It was a badge of honour amongst companies, the phrase “We don’t use agencies”. I heard it a lot in my agency recruiting days, even proudly espoused it myself as an in-house recruiter. There was distrust, even disdain between the two parties. In-house recruiters were viewed as failed agency people (by the agency people) and the agency people were thought of as slimy car sales people types. Historically, it hasn’t been a great relationship.
Agency people would try to avoid Talent Acquisition, go straight to the Hiring Manager. Ignoring PSAs and continuously pitching to any area of the business that would listen. Talent acquisition was viewed as nothing more than a gatekeeper, people who stood in the way of deals happening.
Senior business people may also have the idea that in markets such as this Covid19 directed market, hiring people is easy. Hands up if you’ve been told recently as a TA professional that “hiring is easy at the moment, there’s people everywhere, just post an ad and get me a shortlist tomorrow”. Keep your hands up if you’ve dutifully done this and returned to your job list the next morning to find 400 applicants waiting in your ATS for you to scour through. Keep your hands up a little longer if you’ve had to answer this question “Why do I need to pay agency fees when there is so much available talent?”
I think I’ll still be seeing lots of hands in the air. Put them down now, your coffee will be getting cold.
I remember having a conversation with my CEO in the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) days, trying to educate him on the correlation between people out of work, people applying for jobs, quality vs quantity, and the time taken to figure all that out. It wasn’t an easy conversation, I’m not convinced I convinced him. He seemingly got bored with my stats, nodded, smiled, patted me on the head and let me get back on with it.
These attitudes made the relationship essentially combative. Us versus them. Agency vs In-house, a Battle Royale! However, if the relationship is formed and fostered in the right way, with clarity and boundaries, I cannot see any reason why Agencies and Talent Acquisition should not be able to work together hand in hand. As we’ve seen in a lot of places during this Covid19 crisis, both are viewed as cost centres, which are expendable. So how can we improve the relationship to benefit the business? That is what it comes down to at the end of the day. How can we, as Talent Acquisition professionals, solve the business problem the lack of an appropriately skilled person (or people) raises, in a timely, cost effective way?
I have always believed that agencies are there to supplement your TA team. To help with hires that either:
a) you don’t have the expertise to find,
b) don’t have the networks to find or
c) just don’t have the time.
If your in-house TA team has tried to find the right person for the business, but have either come up short, or just cannot hit the timelines due to competing priorities, maybe using an agency could be the right answer. That said, even when this idea has bubbled up to the top of the TA/HR/business person’s head, for an effective result, the procedure should be more than just emailing every agency that has ever contacted you with a two lined PD. “Just find me another Mary Smith please.”
It’s as frustrating for the TA team as it is for the business when there is a role open for too long. It feels like a slap in the face every time you need to report to the business, “still no-one”, even if you are filling every other role that comes at you. That one role(s) sticks in your craw.
Dealing with agencies too can be tough. It takes a fair bit of time out of your day, to brief all the people, negotiate rates, negotiate terms and conditions, respond to questions, respond to more questions, still qualify responses and shortlist, chase hiring managers, glean feedback, etc. etc. etc. Everyone wants to be heard. Dealing with this whilst doing your normal job, as the other requirements don’t disappear. When there is a sniff that there is an open role released out into agency land, especially in a market we are seeing at the moment, no person’s phone rings as much or email gets as flooded as a recruiter or hiring manager.
There needs to be a clear plan with a few steps:
1. Articulate why an external party needs to be engaged to help solve this problem
Get business buy in, and budget allocation. Build a business case if need be. Focus on
solving the business problem and return rather than the cost.
2. Formulate what type of terms and conditions you are willing to accept
There is no point going to market without this. Get any haggling done up front, there is
nothing worse than having to thrash this out when on the precipice of solving the
problem, having found the illusive star you want. Through TalentVine, these terms of service are automatically agreed upfront.
3. Outline how your team and the business will engage
For this to be successful you need to be willing to commit to a way of working. Be open
to suggestions and work collaboratively to solve the problem. Give clarity on the
process, i.e. amounts of interviews, reference checks or any testing that would be required. Commit to a time frame where you’d want a response from the agency. Commit (and hold yourself and business accountable) to a time frame that you and your business will respond to things like:
- Response to questions
- Resume/profile shortlist
- Feedback from interviews
- Offer generation
This clarity will operate as a road-map of success, helping the agencies succeed will help you succeed in solving the business problem. After all, as stated, that’s what we’re after.
Having this clarity will assist in moving the noise out of your day, cutting down on sales calls and allow your team to focus on their core business. Finding great people for your company!
Clear concise communication is the key. We found with Aurizon we were able to cut a lot of this time and effort out of the process for them. We were able to work with the team to build a brief that was details enough to put out to market. We facilitated a process which succeeded in solving a 14 month old problem, and was actually a little less expensive than the business expected.
This business is fun when it works. Collaboration, clarity and drive are sometimes all you need.