services solutions don’t necessarily mean less flexibility. A collaborative arrangement means mutual dependence rather than a lack of control. Technological integration challenges will surface, but effective communication will ensure a successful resolution. Being vigilant around confidentiality and data security will ensure compliance with data protection regulations and protocols. When selecting a provider, service-level agreements and appropriate due diligence are critical to ensuring vendor performance and reliability. Ultimately, each party holds the other accountable.

Looking Ahead, What Will Happen in the World of Recruitment?

Over the next decade, we will likely see continuing tech advancement incorporating AI, ML and general automation supporting streamlined administrative processes. Data and predictive analytics will increasingly be used to create actionable insights for talent decision-making and reporting. This suggests a more flexible approach to talent acquisition that can be scaled, adapted, and lends itself to special projects and customised service delivery. It also means that a committed talent acquisition partnership makes sense as this arrangement will generate like-for-like company-wide talent insights.

Candidates will expect an improved and more personalised recruitment experience and communication style as their career preferences are made more visible through the use of tech tools. As part of a global, mobile, and remote talent pool, they will live in a gig-oriented economy with flexible workforce demands, which offers them a wider choice of employment arrangements. Remote work and work from home are version 2.0 of the outsourcing and offshoring we have seen over the past few decades. While manual work will not disappear, it will also be transformed. Recruiters will play a crucial part in facilitating and supporting candidates’ part in this new global economy, whatever their preferences.

Companies’ ethical and sustainable practices (labour standards, social responsibility, environmental sustainability, gender equality) will feature highly for candidates. Employer branding cannot be ignored, and unconscious bias training for enhanced diversity will be the norm.

Talent Acquisition is an intrinsic part of your business’s long-term success. A long-term professional talent acquisition partnership is vital to unlocking it.