The UK recruitment market is growing. Fast!

The UK recruitment market is growing. Fast!

I have spent a lot of time involved in the UK recruitment market. I have lived there, worked there, and owned and run recruitment businesses there, until very recently. For the past decade I have visited London at least twice a year, often more. So I speak from personal experience when I say there has not been much positive to report from the UK, recruitment-wise, since about 2008.

However, over the past 2 weeks I got a very pleasant surprise. I was in London to speak to four groups of senior recruitment business owners and managers, as a guest of the Elite Leaders organisation, run by John O’Sullivan.

Each group has about 12 members, and numbers swelled a bit actually, as my topic proved popular, so in total I spoke to, and heard from, close to 50 senior recruitment executives.

As there cannot be direct competitors in the same group, the attendees come from a broad spectrum of recruitment specialisations, and represented companies with turnover from 2 million pounds a year, to some with upwards of 200 staff, and annual turnover in excess of 100 million pounds.

Elite is a peer-to-peer networking forum, and members are sworn to confidentiality as they discuss business details, and help each other on issues.

But, one aspect of their deliberations I am sure they will be happy for me to share.

At the start of each session, each member rates how they feel about i) the market ii) their company, and iii) themselves – on a scale of 1 (disastrous) to 7 (Tip-top and loving it!)

What’s more, the Group Facilitator has previous ratings tracked on a screen, so we can actually see the ‘trending’ for each member.

Well, as we went around the room, in all four groups, over 2 days in total, I was delighted and somewhat surprised to hear the scores for how people felt about their ‘market’.

After years of hearing nothing but doom and gloom, here I was hearing 4’s, 5’s and quite often 6’s. A glance at the trending chart, confirmed by brief commentary from each participant, showed a significant lift in positivity from previous monthly scores, which were often in the 2’s and 3’s.

Indeed, at least 80% of the group used phrases like ‘the market is strong’, ‘definite improvement’, ‘the phones are ringing’, ‘we are busy again’, ‘clients are hiring’, ‘it’s starting to hot up’ and ‘ it’s crazy-hectic’. (These are verbatim quotes that I wrote down at the time.)

Even the remaining 20% were not negative, just more cautious about whether a really strong recovery was underway.

In fact, as we went on to address their business issues, it was clear that the mindset had shifted to matters such as adding new recruiters, marketing spend, lack of quality candidates, and expansion into new markets.

Economic data out of the UK remains mixed, unemployment is high, and no one is claiming the tough times are gone. But I can tell you without any doubt at all, that at the coalface, where corporate optimism is felt most keenly, the UK market is up and positivity is the attitude de jour.

Will it last?

 I don’t know. But in London at least, there is a smell of opportunity in the air.

Smart operators, who have learned the lessons of the past few years, and adjust their business model, particularly talent acquisition strategies, to meet the new reality, will thrive.

Of that I have little doubt.

So once again (like the bloody cricket!), it could be a case of ‘Rule Britannia’

Have your say on this. Please leave a comment.

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About Greg Savage

Over a career spanning thirty years, Greg Savage has established himself as a global recruitment leader. Greg is a regular keynote speaker at staffing and recruitment conferences around the world.

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9 Responses to The UK recruitment market is growing. Fast!

  1. Steve Alais August 6, 2013 at 9:50 am #

    That is an interesting insight into the UK market; despite the leading economic indicators being down there seems to be strong demand for skilled labour. In my sixteen years experience, the level of activity in the recruitment sector is a useful leading indicator for the economy, you know when overall economic activity is improving or getting worse by what is happening in our sector. Often there is a lag before this activity is reflected in the official figures such as the unemployment rate or GDP growth. As my first manager in recruitment said in 1997, the recruitment market “can turn on a sixpence.”

  2. Nanda August 6, 2013 at 10:43 am #

    Good data points Greg,
    Hopefully my clients in the APAC region wont get bugged by calls from UK agencies seeing as they can manage their own patch now..:)

  3. Jonathan Rice August 6, 2013 at 11:42 am #

    Sounds exactly like the growing sentiments in NZ too

  4. Thanks for the cheerful news, Greg. God knows, we’ve needed some happy stuff!

    I love it that your glass is always half full!

    However, I guess it depends on the sector and the type of Client.

    Your audience, representing agencies with turnovers starting at £2 million, will have established relationships with the larger corporations, who could well be re-stocking their depleted departments as their customers begin to spend again.

    But it will be some time before that reflects down to the SMEs. So if SMEs are an agency’s bread and butter and target market, I wouldn’t get too excited just yet.

  5. Adam Tobias August 6, 2013 at 9:15 pm #

    I was at one of the Elite sessions Greg presented to and I have to say we are all feeling more optimistic. This is not just client-need related. Recruiters in general have had to significantly up the quality of the service they provide to candidates and clients in the last few years; this has (or should have) made us all leaner, smarter and more service focussed, as well as delivering real benefit by providing hard to find candidates and jobs that are very attractive. If we can’t add value to our customers what the heck are we doing?

    That has meant when we have seen an upturn in demand, our ability to supply is improved and clients and candidates have enjoyed the recruitment ‘experience’ far more than in the distant past. No doubt many agencies have fallen by the wayside, the ones unable or unwilling to embrace the changes and opportunities in a tighter market. Good news for those that have….

    PS Greg, once again thank you!

  6. Mark August 7, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

    Sorry Greg, I love your blogs. But I have to put a slight dampener on this one.

    You are right when you say that the market is the UK is looking better. However. When you say the UK, I think you mean London.

    Reason for my pessimistic look at this is –

    • Recent job count in the UK market suggested 500,000 live jobs in the UK, in which 250,000 of them are in London.
    • My business has seen a steady income of business over the past 4 years in the Midlands area, but nothing that I can say shows a “Job Growth”

    I will underline that certain sectors are booming. But as an overall effect to the market we are seeing a slight increase.

    The companies reporting profits in their market is fantastic news, and good to hear for us that are on the outside of the London market, cause and effect will ripple out over time.

    • Greg Savage August 7, 2013 at 10:02 pm #

      Sure Mark, I am sure you are right.Although I should mention many of these companies were not from London and many had offices outside London. But you are closer to it and will know far better than me. I just reported what I saw :)

      • Mark August 7, 2013 at 11:00 pm #

        No worries Greg!

        Keep up the awesome blogs!

  7. Megan August 14, 2013 at 7:33 pm #

    Hope to see this kind of report from Australia soon! =)

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