Agents of choice

Posted on 19 Nov 2008 by The Manufacturer

In times of economic turbulence, it is more vital than ever for manufacturers to ensure that money spent on recruitment is money spent wisely. Becky Done outlines the options

With manufacturing suffering from a drastic skills shortage and finances increasingly tight, it is crucial that firms’ recruitment programmes are expertly planned, accurately directed and efficiently implemented. Vacancies should be filled within an appropriate and defined timescale, and – most importantly – with the right candidate. Ensuring a full and proficient workforce at all times will assist in driving innovation and maintaining that crucial competitive edge; cutting costs may be important, but all areas of the business should be scrutinised before the decision is made to pare down on people – a company’s most valuable asset.

That said, there is no doubt that recruiting costs. Placing an advert, time spent short-listing and liaising with candidates and – a costly mistake – choosing the wrong candidate for the job and having to rerecruit all incur expenses at a level which can easily be underestimated.

The time factor is a major consideration for manufacturers, many of whom are currently juggling a range of complex financial, legislative and resourcing issues. Internal human resources (HR) departments are multi-faceted and therefore have a range of issues to deal with, from legislation and training to recordkeeping and employee relationships. There may not be the required hours available to dedicate to chasing references, setting up interviews and providing
feedback, but taking too long between any stage of the recruitment process can frustrate prospective employees and potentially damage a company’s reputation – inadvisable in even the most buoyant of markets. This is where external recruitment agencies can play a crucial role, as Nicola Monson, research associate at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, explains: “At the moment there is a clear emphasis on having a strong employer brand and the benefits that can bring to an organisation. Where two parties are working together collaboratively – the agency and the employer – this will ultimately
bring benefits to the brand.”

There have been significant recent developments in the recruitment market. In particular, an explosion in online advertising has seen the UK’s online recruitment spend more than triple over the past two years. With candidate supply now starting to outstrip job availability, agencies have responded by updating their own business models, resulting in a range of available fee structures and packages designed to provide a personal and effective service to cater to the particular needs of the client. Now could, therefore, be the ideal time to seek their expertise, as increased competition often points to a better deal for the client, accompanied by a superior level of service.

Recruitment agencies are perfectly placed to answer the needs of employers, as Monson explains: “During the current economic downturn, recruitment becomes
even more critical, because organisations still need people with the right skills, knowledge and attitude through that difficult period. Then, when there’s an upturn again, they will want the right people on board to push the business forward. So when recruiting, employers should be looking to maximise their ability
to track down talent and acquire high-performing individuals – which agencies can help them do.”

Agencies are also a logical choice for manufacturers seeking temporary workers – for example, on the shopfloor in the run-up to Christmas and other peak periods. Agencies will already have a well-established and reliable bank of workers whom they know well; in addition, they are often the first port of call for
jobseekers seeking temporary contracts. If workers with language or other skills – such as proficiency on a particular piece of machinery – are required, an agency may well already have a number of suitable candidates on their books.

There are additional benefits: agencies will be able to share their market knowledge and assist with manufacturers’ long-term resourcing plans; they will be able to advise on updates in legislation and can also be extremely useful during the transition period after a candidate has been placed, ensuring that things run smoothly for both the employer and the new employee, being on hand to advise should problems arise. It is clear, therefore, that agencies can provide far more than potential job candidates; and such a comprehensive service is something that manufacturers should look at carefully when considering value for money, as Monson advises: “Employers should be looking at getting added-value from the recruitment agency – things like reduced bottom-line costs, increased efficiency, enhanced employer brand and the delivery of strategic goals, as well as getting the quality candidates and being able to employ the right people in the organisation.”

Recruitment agencies can also be extremely valuable if firms are forced to make redundancies. At a very traumatic time for the workforce, teaming up with a suitable agency can help to mitigate distress, as Kevin Green, chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Federation (REC) explains: “Recruitment
agencies can work with employers to move people directly into new jobs. Those that are planning to make redundancies should work with local recruiters to make this transition as painless as possible. These are difficult times, but there are still plenty of vacancies in the economy and recruiters can play a vital role to
swiftly move people onto new opportunities.”

The potential benefits of this are threefold. Firstly, and most importantly, it can provide staff facing redundancy with an easier transition period. Secondly, it can reassure remaining employees of the company’s concern for the welfare of those
departing – key for maintaining morale. Thirdly, it can be a valuable first step in establishing a relationship with an agency that could prove very useful once the
economy begins to recover and staffing needs begin to increase again.
Before choosing a recruitment agency, shop around for the best possible deal on fees, and seek testimonials from other firms about which agencies they have found to be efficient and effective. It is also wise to pinpoint a company that is an expert in recruiting within your sector. Finally, it goes without saying that you should ensure your chosen agency is reputable – try the directory listed on The Recruitment & Employment Confederation website – see for details.