Highlights from Engage London 2018

Engage London
On the first day of Engage London 2018, recruitment professionals across Europe came together in London to network, learn, and share ideas about the recruitment industry. Engage is all about the power of people, and the sessions from day one all converged around this theme—how we connect people with opportunities, how we build relationships, how we can leverage technology to better serve candidates and clients, and how we can all harness our strengths to build better organisations.



Here’s a recap of the major themes and conversations from the day.

Neuroscience, Machine Learning, and the Future of Recruitment

One of the major themes of Engage London was the idea of using technology to better understand candidates and clients. Dr. Marcia Goddard, a neuroscientist and the manager of HR Science & Innovation at YoungCapital expanded on this theme with an examination of how neuroscience can aid in improving the prediction of workplace behaviors, as well as the value, challenges, and risks of using machine learning in recruitment. 

Predicting behaviors in the workplace and for candidates can be difficult because of the complexity involved. To illustrate this, Dr. Goddard showed two charts: one showing whether a person was likely to shop or not shop at a supermarket, and the other showing if a person was or wasn’t selected for a job. Clear patterns emerged for the former, but not for the latter.

This is where machine learning comes in. Machine learning is so useful to recruitment professionals because it allows us to build models on data to see if we can make informed decisions and determine important questions like who is better suited to a particular job. Dr. Goddard noted that machine learning can save 80 percent of recruiter time and makes processes smarter.

Machine learning is an integral part of how we are working now, Goddard said. But machine learning is still a little bit of a black box. We need to understand how it works inside.

While the value of machine learning is clear, Dr. Goddard also emphasized the importance of using machine learning and other technology as a tool, not as a replacement for vital soft skills. “Technology is a useful servant, but a dangerous master.”

Unlocking the Power of People Through Reskilling

It’s well-accepted that technologies like automation, AI, and robotics, are rapidly changing the way people work. To illustrate this point in his keynote, Bullhorn CEO Art Papas encouraged attendees to think of how many interactions in life can and will be handled by a computer.

“What happens to these people?” he asked. These jobs will transform. Jobs that don’t require technology and computer skills will transform into those that do. And this, he said, presents a major opportunity for recruitment agencies.

One example: security is going to be one of the biggest problems in the world. Accordingly, the demand for cybersecurity roles in the UK alone has skyrocketed in the last decade.

talent pools automation


The rapidly evolving job climate has created a situation where there’s a skills shortage at the same time that millions of people are finding that their existing skills are no longer relevant.

How can recruitment professionals resolve this conundrum? Art Papas shared the examples of General Assembly and Adecco.

General Assembly helps workers transform skills that are outdated to be ready for the modern world. Recruitment professionals have access to talent that has the intellectual capacity for new and advanced roles, but not the training.

General Assembly provides free training for candidates working with recruitment agencies in return for a small share of the cut when an agency placed a candidate.  Adecco realised the inherent brilliance in re-skilling otherwise qualified candidates and acquired General Assembly earlier this year. 

“Think of how grateful someone would be to you if you said ‘I’m going to educate you for free and transform the rest of your life,’” Art Papas asked. “That’s a compelling message that creates an incredible amount of loyalty.”

Reskilling employees, he said, presents a phenomenal opportunity for agencies. “The recruitment industry loses half a billion dollars in annual turnover. Imagine if we took employees from lower-wage jobs and reskilled those people. This could be a trillion dollar industry with a very different profile. This isn’t a crisis, this is a huge opportunity for all of us.”  

Art closed his keynote with a challenge and a promise. “Reskilling employees is one of the biggest opportunities in recruitment right now,” he said, and to help recruitment agencies realise this opportunity, he introduced a new Bullhorn resource for recruitment agencies to use to close the skills gap. You can find the free resource here.

Building Candidate Relationships During a Skills Shortage 

Colin Donnery of FRS Recruitment and FRS Network, one of the largest recruitment businesses in Ireland, shared some novel advice for the audience of recruiters in attendance: be less like hunters and more like farmers.

“We need to move on from just being the hunter. The problem with hunting is you have to go back every day and start again, people don’t want to hang around with you because they become the prey. We need to move to become farmers because farmers are people. Great farmers reap what they sow.”

Hunters, Donnery explained, don’t invest in the future. Similarly, most recruitment agencies are investing in technology and candidate relationships, while corporations are. As a result, agencies are losing candidates who directly apply to candidates. If agencies want to keep up they must invest in technology and double down on relationships. 

Growing Customer Relationships in Post-GDPR Europe

GDPR has been on the mind of every recruitment professional over the last year. Now that the 25th of May has arrived, how has the outlook of recruitment agencies changed? And how can you embrace GDPR to grow your relationships?

Bullhorn’s Catherine Carangelo moderated a supremely qualified panel of recruitment pros—Greg Morris (Spencer Ogden), Dieter Braspennincx (TriFinance), and Louise Triance (UK Recruiter)—with more than five decades of recruitment experience between them in the hope of answering these questions.

Leading up to GDPR, the panel shared that they initially had mixed reactions to it. Greg Morris said that it was difficult at first to grapple with the idea that they had to delete important information from their databases. They thought it would negatively impact client and candidate relationship. Post-GDPR, he says they now have a more mature perspective on it.

Louise Triance agreed. They initially felt panic about GDPR compliance, but their attitude has changed, and they’ve come out the other side able to make more mature decisions than they had before GDPR.

One consequence of GDPR is that agencies are having to adjust their marketing efforts and find new ways to communicate with candidates and clients. “We’re all starting to use social media more to engage candidates and clients,” Louise Triance said. Dieter Braspennincx advocated creating a unique selling point to entice people to contact you, instead of the other way around. His team is developing a new website offering a great candidate and client journey to get his business’ story out to clients and candidates.

Finally, the panel noted that several businesses are taking a wait-and-see approach to GDPR.  All three experts advised against this. Greg Morris shared an anecdote suggesting that GDPR may not have the negative impact many agencies fear it will. “We realised we needed to delete 400,000 records. After some discussion, we realised those records hadn’t been touched. Now it is no surprise that deleting it had no major impact on our business or sales performance in any negative way.”

Dieter Braspennincx brought it all back to the theme of the power of people, urging recruitment businesses to “take action please—we are in a people business.”

Day one may be over but Engage is just getting started! Stay tuned for full-length blog recaps of this year’s keynotes and coverage of day two of Engage London. Check out the full agenda for day 2 here.

Bullhorn Engage London 2018

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