Recruitment International gathered some of the most successful recruitment leaders to speak recently for their ‘The Future For World Leaders In Recruitment Conference’.
Each leader shared the sales and management techniques that helped them succeed. And also, there were insights that fell under disciplines of marketing, branding, and, in particular, employer branding.
I uncover, compare and analyse each speech (and panel questions) to pick out the marketing messages and lessons from each of them. By doing so, I will help you distinguish between sales and marketing techniques, and hopefully encourage you to adopt some of these marketing strategies.
I asked the Keynote speaker for his thoughts on marketing’s role at the event, “It was interesting to see how everyone’s presentation had Brand at its heart, be it marrying a businesses core values to its internal & external proposition to establishing a Global Identity, marketing has become increasingly important whilst striving for and sustaining success in recruitment.
From my own experience a great deal of the marketing for RDLC & Gardean Human Capital is borrowed from the best practice we learnt at SThree PLC. Never being afraid to be different & always wanting to stand out.” Gary Goldsmith
Quick intro to the speakers:
Hitoshi Motohara – Senior Corporate Executive Officer of Recruit Holdings Co., Ltd (RHG)
Karen Colfer – VP & Managing Director, Kelly Services United Kingdom & Ireland
Giles Daubeney – Chief Operating Officer and Main Board Director of Robert Walters plc
Gary Goldsmith – Co-Founder RDLC and industry legend
Plus panel with four rec leaders, link to conference page.
There are four topics I’d like to pull out from the session
- Brand names and brand equity
- Marketing ROI / sponsorship
- Employer brand / internal comms
Brand names and brand equity
We heard two speeches from recruitment heavyweights; one 18 pound gorilla from Japan with a global footprint and turnover exceeding $18 billion, and Giles from Robert Walters.
Two speeches, one from Hitoshi and one from Giles, explained their brand architecture.
The two both grow through acquisition – RHG frequently purchase brands, but Robert Walters do so rarely – but their brand strategies contrasted sharply.
RHG employes a ‘House of Brands’ model, whereby the corporate holding company is toned down and rarely visible to clients and candidates (much like the model I managed at SThree). Therefore, each time they purchased a brand in the USA or Australia they retained the original brand name and identity, and only occasionally added the RHG acronym as part of the corporate brand endorsement.
In stark contrast, Robert Walters always re-branded their acquisitions to Robert Walters. Two successful businesses, two contrasting models. Why? And which one is correct?
The answer to the latter is they are both correct. The reason they are both right is they have different corporate strategies driving their acquisitions.
RHG purchase high volume, temp/contract brands with potential to grow their EBIT. They valued the ongoing contracts business and revenue, viewing perm business as an unreliable revenue stream. When Hitoshi was asked why he did not re-brand, he said, “We buy brands with brand equity that are doing OK, the cost of re-branding to RHG would be too costly”.
I would add, that it would be pointless too, because the RHG corporate brand would not add much of a halo effect, considering the diversity of the sectors they operated in.
Robert Walters, on the other hand, use a monolithic brand structure; one brand name for all sectors and regions. When they make a brand purchase, it is to fast-track entry into a country or sector that organic growth would likely be risky and slow.
Also, Robert Walters has invested in its brand, and has kept a tighter sector focus. Therefore, the re-branding of purchases to Robert Walters should benefit both parties. Giles said, “The businesses we purchase want to be part of a global brand”.
For a full analysis of measuring brand equity, this academic paper has all the options
One of the biggest barriers for recruitment companies investing in marketing is the contentious area marketing ROI. Furthermore, there is no area harder to measure ROI than sponsorship, even seasoned marketers at global brands struggle with the KPI metrics, see article. But Robert Walters decided to invest in the sponsorship of the English Rugby Lions.
Giles Deabauney, comments, “when the Rugby Lions pitched the idea to us, we had never thought of this type of marketing investment but the Lions effective sales pitch to us highlighted the strong links and associations our clients and candidates had with the Lions”
Although Giles is constantly being asked what his ROI is on the investment; his response is not a financial metric, it’s simply the fact they are now doing business with companies they had struggled to connect with previously. In addition, he feels Robert Walters is now often perceived to be larger than it actually is.
So why does it work? When done right, what makes sponsorship so special and makes it the right marketing investment? The reason sponsorship works – or fails – is the strength of each brand and the synergy between them.
For the Lions Marketing Director, he is, of course, looking for money, but the Lions are also a cherished brand, the sponsors have to be reputable and acceptable to their fan base. So, the fact that Robert Walters finds middle-class graduates jobs in Finance, and rugby being the sport of choice for that demographic, means the perfect marriage was created.
Robert Walters stumped up a princely sum; in return they achieved global visibility and a prestigious brand association. And that’s how branding works: the more positive associations you can create, the stronger and more relevant your brand is; the more people choose to buy your products.
The term Employer Brand has been around for 20 years and is slowly being adopted by recruitment agencies, both in reference to their own employer brand, and the role it plays in the recruitment process with their clients and candidates.
During the speeches and panel debate, the term was referred to several times. Based on the principles of employer branding, I’ll pick out the views that have helped shape the employer brand at the various speaker’s companies.
Both RHG and Robert Walters recommend investing in internal communication to build employee engagement and make the company more effective. And central to the communication is transparent reporting of performance.
Within RHG, this quality of performance communication supported two aspects of their business model. First, their strategy of ‘Unit Managers’ having responsibility and autonomy for their units P&L. Secondly, their culture of ensuring every employee is mindful of the whole recruitment process. For example, Sales consultants not selling solutions that become worthless because they are too complex for supportive services to manage.
Transparent performance reporting across Robert Walters, no doubt supports their team-based reward and commission structure. Staff are far more interested in broader performance metrics in companies where the reward is based on team and unit performance.
At SThree, we used performance reporting to drive competition between individuals, teams, sectors and countries. Good for competition, less so for collaboration.
Incentives / Motivation
The use of incentives and commission to motivate sales staff has been a key tool for recruitment managers and leaders. How did the leaders at the RI event use them?
Noticeable was Giles’ (Robert Walters) approach to commission. They don’t pay individual commission, only team-based, performance bonuses – a clear contrast to all of us steeped in SThree tradition of ‘eat what you kill’.
There were stronger similarities from Gary (SThree) and Giles in respect to the big company trip for the top performers. Both favoured the glamorous trips, and looked upon them as working on multiple levels. The big trip not only rewards top performance, but they were also a chance for high-performing staff to get together – a rare and important factor in global companies.
And no doubt, another benefit is that it’s a chance for leaders to hear views and opinions from top performers in the relaxed and open environment of the cocktail bar.
Another theme running through the seminar was the value of more sophisticated and ad-hoc rewards and incentives. Prizes for good performance that weren’t just sales-based or just financial reward. For example, a rookie sourcing ten quality candidates in a tough market; resulting in a surprise reward of a day off work or chance to do volunteering with an organization of their choice.
Careers sites V Social Media presence
In Karen Colfer’s (Kelly Services) presentation, outlining recent research with hiring managers, outlined the complexities and opportunities of a brand’s online presence.
It is no longer enough to provide a slick looking careers website. Savvy Gen Y/Millennials graduates (or ‘Young Professionals’ they like to be called at Robert Walters) consider social media sites to be a more authentic insight into a company’s true culture. One that is much harder for business leaders to manage and control.
I spoke to Joanna Murphy, sales Director at Glassdoor, at the event and she felt the recruitment industry was finally accepting the role and importance of sites such as Glassdoor.
The Candidate Experience
As you’d expect in any good recruitment event, the candidate featured across the speeches and panel debates.
The candidate featured both as the talent found for clients and the agencies themselves. In particular the candidate experience. In Karen Colver’s speech, the candidate experience rated as the new number one KPI by HR Directors and hiring managers – a healthy outcome of social media, in particular, Glassdoor.
In contrast, I felt the candidate experience might not be valued as highly in recruitment. The panel debate highlighted different approaches to hiring and developing new staff, with one leader accused of being ruthless in exiting under-performing of trainees.
So, marrying up the research that has placed the candidate experience as the number one, with the need for the recruitment industry to collaborate, I have created an infographic of the ideal candidate experience.
The hypothetical candidate experience detailed below, is designed to fuel the debate regarding the treatment of graduates/trainees joining our industry. How can we balance the need to appeal new young professionals with the realities of generating profit swiftly from them.
Leaders within recruitment are successfully embracing marketing techniques and using them to build successful brands that help them grow and increase profit. They are embracing technology and accept that social media is a double-edged sword.
These leaders have grasped the fundamentals of marketing and manage their whole business to build their brands; not just the marketing department.
If you’d like help and advice regarding marketing, branding and internal communications, please contact James Del-Gatto.
Candidate Experience Infographic
Thank you to Sarah Mason for her input on the infographic.