I have spent a lot of time involved in the UK recruitment market. I have lived there, worked there, and owned and run recruitment businesses there, until very recently. For the past decade I have visited London at least twice a year, often more. So I speak from personal experience when I say there has not been much positive to report from the UK, recruitment-wise, since about 2008.
However, over the past 2 weeks I got a very pleasant surprise. I was in London to speak to four groups of senior recruitment business owners and managers, as a guest of the Elite Leaders organisation, run by John O’Sullivan.
Each group has about 12 members, and numbers swelled a bit actually, as my topic proved popular, so in total I spoke to, and heard from, close to 50 senior recruitment executives.
As there cannot be direct competitors in the same group, the attendees come from a broad spectrum of recruitment specialisations, and represented companies with turnover from 2 million pounds a year, to some with upwards of 200 staff, and annual turnover in excess of 100 million pounds.
Elite is a peer-to-peer networking forum, and members are sworn to confidentiality as they discuss business details, and help each other on issues.
But, one aspect of their deliberations I am sure they will be happy for me to share.
At the start of each session, each member rates how they feel about i) the market ii) their company, and iii) themselves – on a scale of 1 (disastrous) to 7 (Tip-top and loving it!)
What’s more, the Group Facilitator has previous ratings tracked on a screen, so we can actually see the ‘trending’ for each member.
Well, as we went around the room, in all four groups, over 2 days in total, I was delighted and somewhat surprised to hear the scores for how people felt about their ‘market’.
After years of hearing nothing but doom and gloom, here I was hearing 4’s, 5’s and quite often 6’s. A glance at the trending chart, confirmed by brief commentary from each participant, showed a significant lift in positivity from previous monthly scores, which were often in the 2’s and 3’s.
Indeed, at least 80% of the group used phrases like ‘the market is strong’, ‘definite improvement’, ‘the phones are ringing’, ‘we are busy again’, ‘clients are hiring’, ‘it’s starting to hot up’ and ‘ it’s crazy-hectic’. (These are verbatim quotes that I wrote down at the time.)
Even the remaining 20% were not negative, just more cautious about whether a really strong recovery was underway.
In fact, as we went on to address their business issues, it was clear that the mindset had shifted to matters such as adding new recruiters, marketing spend, lack of quality candidates, and expansion into new markets.
Economic data out of the UK remains mixed, unemployment is high, and no one is claiming the tough times are gone. But I can tell you without any doubt at all, that at the coalface, where corporate optimism is felt most keenly, the UK market is up and positivity is the attitude de jour.
Will it last? I don’t know. But in London at least, there is a smell of opportunity in the air.
Smart operators, who have learned the lessons of the past few years, and adjust their business model, particularly talent acquisition strategies, to meet the new reality, will thrive.
Of that I have little doubt.
So once again (like the rugby and the cricket!), it could be a case of ‘Rule Britannia’
This post first appeared on The Savage Truth, the most read recruitment blog in the Asia Pacific.