- Gary Franklin
In-house recruiters are doing more and more direct hiring, but they will always need to develop and nurture relationships with agencies. Only a very small number of organisations have the option to eliminate agencies from their recruitment processes. But how can agencies work more closely with in-house recruiters and add value to their business, asks Gary Franklin?
Relationships are incredibly important – it’s not just about the ‘what’ you deliver but also the ‘how’ you do it. And for agencies to build strong relationships with hiring companies, some hard work needs to take place. Whilst many agencies have, I think, a real desire to establish strong, positive and long-term working relationships with in-house teams, in practice it’s not so easy to achieve this and is something that’s easy to neglect.
Many agencies operate on a target-driven model that prevents them from focusing on relationship building. This isn’t their fault; it’s a business model that’s proven to work. But achieving targets when you have a strong client relationship as a starting point is much easier than cold calling and asking an in-house recruiter if they’ve got any vacancies to fill.
Of course, the answer to how to build this relationship is a difficult, if not impossible one to define and there is no defined prescription or process for getting it right with every organisation. But there are steps an agency recruiter can take to help their clients out and nurture a relationship that will add value to both parties.
First things first, it’s about being normal, natural and honest. Integrity is key too, as is a degree of common sense and business acumen.
Agencies must want to be of benefit to the business they’re working with and prepared to take on a role that positions them as an extension of the HR team. Suppliers should aspire to create a partnership and not a one-off, transactional relationship that focuses on invoices and targets.
You should strive to be comfortable enough to challenge anything you don’t think is working or isn’t right for your client’s business. Whilst this isn’t achieved overnight and is certainly hard to do, investing in a partnership way of working means that targets will naturally be fulfilled and the relationship will grow and evolve.
Despite focusing so far on what agencies need to change and do, it’s important to recognise that this is a two-way street and in-house recruiters must take responsibility to build a strong and open relationship with the agencies they choose to work with.
Agencies will only ever work effectively with hiring organisations when they’re equipped with the tools and skills to be an extension of the in-house team. In-house recruiters need to be prepared to invest time in their agency and ensure they’re able to service them and their candidates well. It’s vital that in-house teams bring their agency into the fold and share information with them about the business, its culture and its challenges.
An agency needs to instil confidence in the in-house recruitment team that they know what’s going on in the marketplace and understands the industry trends, innovations and changes that may affect the volume or quality of talent that’s available or how the business works. Such information also enables the in-house team to build their own relationships within their organisation, positioning them as a reliable source of competitor, talent and landscape insights that they can feed through into the business.
It is all very well having a handle on the trivial developments in a market or region, for example, but missing some of the bigger picture occurrences – such as a competitor announcing a new contract win or the unveiling of plans to build a new factory or facility down the road – can have a massive impact on how you do your job and nurture your client relationship.
Recruitment cost-saving is a factor that remains high on the recruitment agendas of many organisations, according to research recently undertaken by The FIRM. Direct sourcing is a top priority for 78% of the in-house recruiters polled and 90% expect recruitment levels to increase or stay the same in the next year. Whilst this could be perceived as a threat to the relationship between agency and client, it’s actually a great opportunity to strengthen this bond and develop a way of working that’s built on trust, awareness and understanding.
There will always be a need for agencies to fill vacancies for employers and this doesn’t look set to change any time soon. The question is how, as an agency, you choose to fulfil this need. Do you opt for the one-off, transactional approach that doesn’t require you to build a relationship with a client? Or do you go for a longer-term view that enables you to build a partnership with an organisation? The choice is yours.
Gary Franklin is the co-founder of the Forum for In-house Recruitment Managers.