The recruitment sector in Bristol is experiencing an “explosion” of growth as companies tap into the city’s thriving economy, according to industry insiders.
This is not only leading to opportunities for new and specialist firms but also a shift in focus, whereby businesses are having to adapt quickly in a fast-changing and increasingly saturated market.
Expectations of potential candidates has evolved beyond pay packets to a growing emphasis on factors such as a healthy work-life balance, opportunities to progress and flexibility.
A number of industries in the region have reported that skills shortages and challenges in finding the right people are barriers to growth, so it is no surprise that many recruiters are trying new tactics to attract the right talent.
The Linked Inn, a pop-up pub launched by professional networking website LinkedIn took up residence on the Harbour Inlet for two days in June. Its remit was to “refresh the traditional idea of job hunting” following research that suggested some 45 per cent of people would rather be in the pub than applying for a new role.
There has also been a surge in specialist firms that work to connect the requirements of an employer with skills and expectations of potential candidates.
“The face of recruitment is changing quite a lot at the moment,” says Annie Budd, managing director of Dupont Consulting.
“We are working with candidates who are savvy graduates and it’s not just about driving a nice car and wearing a fancy watch. From flexible working to opportunities to progress; people’s drivers are very different to what they were five years ago. This is reflected in how I deal with clients and advise them.”
Annie secured a graduate job at a London-based recruitment firm straight after university, but it wasn’t an easy start. She was told by one boss that if she “was not blonde and petite then she would not do very well in this industry” and did think about leaving the sector altogether.
Instead, she forged a successful career and was head hunted by Opus Talent Solutions for its internal recruitment team, where she worked until December 2018.
In January this year, Annie set up Dupont, which specialises in recruiting within the industry, and is already expanding the business.
“There is no shortage of people for me to work with but there is a shortage of people wanting to go into this field,” she tells Bristol24/7. “Mental health is having to be taken very seriously.”
Annie is particularly passionate about early stage careers and supporting people going into the corporate world.
Speaking about the sector in general, she says: “Recruitment in Bristol is on the up – it’s exploding at a rate I’m really quite surprised with and I think it’s because places like London are becoming more difficult to do business in so opportunities in Bristol are growing.”
She adds: “The industry is an amazing one to be a part of, it’s hard work and it challenges you, but you learn how to run a business pretty much from day one and I think that’s a really important skill to have – a recruitment career can take you anywhere.”
Flexology is a relative newcomer on Bristol’s recruitment scene. Founded by Kristal McNamara, the company is capitalising on the shift in working culture and specialises exclusively in placing candidates in flexible roles at senior professional and managerial level.
“Flexible working has become a hot topic – particularly in the last couple of years,” says Kristal.
“However, employers are slow to come around to the idea that to secure the talent that they need, they have to offer flexible working – and not just to working parents.
“For many candidates, work-life balance is of increasing importance and it’s a way of working that the millennial generation is coming to expect as standard.”
Looking to the future, Kristal predicts that competition for the best clients and roles will intensify and believes recruiters need to be agile and find new, innovative ways in which to find and engage with potential candidates.
The success of small and medium-sized businesses in Bristol has helped keep the recruitment sector buoyant, according to Nathan Ferris, the director of Darcy Associates, construction recruitment specialists based in Fishponds.
“In a world where many tasks can be done away from a desk or workspace environment, adaptions such as flexibility in working hours or location are becoming more important to employers and job seekers,” says Nathan.
“Recruitment has seen many changes in legislation over recent years which has improved the sector’s image. Many of the changes revolve around better working conditions, better wages and better training standards for the workers themselves – a welcome improvement to employment across the region for everyone in employment.
“It gives candidates better opportunities and progression while allowing employers access to a high calibre and driven workforce.”
He adds that skills shortages are the biggest challenges facing industry in Bristol, saying: “It has been tough to find suitable workers for a wide array of roles, particularly in the construction sector.
“This is a result of increased employment in the region and not due to lack of capable staffing. More training needs to be important for both employers and recruiters. We bridge this gap as a business by providing all our candidates training in their roles to expand their knowledge and employability in the future.”
Ellie O’Neill, director of Fishtank, agrees the industry has changed almost beyond recognition in the last decade.
“When I first got into the sector, there were a plethora of large recruitment companies who positioned themselves as a one-stop shop, recruiting marketing managers through to lorry drivers,” she tells Bristol24/7.
“There are far more smaller specialist recruitment consultancies focusing in one sector. As a result, companies have better understanding of how valuable a ‘good’ recruiter can be to the growth of their business.”
Fishtank is a PR, marketing, digital and creative recruitment specialist firm, based on Whiteladies Road. Ellie says her team’s specialist knowledge helps them stand out from the crowd.
“Bristol is well and truly on the map, seeing many large corporates opening new offices here,” she adds.
“We have more candidates than ever wanting to make the move to Bristol for various reasons. We are very much in a candidate-led market where skilled employees are in demand. This changes the traditional dynamic of the industry and it is crucial to adapt and plan accordingly.”
Opus Talent Solutions is one of the big hitters, with offices around the globe, and the firm experienced 22 per cent growth in the last year alone. Yet the company, like others, is having to adapt quickly to meet demands of changing markets.
Opus focuses on recruitment in the technology and energy sectors and puts its success down to having a true understanding of its markets and offering a long-term, relationship-driven approach to our clients and candidates.
Isabella Slater, marketing assistant at Opus, says the company’s growth has enabled it to reinvest in its own offering to help ensure the tech talent pool is growing.
With its HQ on Colston Avenue, Rise Technical is one of the major players in the field and the UK’s leading specialist engineering and technical recruiter.
Reflecting on the industry, operations director Keith Walker says: “Ten years ago we were just coming out of the recession and since then the engineering and technical recruitment sector has dramatically grown in Bristol.
“This growth has been mirrored here at Rise – we have gone from having eight members of staff to more than 100 at present in our Bristol office.
“As with the rest of the UK, Bristol companies have had issues with finding skilled engineers. We have always believed that it is more important to find employees whose values and abilities match the needs of the organisation, than simply focusing on their skills and experience.
“Our approach means that businesses need to make a commitment to training and development, but in a candidate-driven market, that’s vital anyway.”
Like most sectors, recruitment is far from immune to advances in technology and the likes of Limber – an app launched in late 2016 to match employers with local rated, temporary employees – are undoubtedly shaking up the market.
For Sian Breward, the shift in priorities posed an opportunity to do things completely differently. She set up Together as One Consulting (TAO) in May this year, a firm that puts social purpose at the heart of its work.
“I’ve been in public sector recruitment for about a decade and I wanted to give back,” explains Sian, who says the recruitment industry is worth around £35 billion.
She anticipates her company will be able to donate at least £1m over five years, with charities Above and Beyond and the Fertility Foundation among the main charities it will support.
Speaking about the sector as a whole, Sian adds: “Bristol has become a massive recruitment hub, probably one of the biggest in the UK.
“The way we operate has changed. When I first started, I was pretty much given a phone and told to call people. Now it’s more about marketing campaigns and social media interactions. Also meet ups are a really big thing in Bristol.
“It’s a very saturated market across the board so we have to be ahead of the game.”
She believes the number of companies seeking to operate ethically and give back is on the rise and hopes to see others follow suit.
Main image: Opus Talent Solutions team photo
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