I was fortunate enough to be involved in the RHUB Edge conference this week, which was focused (for a change) more towards the agency side of recruitment. There was not one single mention of some sourcing hack to squeeze a new Boolean string into some hitherto unheard of forum to coax out some purple unicorn IT developers, but plenty about productivity, lead generation, leadership, marketing and communicating. I was also honoured to be asked to interview and host a panel of recruitment luminaries Carmen Bailey, George Brooks and Marisa Fong. It was fun and, in some parts, educational.
But it also left me feeling slightly uneasy about the state of our agency sector.
At the end, keynote speaker William Tincup declared our #NZRec community as one of the most engaged and innovative he had ever come across. Even better than Dallas apparently, which has a larger population than New Zealand, which I think was a compliment. However, the fact we have a few personalities in our industry willing to stick their neck out and debate an issue, or ask difficult questions, and that we are voracious tweeters at conferences making #RhubEdge trending number one in New Zealand by 10am, rather papers over the cracks that were more obvious to me.
The recruitment agencies that sent representatives to attend are certainly the more forward thinking of our industry. It was great to see quite a few new faces as well as all the usual faces too. But I would hazard a guess at saying that only 10% of the Auckland recruitment brands had decided to get involved and have someone there. The swathes of unclaimed name badges abandoned on the registration table midway through the conference told its own story too.
Is there a conscious avoidance of industry events by the agency sector? Companies with a strategy of making 100 cold calls per week can’t see the longer-term value in educating their staff and developing networking opportunities? This was brought home in even starker terms by a conversation I had with one of the attendees there. Our own #RicePowWow networking event was mentioned a few times, bandied around by speakers and attendees as an event recruiters should attend, even though some of those mentioning it have never been themselves. Anyway, this particular recruiter now works in a boutique Auckland firm, but used to work for a large global brand (who were also mostly conspicuous by their absence at the conference, apart from Randstad, Drake and Manpower). Upon RSVP-ing to one of last year’s PowWow events, she was hauled into a meeting room by her manager:
“I was told that it would be disrespectful of me to attend your event, and that I shouldn’t encourage anyone else to attend, and if we did then there would be serious backlash from the senior leadership team…”
Charming. Block your staff from attending an event where they can mix and mingle with in-house recruiters and HR Managers, without making a single expense claim, out of fear of what might happen if they come into contact with a big, bad, rec-to-rec ogre? Get a grip guys. She still came anyway. And then quit her job. But if this company really think that was caused by her attendance at a networking event and not their own short-sighted and restrictive policies then I doubt we will be seeing an abatement of the continual decline of many global brands anytime soon.
This was a welcome event, and a great effort from Philip Tusing to engage with the agency side of our industry who have often complained at being overlooked by these events in the past. But I would be surprised if he does it again, not unless agency recruitment leaders can get over their fear of their staff encountering competing recruiters, and loathing of networking events that to them might seem unproductive.
I’ll finish on a more positive note, from one of my guests on stage, who after 31 years is still proud to be a recruiter:
In other, kind of related news, check out this recent blog from Ross Clennett about the rec-to-rec sector of our industry. Whilst I’d welcome your thoughts and comments about attending events with rec-to-recs like me present, you can also go there to vent your feelings (or, whisper it quietly, offer your support). I’ll add my two cents worth soon too.
Have a great Friday and hopefully you will all be reading The Whiteboard on a snazzy new-look blog next time you visit. Until then…