Recruitment industry, it’s time for your performance review

Raising the bar panel at Engage Sydney 2024

When intelligently applied, performance reviews are an essential tool to help individuals receive the support and guidance that they need to grow in their careers. But why stop there? What works for the individual can also be a game-changer at the industry level. Recruiters should be making data-driven decisions to power their activity—so we activated an industry-level performance review to delve a little deeper into opportunities, challenges, and priorities in the APAC recruitment market.

As technology and AI continue to evolve our industry at remarkable speed, the strategies that propelled recruitment agencies to success over the past decade may not be right for the next. In order to help our network continue to raise the bar and make better business decisions towards collective good, we gathered some of the smartest leaders we know during Engage Sydney 2024 and challenged them to undertake a performance review of the industry and those we serve—and the results may surprise you.

Read on for valuable takeaways you can put into practice today. As our industry experts delve into the strength and weaknesses of the recruitment market, we’ll highlight major opportunities and threats to give us their perspective of where the industry is headed in 2024 and beyond.

Featuring insights from:

In an industry facing a challenging environment, our panel activated our Engage Sydney network with a survey to help us understand the wins and misses of the current landscape—and help our attendees future-proof their business. The details unearthed in that survey informed a conversation packed with actionable insights.

First up, how has the industry improved over the past 24 months? We’ve gotten better at compliance.

“I was really surprised that compliance was the number one thing that we thought we’d done best over the last couple of years… I love the fact that we are professional employers and we are [the ones] you can rely upon to get the compliance piece right.” — Charles Cameron

As recruitment leaders adjust to overregulation and new government protocols, as well as hybrid work and the return to the office, compliance emerges as a sticking point—and also a win overall for the industry. While leaders focus on cyber security and the management of sensitive information, they are also leading the business world in their ability to help organisations contemplate matters around diversity and inclusion.

These are major shifts that have influenced the landscape over the past decade, to the point that—as Cameron noted, “if we consider where we were ten years ago as an industry compared to now, if you weren’t improving your compliance scheme, then I think you’re going to get found out, to be quite honest with you.” But it’s not just about following the rules, he explained. Recruiters can’t stop at finding people—“we’ve got to make sure we can look after them as well.”

While the industry is leading change in this sphere, our leadership panel warned that recruitment agencies may be suffering from an image problem in this aspect. “It’s great that we’re optimists, but we shouldn’t be delusionally optimistic about how compliant our business is,” said Clennett. “The reality is most recruitment agency owners become owners because they’re good at sales and they’re good with people. They’re not good with compliance, so they’re not naturally focusing on that part of the business.”

Needs improvement: Our relationship with tech.

“The thing that we’re hearing across all of our working groups—staffing tech, working groups, digital roundtables—is that there’s almost been technology gluttony.
— Ross Clennett

Ready to escape reactionary decision-making around tech? Put people first. Industry players are urged not to overlook the thinking and analysis that drive good decisions.

Young recruiters in particular need more direction from owners about the most productive tech. Junior consultants need to be equipped with proven data and technology—not just the next big thing. “Too many leaders are just reactive to vendors or something their clients have said,” shared Clennett. Because tech is not the natural comfort place for many recruitment agency owners and leaders, they are overly influenced and not doing the necessary research.

“Take a pause, take a step back,” urged Horsburgh. If you get too distracted due to all of the things that are coming at you, it will paralyse you.” In a fast-paced environment, the answer is slowing down and developing a sensible strategy.

Another opportunity area: Say no to bad business.

“We’re a very unique market. We deal with human beings, which is probably one of the most complex, unpredictable and frustrating commodities that you can deal in. Hold yourself in very high esteem and completely walk away from those clients that want to haggle or drive you down.”
— Lesley Horsburgh

The panel agreed that too many recruiters blindly say yes to work, without digging into whether they’d be successful filling the role. They encourage recruiters and agency owners to be deep specialists, utilising the data in their systems to provide compelling dashboard information that can help them determine if they’ll be able to add value to their customers, where they may need to consult the client to improve the job spec, and then how many hours they should expect to work on the job.

While most of the industry works for a small return, the emphasis on being data-driven can be a key differentiator in identifying profitable jobs and future-proofing. It can also embolden recruiters to communicate with clients about profitability issues like payment terms, while improving inter-agency transparency on decision-making and workflow.

“It’s about sharing that full picture across the board and taking ownership of all the levers,” explained Horsburgh, while the panel agreed that data specialists will be a critical role emerging for recruitment agencies going forward. Pham urged, “use data and not just from a strategic standpoint, but also at the desk level to guide people.”

For agencies not yet ready to invest in in-house support for this role, the panel recommended subcontracting that work because, said Clennett, “there’s so much potential power in the database of a recruiter. But if that potential is not harnessed, then there’s a lot of money being left on the table.”


Find more insights from Engage Sydney 2024 in our Engage Content Hub.

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