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The Age of Fairness

I think you will agree that events in the world over the last six to twelve months have created a new paradigm for business. Amongst other things, what people seem to be reacting to the most is real or perceived unfair business practice. This has manifested in many ways. Take some common examples such as banks and their high mortgage break fees, supermarkets and their resistance to lowering food prices, the likes of an "iconic New Zealand company" seeking to be propped up, and migrant workers being given preference over resident New Zealanders. This is not even mentioning the dodgy and sometimes illegal business practices that have been exposed and made headlines recently.

Whilst everyone is always looking for a bargain, the reality is that there aren't that many bargains out there. And you have to be fast to get the bargains. Or cashed up! What people are after is fairness. And they will react against anything they perceive as unfair.

During the last ten or so years, the emphasis of fairness has really only applied to the unfortunate, as opposed to everyday practice, and part of the reason why we are in the situation we are today is that the balance has not been there. Going forward, this will be the catch-cry.

So what has this got to do with our business? We are no different in that as an industry sector the recruitment sector has taken advantage of its position and has not been prepared for the eventuality that the market will change. The advent of the internet and the emergence of recruitment centres has given clients access to the very same channels that we have and to all intents a company can "do it themselves" quite easily. Or so they think. But I'll come back to that.

To date our charges, like some other sectors, are made up of a lot of softer, not so tangible factors that go right from talent search to talent placement. For example:

1. Engaging a strategic ad search process to unearth the right group of candidates (many of whom, particularly at the senior end, still prefer to go through a discreet, non-direct process)

2. Putting a shortlist to you that helps you make decisions rather than overwhelm you with choice.

3. And then the important bit - negotiating the right deal for you and the preferred candidate.

4. Where discretion may be required especially if you are letting people go in one area, and bringing others on elsewhere.

5. Quickly accessing contracting resource from a preselected pool of highly experienced professional people to meet an urgent need.

In essence, there's not much point in dealing with a recruitment agency unless they do these things well, really well.

Now coming back to my earlier point about "doing it yourself". Whether you put the odd job ad up on a job board or have a fully fledged career website, doing it yourself has it pitfalls. Unless you have a well developed screening process in place, it's easy to become lost in a sea of CVs, especially in a candidate surplus market. The other point is there is only so much of the full recruitment process that can be managed online. You still need to interview, shortlist, negotiate and appoint. Convenience has a lot to do with it too - many organisations just don't have the time beyond the "I need someone, I need them now".

All I'm saying is as recruiters, we do "earn" our fees. However, it's high time to "review" these fees down to fair and realistic levels and be transparent about what you get for your talent acquisition investment. We've done it and it's a model that works well in the current economic climate.

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