Managing Change In A Dynamic Recruitment Industry
In insight / By Mark Flynn / 09 July 2018
As an international recruitment business with offices in China, Mexico and Europe, and revenues of $88 million, First Point Group are leaders in their industry. With a focus on the technology and telecommunications sectors, keeping up to date with a changing recruitment industry and a fluid technological landscape is more important than ever for their own technology journey.
And First Point Group has certainly been on a technology journey. From their conception as a two-man operation working out of a single office to today, with 120 employees across the globe, First Point Group’s technology has had to flex and change to keep up with new demands, such as connecting employees across their 10 offices and speeding up client and candidate communications.
We caught up with First Point Group’s CEO, Alistair Rynish, about his views on the changing recruitment industry and the impact of technology in the sector.
Keeping a focus on technology
The driver for First Point Group in their technology journey has been to continually look at ways to improve business processes; how can they continually update their website to attract more candidates, or optimise the software they are using across the business, or improve their infrastructure hosting availability. By consistently reviewing key business processes, they can make regular improvements to client and candidate service delivery.
“When I first started in recruitment in the 1990s, our contact base was held in a Rolodex and we used to fax paper CVs over to clients,” says Alistair Rynish, CEO of First Point Group. “Today, we rely on email and communication technology to engage with candidates, clients and our staff across the world. Software is critical to what we do; so having a comprehensive and integrated CRM solution in place allows us to optimise the services we deliver to candidates and clients, and speeds up communication time.”
And technology is always high on the agenda for First Point Group’s CEO.
“Technology is integrated into most things we do at First Point Group, so it’s discussed at all of our management meetings. At our monthly management reviews, we always discuss what we’re doing as a business in relation to social media, our website, communications tools, our GDPR position and the technology surrounding our finance division.”
A continuous journey
“When we started the business, we had our own servers in-house,” comments Rynish. “But, as our requirements and scale increased, we needed more resources to manage the IT environment and we also became more reliant on IT supporting the core business activity. As we started to expand to other countries, we decided to look at a new approach and outsource our IT. This meant that we paid one fee a month and the hosting provider was instead responsible for delivering their service, taking the worry of IT away from us so that we could focus on growing the business.”
Moving away from delivering services in-house to work with a specialised external provider was the natural next step for the First Point Group.
“We started working with Nasstar to take over the hosting of our IT. We can capitalise on the scale that they have, whether that’s technology or people, and we really value having IT experts on hand to take care of the complex stuff that we couldn’t manage ourselves. After all, we’re a recruitment business, not an IT business.”
Technology is changing the recruitment sector
Technology continues to change many of the labour-intensive activities historically carried out across the recruitment sector.
“Years ago, we would employ staff to type up CVs. Now, CVs are auto-loaded into our CRM system for instant searching and access. And, there are lots of other areas of the business where processes are changing as robots and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies are further developed for our industry.”
However, new innovations occurring across the sector are impacting on how the business of recruitment is delivered. Google is soon to launch its ‘Google for Jobs’ search engine capability, a change that is expected to have a big impact on the sector and existing disruptors such as LinkedIn.
“In this space, you really have to embrace change, rather than try to fight it. That’s what separates the top recruitment businesses from the rest. Google for Jobs will impact on how we work, so we’re keeping a close eye on it, and looking at how we can embrace it early on for our clients’ and candidates’ advantage. When LinkedIn came along, many recruiters tried to avoid it. Instead, we got involved as an early adopter and we were recently highlighted by them as being one of the Top 25 most socially engaged recruitment firms.”
The recruitment sector is moving at lightning speed, with many start-ups and technology companies focused on developing more advanced and sophisticated software to optimise the hiring process. Companies have to move fast to keep up.
“There is a feeling in the sector that business is moving faster than ever. More and more recruitment companies are being formed, and more are unfortunately closing because of heightened competition. Because of this, it’s easier for newer companies to enter the market and be immediately competitive due to technology. If they’re smaller, they can be more agile and experiment with different software and tools. Larger, more established businesses can struggle with making big technology changes to their environment and changing direction, so tech has made it easier for newer companies to compete with the traditional players.”
First Point Group are also seeing AI technologies starting to be integrated into the recruitment process, and AI tools are set to change how recruitment businesses operate in the future.
“AI and AI-enabled social media platforms will change how recruiters and employers attract candidates. There are already AI-driven tools in the market that can scrape the web for candidate information and merge it together to provide insights; this practice is likely to increase, but businesses also need to consider their GDPR position when using tools like this.”
Recruitment businesses are now technology businesses
Many leading-edge recruitment businesses are now no longer just recruitment and resourcing firms – they have an element of technology service delivery in their day to day operations.
“When we engage with a client, we often have to develop software and tools to integrate with their own technology, such as connecting into their career portals or finance tools for managing purchase orders, invoicing and timesheets. We are no longer purely a recruitment business, it’s often a mix of recruitment and technology delivery.”
Embracing social media
First Point Group has invested lots of time in ensuring their technology and tools are as optimised as possible, and social media has been central to their candidate attraction strategy.
“We work closely with LinkedIn, and ¼ of the candidates we place have actually come through LinkedIn. The more we invest in the platform, the more people follow us, the more candidates we place and therefore the more money we have to reinvest again for further growth.”
And it looks like most companies in the sector are now actively embracing social media.
“I think everyone in our industry has some degree of social media presence, but a few recruitment organisations are making a greater effort when it comes to attracting talent through social media channels. Clients want to work with recruitment businesses who are more socially engaged; it ultimately attracts better quality candidates.”
Keeping ahead of change
Because First Point Group works in such a fluid sector; recruiting for the technology and telecoms industries, the client base is less static compared with other industries. As new tech is developed, it brings with it a new wave of companies. And as that tech supplants older technology, legacy companies may be reducing their headcount. Because of this, First Point Group continually needs to look for new clients and be where the industry is going, not where it’s been.
“We keep a balance of clients between those operating in more established technology areas and those in emerging industries such as AI, blockchain and cybersecurity. We have to keep our staff familiar with current tech trends, but also trained up on new innovations that are coming around the corner.”
Delivering long-term success
First Point Group attributes much of their success to their commitment to focusing on their people.
“Recruitment is still a people business, and if we don’t have good people working for us then we can’t find good people for our clients. We have a number of staff who have been with us for over 10 years, which is a testament to the company we’ve built. In an industry well-known for a high turnover of employees, retaining great talent is critical to our success. We achieve that by making sure we create a great work environment, that the culture is supportive and that staff have access to the right tech and a dynamic work environment to support their skills.”
Technology has also played a part in First Point Group’s ability to scale and deliver their services to different locations.
“Technology has made it easier for us to expand overseas. Today, all you need is a strong internet connection in a new location and you can set up an office with a low initial budget. We can scale our hosted services with Nasstar as we open new offices, so the risks are much lower. Also, when our staff are travelling between offices, we are still productive as they can access our desktops and files on the go; we can work anywhere and it still feels like we are in our London office.”
The future of the recruitment sector
With new innovations developing in the sector, there are a number of changes on the horizon for the recruitment industry.
“How we attract candidates will change as social media develops and Google for Jobs is released. AI and online tools will affect how candidates search for jobs, and how clients advertise roles and reach those quality candidates. However, it’s impossible to predict what the landscape will look like even a few years from now because of the rate of technological change occurring in the industry.”
Even current disruptors such as LinkedIn are likely to see big changes when Google for Jobs and other recruitment tools are released, so firms need to be agile to cope with change. Having a technology environment that enables recruitment businesses to flex their services and cost base to meet demand and integrate new technology innovations without disruption will be a differentiator for modern firms.
And GDPR is set to significantly impact the sector.
“GDPR means that recruitment businesses can no longer hold candidate information on file for long periods of time like they might have used to. Firms will need candidates’ consent to hold and manage their data, and recruiters will need to find different ways to reach out to candidates.”
We asked Alistair what he would recommend to other recruitment businesses struggling to stay up to date with change in their industry. Here’s what he said:
- “Change is happening at such a rate in this industry that all you can do is get comfortable with change. Whether that involves developing a change mindset amongst your staff or changing your IT to cope with future innovations, it’s important to start looking at how you can best prepare your business now for future change.”
- “Because of the rate of change, recruitment businesses cannot afford to stand still. They have to embrace new technologies, become skilled in social media and be one step ahead of the market in order to survive.”
- “Try to become an early adopter – we did that with LinkedIn and it paid off for our business as LinkedIn’s influence grew.”
- “Don’t become too big to change. Bigger companies have the advantage of having the funds available to invest in new technology, but often become too big to make changes quickly. Focus on keeping agility central to your core business objectives.”
About Alistair Rynish
Alistair Rynish is CEO of First Point Group, a global recruitment business with annual revenues of $88 million, and a focus on the technology and telecoms sectors.
HPE and Nasstar
Nasstar is one of the UK’s leading managed IT service providers. We deliver bespoke clouds, professional services, managed IT and a range of technical products to organisations operating within four strategic industry sectors - with a particular focus on the recruitment and legal sectors. Powered by HPE enterprise technology, across HPE servers, HPE 3PAR and more.