Recruitment Agency Expos: are they worth the time?

Every year at Brightred Resourcing, as is the case with many other Recruitment companies countrywide, we receive a mountain of publicity inviting us to attend various Recruitment Fairs. I have been to these events in years gone by and found them very useful for different reasons but to be honest, it is a long while since I have been back. The reason? Primarily it’s down to the universal issue of workload and other priorities vying for my time. In addition I wonder how much it would give in return for my time investment even if I did go. I have been in the business for over twenty years, building Brightred into a successful company through times of lean and plenty and without wanting to appear arrogant, I believe I know this industry very well indeed. I am also clear in my vision for what I want to see going forward for the company, my team, my clients and candidates based on my day-to-day interface with representatives from all sectors. So part of me wonders if Recruitment Agency Expos are really for me.

That said the flip side of having a strong domestic vision is that there’s the potential of missing something fresh as it evolves on the universal horizon. Perspectives of the industry are changing, and there is much to be said for keeping abreast of the changes in as many different forums as possible. So unable to attend the dates of this particular Expo and rather than wait any longer, I decided to send a freelance journalist to Olympia on my behalf who would then report back to me with her recommendations. The next few Brightred blogs will present a selection of specific issues from the perspectives of the guest seminar contributors but I thought it would be useful, as an introduction, to give an overview of the evet itself through the eyes of an industry rookie!

MA: What were your first impressions of the Expo?

JH: I had been given the comprehensive publicity material prior to the event, which promised two days of ‘jam-packed seminar and training programmes’; room to network with peers, and easy access to leading suppliers of products and services. Walking into the venue in Olympia on a cold, wet February morning, it was good to sense a vibrancy and buzz of expectation in the room. The layout was similar to most other Expos with about ninety industry suppliers positioned at their stands, ready to engage with conversations about specific services including Finance, Law, Marketing, PR, Training, Insurance, Technology and Back Office Support Services. Positioned within and around the stands were the Training Zones, Seminar Theatres and at the heart of the room was the Networking Lounge. At the beginning of the day, the venue was inevitably quieter, so it was helpful to investigate the different zones without the crush that came later.

MA: As someone not in the Recruitment Industry, how did you participate?

JH: You had given me a clear brief that my role was to report on the event itself, not to engage the services of the industries represented, neither would I be doing any networking. So I spent the first hour walking around the venue, eavesdropping on snippets of conversations, and quite quickly I became aware of a prevailing theme. People are concerned about the immense challenges involved in standing out from the crowd in an industry flooded with advertisements and social media noise. Conversations full of ideas and questions from anxious business leaders who wondered if their website design is too busy; how they should lead their teams into tighter cohesion and clearer accountability, or whether they were fully up-to-date with key forthcoming legislation. From this hour alone, it was easy to see why people had chosen to be at the event: they needed answers and assurance, as well as strategies and methods to remain successful. Additionally, it seemed there was a shared determination to look for quality over quantity in this phase of economic growth: to secure and sustain the successes after, as is for many, some challenging years during the recession. Streamlining their businesses in order to attract the best quality candidates in a world of babble and noise is the key focus it seems.

MA: In forthcoming blogs, you will be writing in more detail about each of the seminars you attended. Can you give us an overview of the relevance of the subject matters on offer?

JH:   I could see from the seminar programme that the organisers had given much thought to offering subjects that would be of relevant interest. As an example, the current refugee and migrant crisis may well leave recruiters anxious about their legal responsibilities in terms of illegal working practices. Chris Edwards of the Home Office delivered a seminar on this very issue focusing on how to identify those individuals not entitled to work in a particular field. Another session, delivered by Julia Kermode of the Freelance and Contractor Services Association unpacked the future of IR35 legislation and the new travel and subsistence regulations that are both due to come into effect in April 2016. As a guide through the mire of new Government initiatives and laws, there should have been a sigh of relief from those in the dark on the issue, especially as time was given for specific questions at the end. Although at thirty minutes each, the seminars were tight on time and, in my view, longer sessions could have been planned for the more popular subject matters such as ‘Thinking strategically about Social Media,’ by Matt Alder of Meta Shift, which was packed. The seminar format is invaluable for those business representatives who want both information, and also an opportunity share the experience when it can seem as if they are working in isolation.

MA: So based on your report, perhaps I should go next year?

JH: Yes. It may be that you do not need to go in terms of specific requirements for Brightred, and you may already be up-to-date on the current and future developments in the industry via other avenues. However, I believe there is immense value in taking time out of the daily routine to change perspective for a while; to have a shift of scene and meet others in an environment dedicated to your field of operation. It is a highly competitive industry and the focus should remain on your own business of course, but there is much to be shared, learned and taught in this forum; if not in a seminar then at least over a very good cup of coffee in the lounge!

MA: There is much food for thought here. Could you confirm the subjects for the forthcoming blogs?

JH: Each of the next few Brightred blogs will offer greater detail on some key issues included in the seminar programme, including how to think strategically about your online presence, to nailing the art of understanding the customer journey in terms of marketing and branding.  So if you were unable to make the Expo, it may be that what you read here is not just informative but helpful too.

Michael Allen
mallen@brightred.com
February 2016

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