02 September 2016

Talent Agent: much talked about but still a very long way off

I was recently sorting out some old files and came across a presentation I made for an RCSA event in 2006. In this presentation I covered the changing market for candidates and made a prediction (far from new, even ten years ago) that agency recruiters would need to become Talent Managers as the balance of power in the employment marketplace had shifted away from employers and towards employees.

Other recruitment industry speakers have also been hot on this topic. Greg Savage has been relentless in his focus on this aspect of recruiter capability and relevance.

Last week, at the 2016 RCSA International Conference there were two keynote speakers who addressed the topic of the trends in the recruitment market and what that meant for agency recruiters.

Steve Shepherd (The Future of Work and its impact on the future of Recruitment) and Fiona Anson (Where is the Workforce Heading - and how does that affect us as Recruiters?) both predicted/recommended that the recruiter of the future will primarily be that of a Talent Agent (Shepherd) or Talent Manager (Anson).

The Talent Manager or Agent is more akin to the role played by agents in the world of sport or entertainment, where they represent a small number of high profile, high demand and/or highly skilled clients. This representation involves the agent aiming to find each client the right opportunities for their talent, ambition and availability. The talent pays for the service by paying the agent a percentage of their earnings (20% is common but it varies according to whether the deals struck are for employment or endorsements, which typically involve the agent receiving a significantly higher percentage).

Although it is illegal in Australia to charge candidates a fee for finding them a job, it isn't illegal to charge a fee for other services related to maximising employment opportunities (eg career coaching).

The concept of a Talent Agent/Manager in the world of agency recruitment is pretty simple - find the best 100-200 candidates in your niche market and ensure that you are the only person they wish to deal with in terms of employment opportunities (contract or perm). Rather than find jobs to fill, the Talent Agent seeks opportunities for their talent by contacting potential employers (in the late last century world of recruitment that I was schooled in we called that activity ‘floating').

So given the conversation about recruiters becoming Talent Agents/Managers has been going on for at least fifteen years and in the meantime the demand for skills has only become more acute, why has the Talent Agent role not become commonplace?

Yes, I know that many agencies now have Candidate Managers (or similar title) but in my experience these consultants are predominantly focused on the market for active candidates.

In my view, the legacy of the past (focus on winning jobs then post ads then sort through a lot of average, or worse, candidates to find the best ones) is so pervasive and institutionalised it's very hard to stop that approach and completely re-set the business model to one of Talent Agent/Manager rather than Job Generator and Filler.

Here's how you recognise whether you are a fair dinkum recruitment agency Talent Agent:

1.      You have a defined and specific criteria that must be met in order to represent talent
2.      You frequently (politely and respectfully) decline to represent people who want to be represented by you
3.      You are highly skilled at distinguishing between average performers and high performers
4.      You are highly skilled at communicating, both verbally and in writing, the skills and traits of the high performers you represent
5.      'Candidate' is not a word you commonly use when discussing the people you represent; ‘talent' or ‘high performer' being more accurate
6.      You are competent to provide valuable career advice to your talent
7.      You receive a constant stream of high quality referrals
8.      You only accept a ‘job to fill' if this job directly aligns with the talent, interests, remuneration and availability of the people you represent.
9.      You never run ads on job boards
10.  You advise your talent to decline any offer (an offer that would, in almost all cases, generate a fee for you) if the opportunity and offer are not aligned with your talent's best interests.
Let's hope that I won't be hearing about Talent Agents/Managers being the ‘future of recruitment' in any recruitment conference keynote in 2031.

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2 comments:

  1. Nice one Ross, totally agree. In my agency time we also were expected and measured on number of targeted floats per month. Can't say I know too many recruiters in agency these days who could tick of your 10 point criteria. Most of these also apply to corporate recruiters, same not many corporate recruiters would be able to tick of this criteria and level we should all expect and demand.

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  2. Love this article. Exactly where my business is heading!

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