Two interesting case studies have crossed my desk in the last few weeks: one involves an employer that has drastically cut its reliance on third-party recruiters, while another has actually adopted parts of the recruitment agency model to improve its hiring team.
The latter, NZ retail giant The Warehouse Group, has 20 brands and uses an agency approach to help maintain the individual identify of each business.
If candidates aren't suited to a particular brand – either because they're not interested or the brand itself isn't – the recruiters can then try to sell them on other suitable opportunities within the wider group.
According to recruitment manager Matt Bartlett: "It's almost an agency model because [the recruiter] can put her Warehouse Stationery hat on when she's recruiting for Warehouse Stationery, or a Warehouse hat when she's recruiting for Warehouse".
The strategy came about through necessity; The Warehouse Group began to acquire more brands, but took longer to allocate corresponding recruitment resources.
The company has also put together a team of dedicated 'job type' recruiters who each specialise in one core business area – much like traditional agency consultants.
"We now have specialists in cross-brand and store management recruitment, and that's to really drive candidate experience and provide what we call 'return on candidate'.
"[We're] basically positioning somebody to be the retail store leadership expert in the country, so they can tap into or approach any store manager in any business and say 'I represent a whole lot of different brands, what I know from you is I think you'd be right for this [brand]'," says Bartlett.
At the other end of the spectrum, we have local retailer Woolworths, which has slashed its recruitment agency spend as part of an overhaul of its corporate hiring team.
Talent acquisition partner Alastair Taylor, who handles the organisation's IT recruitment, says in his area alone Woolworths has reduced agency spend from 19% of its total recruitment budget two years ago to 6% today.
Prior to the changes, a team of three recruiters each worked on up to 60 vacancies at a time, filling them by whatever channel was necessary.
"About 85% of our hires came from either SEEK or recruitment agencies, and the agency spend was massive, and that was only due to the [job] numbers. The numbers were not manageable at all," he says.
"There was no hierarchy or processes within the team. There were no interview guides or diversity policies or anything. It was literally, 'let's just get through this as well as we can', to be perfectly honest."
Woolworths now has 16 specialist recruiters whose experience has helped improve the company's hiring processes; one of the immediate changes was to its overly cumbersome interview process.
According to Taylor: "One of the first roles that I got my hands on was a role that had been through a seven-stage interview and then [we had] declined the candidate... We immediately nipped that in the bud and said, 'let's put more people in the interview if you really need so many people, but let's not ever have that [experience happen] again because it's massively damaging to our brand'."
So why bring either of these stories up? Through my job writing for recruitment news publication Shortlist over the past few years I've noticed an increasing 'us vs them' attitude that both sides of the recruitment equation can perpetuate.
Many agency recruiters seem to feel in-house teams are trying to lock them away from hiring managers – and any hopes of a proper consulting relationship – but meanwhile, who hasn't heard stories about the tsunami of cold calls internal recruiters deal with?
These two cases are interesting as they illustrate the divergent views on agency recruiters, with some employers appropriating parts of their approach and others looking to increase efficiency by cutting them out as much as possible.
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