Are you a Recruitment PARTNER or SUPPLIER?

Picture the scene.

A leading consumer goods company with a well known portfolio of brands. A key brand in their portfolio has been identified for investment, an element of which is to be targeted in a new advertising campaign to communicate and deliver the key brand benefit (KBB) and core message.

They want to appoint an expert (advertising agency) to work with them to develop the best and most effective, relevant way of communicating the message to their target audience, but they are not quite sure who is best placed to help them. So they write a brief and run a pitch process (possibly in conjunction with their procurement team) and at the end of the pitch, they appoint an agency to do the work and bring their blend of expertise and knowledge to bear. The unsuccessful agencies have some of their costs covered that they incurred during the pitch process and live to fight another day.

With me so far? Good. All fairly straight forward and sensible? Good!

So why would a marketing director and his / her team take this rigourous approach? Simple! Because their brands are ONE of the most precious elements of their entire business - these are the assets that enable them to attach a value to the business and are then ultimately utilised to post a profit. Therefore, the process is run with rigour, focus and buy-in from key stake holders. In turn, the appointed agency then works on the client brief, in tandem and in PARTNERSHIP with the client. This means that there is clear thinking on both strategy, which will include the overall approach and process and finally, how they intend to tackle the campaign and communicate the brand message /KBB. This way, it's not left to chance in the initial objectives being achieved, with clear communication lines and a coherent campaign.

Now imagine trying to deliver the best result with the same campaign following an ad agency pitch involving say, EIGHT agencies and then appointing HALF of them to do it. Just because you can!? Madness I hear you say. At least I hope you would think of that as madness. That's 4 (FOUR!) advertising agencies "working" on your behalf, but none of them sure that they will actually be paid by the client at the end of the process, regardless of whether they come up with the best campaign but because they might not come up with their campaign first. So that would be an approach on briefing multiple agencies to get the campaign on air / online at the earliest possible time. And even as you are just about to air the advertising campaign, another agency you've never heard of sends you their show reel as a speculative approach to get in at the last minute and you think, well why not?

Then transfer the above scenario into the world of recruitment. Or in my area of specialism, marketing recruitment - hence the handy analogy of the ad agency.

There you have it. The general approach to contingent recruitment. I'm still struck how this continues to be the way of doing things when we are talking about the only thing equal to or more important than the clients brands themselves. PEOPLE!!

So why is this a bug bear of mine? Well, it's not a bug bear for a start. It's so much more than that. This is a huge issue within the world of recruitment in general, though the irony of marketing and HR departments who are owners of big brands but recruit in this rather hap hazard, scatter gun way is not lost on me. The comparison with ad agencies and the way marketing departments go about hiring their people is not just about how I see things as a specialist marketing recruiter. Seriously, the potential and sometimes realised issues that can be created by this scattergun  approach to recruitment can be incredibly damaging. All too often, I hear stories of candidates being approached three, sometimes four times or more for the same role by different agencies - all of whom have described the role and level of responsibility in varying ways and not had any real level or depth of knowledge of their client. And it only serves to make the client look desperate at best, unprofessional at worse. That's in no ones interest. 

Why? Picture the scene once more. 4 ad agencies creating one campaign. No TRUE partnership exists. And would that really get the best out of your marketing investment? I doubt it very much. It's a classic "supplier" approach where the client has the power, does not want expert input or to be challenged, despite that they are actually paying for that expertise. The fact is that the majority of marketing departments would never dream of working with their ad agencies in this manner. But they can be all too happy to hire their GREATEST asset precisely in this way. The PEOPLE who will shape and decide the strategy and tactics of these precious brands. Crazy!

Whereas a PARTNERSHIP is about a commitment, shared responsibility and being strong enough to be challenged and pushed where appropriate. Some of the best creative campaigns are derived from a client and ad agency partnership where there is occasionally a healthy tension but with a recognition of the expertise that they have hired.

So employers (and particularly employers with best in class marketing departments, you really have far less of an excuse!), stop looking to hire brilliant marketers by working with a random number of recruiters in the hope that they deliver a bum on a seat that looks the same as all the other bums on the seats you have already.

By all means, run a pitch process, get to know who are the best and why, But crucially, then spend the time and energy building a partnership that is about sharing your wider talent and people strategy with your agency partner. And do this long term. Simply taking what often seems like the easy way of hiring people will only engender average results. And cost more time and money in the longer term. Do you want good brands or TRULY GREAT brands. Then make sure you have a hiring strategy and a recruiter partner you can be truly proud of.

Views: 439

Comment by Brian K. Johnston on December 23, 2011 at 11:14am

Good article and great question.  I am neither a partner or supplier..... I am a COACH...

Comment by Will Branning on December 23, 2011 at 1:20pm

At the recruitment compnay I work with we are really working on getting the message out to our clients/potential clients that having a partnership will make the recruitment efforts more successful...sometimes that may mean that a client may choose another company for a particular search. However, when our firm is chosen its truly a give and take relationship - everyone wins!


Comment by Andy Young on December 24, 2011 at 6:13am

Hi Brian, thanks for your input. Glad you're not a partner! Re the "Coach" positioning. Would be great to understand how you bring that alive to your customers / clients - and how in turn that impacts how you work with that and how they value that. Any learning gratefully received! 

Will - Great to hear that you are looking to educate existing and potential clients of the benefits in putting the right foundations in place for a partnership approach. Thanks for commenting and have a good Christmas & 2012. 


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