12 July 2017

Sidekicker: Seek like more than one kind of cake

Onploy, which I wrote about last week, is a product promoting permanent recruitment services. Seek’s product targeting temporary services, Sidekicker has also been creating waves of its own.

Just over 12 months ago the AFR reported that “SEEK paid in the low single-digit million-dollar range for the stake, which is understood to be substantial but well under 50 per cent.”

The Sidekicker platform is simply temporary recruitment via an app. You register a vacancy, pre-screened (Every staff member has made it through a rigorous application process including a one-on-one interview and skills testing) candidates apply and you make an offer(s) to your preferred candidate(s). Both candidates and employers then review each other.

Sidekicker was founded in 2012 by ex-Deloitte Chartered Accountant Tom Amos. Sidekicker’s progress since mid-last year must have impressed the Seek board as two months ago industry news service, ShortList, reported that Seek had increased their investment in Sidekicker.

At the Australian Talent Conference last month a similar temp recruitment app, Weploy, was the winner in the Innovation Lab session on Day 2 of the conference.

So what’s the big deal you might think? Surely this sort of innovation is just life in the 21st century: If you can’t provide a compelling value proposition to your customers then surely you deserve whatever is coming your way?

Well, not really. It depends upon whether there is a level playing field.

Wendy Mead is the founder and Managing Director of Pinnacle People, who have been supplying hospitality staff for both temp and perm roles since they commenced business in 1991.

Mead is highly unimpressed with what she has witnessed from Sidekicker in the hospitality marketplace, believing it to be an example of Seek misusing its market power in an unethical and uncompetitive way.

Last week, in a letter to the RCSA, which Mead has made available to me, she details her many concerns about the activity of Sidekicker.

Sidekicker openly promote to their, and Pinnacle People’s clients (who I would prefer not to name at this time) that they have open access to every candidate who applies for advertised roles on Seek and that they are then hand-picked for Sidekicker.

Pinnacle People (alone) currently spends (well into six figures) with Seek to advertise a range of vacancies. The applicants who respond to these advertisements are, as I am led to believe by Sidekicker, harvested by Seek and funnelled to Sidekicker who market their platform to these candidates. By providing Sidekicker access to all candidate applications, Seek actively cultivates Sidekicker’s workforce not only in direct competition with that of its recruitment agency clients, but also leverages the brands, intellectual property and expertise of its agency clients to attract talent for Sidekicker.

In effect, our (total annual advertising spend) that Pinnacle People pay Seek to attract candidates using not only the Seek platform but our established brand and expertise in crafting targeted candidate attraction campaigns is significantly contributing to the development of its (partly owned) subsidiary business, Sidekicker.

Mead’s  letter to the RCSA goes on to specify an instance of Sidekicker’s unethical behaviour in providing to prospective customers an hourly rate comparison sheet of Sidekicker versus Pinnacle People’s rates, where the Pinnacle People rates are not accurate.

Of very significant concern is the potential unlawful behaviour of Sidekicker in charging candidates a fee for the service of finding them a job. To quote Mead’s letter further:

Sidekicker outlines in their marketing material “You set the hourly rate based on our guidelines and we charge your worker a fee for the connection, ongoing support and insurances.” It is my understanding that this is unlawful pursuant to the provisions of the Fair Work Act (2009). Section 323 of the Act requires that an employer pay an employee amounts owing to them in full in relation to the performance of work except as provided for in section 324 of the Act. 

Mead also raises her concern that Sidekicker’s direct hire or introduction service offering, lacks transparency as to the nature of the employment relationship and the accompanying legal obligations with respect to award rates of pay, superannuation, relevant loadings and payroll tax.

Mead’s letter highlights the concerns that many in the recruitment industry have about the various online employment platforms/marketplaces; that these offerings seem to have far less scrutiny applied to them in their dealing with candidates in temporary, casual or contract employment, compared to traditional recruitment agencies (who are highly and regularly scrutinised).

The RCSA are on front foot on this topic with an Online Workforce Solutions Working Group having been established late last year (disclosure: I am a member of this group).

Clearly this is shaping as a potentially epic battle ground for the recruitment industry.

If you have your own examples highlighting the potentially unlawful and/or unethical behavior of any non-traditional recruitment service/s (no matter what they might label themselves, a recruitment service is clearly what they are providing to the end user) then please email the RCSA CEO, Charles Cameron ccameron@rcsa.com.au directly.

This is not an issue to take lightly if you care about a fair, ethical and legal employment marketplace that is a level playing field for all who operate within it, regardless of what their business model is or what they call it.

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3 comments:

  1. Thanks Ross and Wendy. The "active" candidate market (those that come from advertising) is going through disruption, and rightly or wrongly Seek appear to be positioning to capitalise on this. With investments in Ximble, Sidekicker, and I'm lead the believe they have a stake in Jobadder (couldn't confirm on Jobadder or Seek web pages - a quick look anyway), they seem to be well advanced.

    The issues of behaviour and potential legislation breach is one part, the broader issue of disruption is another. Job boards in the late 90's and early 2000's were disruptive and great (cheaper, quicker, and accessible - both candidate and business), and has been so for nearly 20 years, with initially recruiter benefiting, and then businesses generally.

    Those who remember Seek entry into the market, will recall they were initially "for recruiters only" and of course over a short period that changed - market forces really. With Seek going on to become an significant part of the recruitment industry.

    With Seek's talent search a product like Sidekicker, they appear to be doing the same again - taking a market directly to businesses of all shapes and sizes, that bypasses recruiters. Of course, it's not just Seek, Sidekicker, LiveHire... It's Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn I suppose it's evolution, and as Jack Welsh said “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”

    Not saying our industry is dying, not at all, it's thriving, and at the same time, it's being changing (through disruption, internal capability, technology...) Recruiter's are taking their database or part of it to clients, and letting them search, the way we market candidate's via new direct marketing methods (mailchimp, with a call to action or online portal to search and transact etc).

    As a business owner, these are the constant challenges of change.

    See it as it is, not better or worse, the truth. See it how it could be. Make it that way.

    In my view the Active Candidate market is being disrupted, and has been for a while, it's just moving quicker now. Access to the whole candidate market, recruiter brand, and relationships are King. Work that out and you'll be fine.

    If you read his far, thanks, I hope I've provided something for you. Feel free to contact me on phil.isard@consultive.com.au if you have an insight you'd like to share with me, as I'm all ears to gain an advantage (or beat the masterminds at Seek).


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    1. Thanks for your comments, Phil. I am sure no recruitment agency owner of any decent calibre will complain about disruption. What they will complain about is a major player appearing to play both sides of the fence and not be transparent about what they are doing. This sort of behaviour will only make people deeply suspicious of their motives and longer term goals.

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  2. Phil Isard14/7/17 8:48 AM

    Hi Ross, I think their long term goal is clear. It would appear that they want the best of both worlds for as long as they can.

    People need to vote with their feet - will many have the courage to do so?

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