Recruiters need to get smart to win the Generation Game

There’s been a lot of debate recently about the future recruitment landscape, and how current events and technological advances will transform the way companies recruit. I took part in at least 2 separate discussions about this at London Unconference.

Certainly we 3rd party recruiters have many challenges ahead, and one the biggest, I believe, will come from the generational shift in decision makers from Baby Boomers to Generation X.

Over the last 20 years or so agencies have mainly been briefed by Baby Boomers. They’re the generation that have been the key decision makers, and in the main they like external recruiters. We have been their friends; helped them to build careers, kept them in mind for the big jobs, also helped them to build their teams. They have trusted us with exclusives and retainers, and we have entertained them…lunches, networking drinks, sporting events. We have been their eyes and ears in the market and they have valued this, putting little pressure on the traditional recruitment sales model and fee structure.

Inevitably, the decision-making baton is being passed on and nowadays we are more likely to be briefed by Gen X. They are stepping in to key roles as hirers and decision makers. And there’s a difference…I’m not sure they see 3rd parties the same way.

Whilst I do subscribe to the view that Generational classifications can often be no more than a state of mind, I do think that with Gen X there are certain effects of cultural, social and economic changes that define their experiences. In career terms they certainly seem to have things a bit tougher…largely entering the job market in (or at the end of) a major recession they now find that at just the time they should be making the big career step up the ladder…there’s another recession.

They have also built their careers during the rise of a different recruitment ethos. Whereas the Baby Boomers were comfortable in the knowledge that they had a trusting business relationship with recruiters, Gen X have rarely had the same luxury. During the growth years they have found a lot of recruiters to be focusing on the deal not the detail, instead of building deep relationships they have been more concerned with speed, CV, size of fee, and swiftly moving on to the next deal. There has been no continuity, no engagement, little post-placement care, and when Gen X have started briefing 3rd parties, they have too often received just a CV shifting service, with no proper matching, value add or consulting.

Any wonder they’ve gone for multiple briefings, with reduced fees and a winner takes all approach?


And any wonder that if you ask them about their resourcing plans for the future they talk about direct resourcing and reducing agency spend?

They usually ‘get’ social media, are big users of LinkedIn and Facebook (with a growing awareness of Twitter) and can see the business benefit of going down this route.

It will be a long haul to win them back, and I’m not sure that they will ever see us the way that Baby Boomers did…the challenge won’t be to turn the clock back, but to work with them collaboratively to map out the future.

On Talent Street the 3rd parties used to lay the paving stones, and often also had a hand in filling the cracks too…moving forward, could we just be filling in the cracks?

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Tags: Agencies, Baby, Boomers, Consultant, Generation, HR, Recruiter, Recruiting, Recruitment, X, More…briefing, media, social, trust

Comment by Ken Forrester on December 4, 2009 at 9:37am
Mervyn,
Very well said, you touched on some interesting dynamics between the generational gap of recruiters. Maybe a new type of recruiters may rise above, ones that posess the old school hands-on relationship driven experience with a blend of the new social media technological apporach.

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