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The Staffing Industry in 2018

Over the last few months we have attended a variety of recruitment industry conferences and shows which have included lots of opinions on what the future holds for the staffing industry.

On the back of that, I wanted to take some time to give my take on what the outlook is for our business in 2018 and beyond.

The robots are coming!

The big theme that everyone seems to be talking about is AI. In the echo chamber-esque environments that industry events create, when you come home from a conference you're left with the impression that everyone involved in the staffing space is now involved in an arms race to see who can use the most AI in the fastest time to stop them crashing out of business.

Below is the Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies which shows machine learning right at the 'peak of inflated expectations'.


From the examples of AI that I have seen, which includes chat-bots and machine learning within CRM systems, it's definitely a time-saver and it will cut back on internal processes. However, it's not something that we at Charlton Morris are looking at going 'all in' on just yet, in our position in the executive search market.

Our clients will often come to us to help them think outside the box when it comes to their hires and the evidence I have seen so far suggests that the technology is, at the moment, best served for very much 'in the box' recruitment - high volume, high speed and lower skilled employment, where candidates can be included (or excluded) with a couple of simple questions, which isn't what we do.

According to Jon Addison - Head of Talent Solutions for LinkedIn UK who spoke a couple of weeks ago at their annual Talent Summit, 63% of staffing professionals still think building relationships will be down to individuals and their talents, despite the emergence of AI. We are definitely a member of that 63%, for the time being.

In the executive search market, I believe that it's all about leveraging technology as a supplementary tool to help you improve your offering to clients, and to justify why you work at the level you do in terms of fees and service. For us, removing any of the human interaction with clients and candidates would be done so to the detriment of our business.

Know your role

In his keynote speech at Bullhorn Live, Bullhorn CEO Art Papas talked about how, in the modern era, product or service providers must either be convenient or premium. He gave a great example centred around music - last year, vinyl sales increased significantly, as did subscriptions to streaming service like Spotify and Apple Music but CD sales crashed. That's because they inhabit that middle ground, they can't offer the premium sound and experience that a vinyl can, nor can they offer the phenomenal choice and unbeatable convenience of Spotify.

This really resonates with me, we know that we are a premium offering when it comes to staffing solutions, and I believe that 2018 and beyond will see us having to constantly keep improving our service in order to justify that, which we are really excited to do, hopefully with the latest tech in our corner.

Apparently 70% of brands could disappear overnight and their customers wouldn't care. For us, it's all about becoming part of that 30%, to become the trusted adviser who works in partnership with our clients and candidates, creating 'sticky' relationships along the way.

Other things on the horizon

I'm actually hopeful that the other talking point of the day, GDPR, will be good for maintaining that premium status. The legislation (which applies to everyone, not just recruitment) will provide an opportunity to offer real value to our clients - we are confident about what we have to do in order to be compliant, if for no other reason, we will be one less 3rd party supplier for our clients to worry about. GDPR should also stop some businesses using the size of their database as a selling point to win business. Databases that I'm sure are often full of outdated - and therefore non-compliant - data.

We want to be able to use technology to do our jobs better, not for us. As for the future, the next phenomenon in recruitment could well be blockchain, which could have much more of a fundamental impact on the ways in which we do international business. However from what I've seen, the conversations are only just starting to happen about that.

Lastly, I attended an event at LinkedIn a few months back where Ollie Sharpe, Senior Sales Manager - Staffing & Search asked the question;

If your business was a car, what car would it be?

It really got us thinking about where we fit into the market in general and I think that when shaping your strategy for 2018, it's a great question to bear in mind.

I'd be really interested to hear how you see AI, blockchain and other technology impacting your market in the next year or so and of course, what car your business would be!

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