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Growing into the future, a crossroads for the recruitment sector

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We're just a few days into the New Year, but I've already come across numerous reports suggesting that the recruitment sector is set to continue growing at an impressive rate well into 2015.

In fact, with the CBI reporting that half of all businesses are planning to expand their workforce and the Institute of Leadership & Management finding that 37 per cent of workers are set on changing job over the next 12 months (double that of last year) - recruitment could be set for a record breaking year!

It's great news to see the industry continue its upward trajectory - but it also makes the issues covered at the recent Recruitment Leaders roundtable I attended all the more relevant. Indeed, there's never been a better time to discuss recruitment talent acquisition, retention and development.

The future of the recruitment agency

The recruitment sector is increasingly recognised as a critical driver for UK economic growth. And while the opportunities for the industry are huge, there's sure to be challenges ahead as agencies attempt to balance ambitious growth plans alongside quality standards maintenance.

In particular, with so many agencies expanding at the same time, attracting and keeping the best talent is becoming a challenge for many firms. Added to these difficulties are the simultaneous technological and structural changes currently shaking up how the sector works.

Innovating to deliver added value

Something the majority of attendees at the Recruitment Leaders event agreed on was that sector diversification and the introduction of new skillsets and qualities are crucial requirements for future agency success.

In-house recruiters are becoming ever savvier in using the tools and techniques that agencies have traditionally excelled in to source and attract candidates - such as social recruiting. Consequently, consultants are going to have to show they can deliver additional innovative benefits and expertise if they want to continue adding value to their clients.

As one of the attendees stated during the event, "the recruitment businesses we work with that are performing the best at the moment are the ones that are an inch high and a mile deep." So agencies need to think about how they can support their consultants to develop sector specialisms and authoritative industry knowledge to help them place high quality candidates that clients wouldn't otherwise be able to find.

Training for the future

While these ambitious objectives require long term, robust training programmes, a number of the event attendees noted that training has often not been implemented as well as it could be within the industry.

Something I thoroughly believe can have particularly positive results is internal training programmes which are closely aligned to wider business pans. The programmes are great at enabling consultants to positively contribute to desired agency results, while also supporting their own personal development.

Wider benefits

But in addition to supporting employees through enhanced training, it's important to look more widely at how else agencies can go about keeping hold of their best performers. Particularity with so much competition for talent at the moment

Money has been seen as the primary motivator in the past, but many of the attendees at the Recruitment Leaders even argued that such incentives don't really resonate with consultants at a deeper level - something I certainly agree with

Instead, I feel that going the extra mile to make employees feel like they're really recognised by the business is often a better way to motivate and retain talented team members. Offering more personalised, meaningful rewards can really make them feel better valued and appreciated, for example.

Bringing in new talent

As the industry continues to grow, expanding the talent pool will also be crucial. Rather than competing ever more aggressively for existing industry talent, I'd argue that a more sustainable option is to look towards attracting individuals from other industries where workers have highly transferrable skills.

Not only are such individuals usually skilled professionals with good analytical and problem-solving skills, they often bring a deeper understanding of their previous sector which can help them quickly become a sector expert. Lawyers and management consultants are perfect examples of professionals with highly valuable and relevant skillsets.

A bright future

There's little doubt to me that we're at an important and exciting crossroads for the future of the recruitment sector.

For ambitious agencies, there are great opportunities to diversify and develop their talent pool to help the sector take centre stage in helping UK plc move out of the shadow of recession with a bang.