Mixed messages on recruitment activity

Nov 28 2002 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Most employers are maintaining their position when it comes to workforce numbers, but a sizeable minority is still defying business gloom merchants and predicting a rise in employment across the board.

The Recruitment Confidence Index (RCI) is a quarterly survey of UK directors' and managers' expectations of changes in recruitment activity and business conditions during the next six months. It is produced by Cranfield School of Management and the Daily Telegraph.

The RCI's special report into recruitment strategies shows that 24 per cent of employers have increased their blue-collar workforce over the past six months compared to 14 per cent who saw a reduction. One quarter added to their clerical workforce while 16 per cent cut clerical jobs.

"Over the past six months the permanent market has continued to grow, albeit very slowly" said Jenny Jackson, a director with Pertemps, the employment agency that sponsored the report.

The big upturn has come in white-collar staff. Half of respondents had kept numbers stable, but more than one in three increased their white-collar workforce. And the next six months could be just as buoyant, with 35 per cent of employers predicting an increase in white-collar jobs.

Recruitment Research Manager at the Daily Telegraph, Stephanie Richards, said: "These RCI findings indicate some interesting variations of recruitment activity between different staff levels. The senior executive workforce has shown the least activity in terms of staffing levels over the last six months but contrast this with the big rise in recruitment of white collar workers and the recent activity in blue collar recruitment and the overall picture is a little more encouraging. We are slowly seeing a few more signs of recovery in the market."

Professor Shaun Tyson from Cranfield School of Management said: "There is evidence from these recruitment strategies that employers are becoming more positive. The fall in blue collar jobs, which has occurred steadily over the last few years, appears to be slowing down. However, the responses seem to indicate volatility in the labour market rather than long-term confidence.

"There is still a shortage of high quality applicants at all levels indicating that one of the real underlying problems for the UK is a lack of skills."

The past six months has seen an increase in the recruitment of temporary and contract staff through agencies, with one in four employers taking on blue collar and secretarial staff in this way. However, the boom appears to be short-lived, with almost a third predicting a drop in the recruitment of temporary agency staff over the coming six months.

A closer analysis of the agency market suggests that there are still challenges ahead. Once again most employers predict that they will make few changes in their use of employment agencies. But a noticeable minority is predicting that it could wane over the next six months. Jenny Jackson, director at Pertemps said: "It's much more about companies operating in an uncertain market who are mindful that they have to keep costs down."

It may be that recruitment tools are becoming more elaborate, but employers still prefer to select the best candidates using tried and tested methods. RCI figures show that references, interviews and application forms remain the most common means of selecting the best candidates. "It's a good mix of methods that's a positive thing," said Jenny Jackson. "It's important for the companies recruiting but it's also important that candidates feel they've been through a fair process and have been given plenty of opportunities to shine".

Interviews, while foremost in recruiting blue-collar workers, become more important further up the scale. Forty-one per cent of employers use one-to-one interviews to recruit blue-collar staff whereas 62 per cent use interview panels to hire senior executives.

The more senior you are the more interviews you are likely to receive. More than four in five employers (82 per cent) say one interview is enough to recruit for a blue-collar job, and no employer expects to interview an individual at this level more than twice.

In comparison, only two per cent would recruit a senior executive after one interview. A third of employers would put candidates through a three-interview selection process with a further 13 per cent expecting to interview them more than this.

For further information or a copy of the report contact:
Helen Fulcher, Press & PR Manager, Cranfield School of Management.
Tel: 01234 754425
e-mail: [email protected]