Developing Modern and Contemporary Recruitment Businesses

Developing Modern and Contemporary Recruitment Businesses and Retaining Women in Recruitment


Clair Milligan speaks with Paul Jacobs

Women account for over half of recruitment professionals in the UK yet, just 23% of Senior Management Roles are held by women (Recruitment International 2013). Talented women are exiting the Recruitment Industry before they fully realise their potential and become eligible for appointment to Senior leadership roles. New Research from Women in Recruitment  has revealed that family/caring responsibilities has the most negative impact on women’s career development and progression with 66% of survey respondents highlighted this as a factor. I spoke with Paul Jacobs, MD and Founder of LoveWorkLife Consulting to gain his insight as to how the recruitment industry can evolve into a modern and contemporary work environment for women to be retained in and for recruitment businesses to thrive.

Our conversation first turned to another era of change for women in the workplace; the 1970’s.

“Think Mad Men, and Life on Mars; it was all very stereotypical”, says Paul. “You would meet clients in their offices and become immediately aware that diversity not only rarely existed but was suppressed. Recruitment was a reflection of the time but in spite of the culture of the society that it served, recruitment even then was a place where women had a strong presence. The main difference was the types of roles that women were being placed into. We were placing women into “typing pools” – not men. These were roles through long tradition which were exclusively populated by female employees”.

So women had a place in the office, however it was just typically not in the boardroom.

Women in the Boardroom Today

Highlighted by the Davies Report, just four years ago; only 12.5% of women held board level positions on the FTSE UK. To bring about “radical change” a minimum of 25% female board member representation was recommended.  Since the latest Women on Boards 2015 report was published in March, the 25% women on boards in the FTSE 100 by 2015 has been achieved, women’s representation has almost doubled and all-male boards in the FTSE 100 no longer exist.

So the good news is that progress has been made and the Recruitment industry is roughly on a par with big UK businesses. But does this mean a cause for celebration? Paul who is a passionate advocate for diversity thinks not.

“It’s a disaster really in the 21st Century that we are still in the unfortunate position that targets have to be set in the first instance. Why aren’t people being given the opportunity to progress in business and be judged purely on their merit and ability and not as often suspected, upon their gender? If you’re good enough then gender simply should not be an issue with regards to progression into the boardroom. It simply cannot be that women are not as competent as men. That is clearly and utter nonsense. To be pushing for just 1 in 4 women on company boards in FTSE companies in itself is disgraceful and we need to be vocal about it.”

This raises questions as what proactive changes the Recruitment Industry needs to make to succeed in getting its own house in order. Paul suggests that: “If we are an industry that practices equality in terms of putting people forward for roles and we are open minded, proponents of a fair and equitable work society and seen as experts who promote and provoke equality then, we obviously need to be visible in operating on a higher platform than most. We provide staff across every sector; an incredibly valuable resource to businesses. We should be at the vanguard of diversity in every sense.”

What does this mean for Recruitment Business Leaders?

Respondents of the UK Recruitment Index 2015 were asked what their top challenges would be to support continued growth in the sector for the year ahead. 62% said that growing headcount will be a major challenge and 31% highlight talent retention as the top challenge.  97% respondents say staff training will be important for future growth. Business leaders need to address both talent attraction and talent retention in their organisation, and avoid approaching these challenges in the same way as before.

Paul reminds recruitment business leaders; “If you have empty desks, this lack of productivity has a major impact on your bottom line. A Consultant or Director vacancy is really going to hurt and impact on both revenue and morale. We ARE in a candidate driven market place and businesses are trying to fish in a diminishing talent pool. This whole issue shines a light upon the issue of diversity in the workplace in my opinion.”

So what is to be done? It’s time to take an enlightened attitude and for businesses to invest in modern and contemporary “enviable cultures” to attract and retain their talent. Paul challenges recruitment business leaders to ditch archaic 9-5 thinking – not that if ever really existed in recruitment. “In not so many years to come, we’ll look back (like we do to the 70’s) and think how outdated it was to work this way”.

Outlining four key ways to focus on attracting and retaining talent in modern recruitment business. Paul proposes that not only will this bring about increased opportunity to retain Women in Recruitment, it will win the hearts and minds of all of your employees.

On Attracting Talent

Alternative Talent Pools: There is an opportunity to attract a latent pool of monumentally capable people. People who have left recruitment to take a career break and who are now keen to get back into the work place. To engage this talent pool, we need to offer flexibility to balance career with other critical and highly valued aspects of their life.

Millennial Talent: As well as attracting Graduates to Trainee positions, implementing school-leavers’ programmes can tap into a growing number of young people choosing to forgo university and head straight into employment. To appeal to this talent, recruitment leaders must acknowledge the role of technology and that living in a 24/7 environment is a way of life. Communication is everything, working environments need to reflect modern attitudes and represent a culture that resonates with lifestyles, values and ideals.

On Retaining Talent

Flexible or Agile Working Policies & Job Sharing Opportunities: In recruitment, you can work from home. It is not impossible; it is in fact it’s absolutely attainable. In our industry there is no such concept as “9-5”. We know talking to candidates is often best achieved before or after work hours. Cloud and Mobile technology also makes this entirely possible.

Sabbaticals & Career Breaks:  Provide and expand benefits to employees who have been with the business for a period of time. Encourage them to take breaks from work by proactively offering sabbaticals and embolden them to work from home if it suits their lifestyle choices. If someone wants to leave to travel for a period of time and then return; then we should support them to do so. We want these highly valued colleagues to remain in our businesses and not join our competitors on their return to the workplace. It shouldn’t be the case that employees are requesting these opportunities; it’s about employers being forward thinking, inventive and enlightened.   

Moving Forwards

Paul and I finished our conversation by taking a step back in time even further to the Suffragette movement. Women over the age of 30 ‘won’ the vote in 1918, not that many years ago. Yet nearly 100 years have passed and we still have so much to achieve.

This is a fantastic opportunity for the recruitment sector and the perfect time to attract and retain a diverse talent pool into our industry.

“We are judged by our clients and candidates not least with regard to our enlightened attitude on equality. You are either completely committed to developing a modern and contemporary work place that is attractive to all of your stakeholders or, you may find that over a period of time your competitors hurt you due to their proactive approach to talent attraction and retention. And really there is no choice; we live in the 21st Century, no contemporary business should be employing ancient outmoded 20thor even 19th Century methodology in their business” if their aim is to grow and achieve their goals”.


Paul Jacobs, MD & Co-founder of LoveWorkLife Consulting

Paul has spent nearly 40 years within the recruitment industry, and is the former Managing Director of Office Angels, Board Director of Adecco UK & Ireland, and CTO /COO of Hudson UK, Ireland and Middle East. While with Office Angels, Paul was responsible for their Super brand status with over 100 branches and a workforce of 650 staff – achieving the no.1 position for Profit in the UK Commercial recruitment sector.

LoveWorkLife Consulting is a Contemporary Specialist Management Consultancy and business brokerage providing a comprehensive range of expert mentoring, counselling and coaching services to ambitious, people-focused business owners, directors and key stakeholders.

Contact Paul Jacobs


Mobile: 07960 550756

Twitter: @Love_Work_Life


Clair Milligan, Head of Talent & Development Empiric Solutions

Clair has over 15 years Talent Development expertise within Sales and Recruitment and is a specialist training and coaching professional. Clair is currently working flexibly while transitioning from maternity leave and is working with Heads of Business, Diversity Leaders and Talent Partners to achieve a compelling Diversity and Inclusion vision that can be translated to improve diversity and make a tangible and positive impact.

Empiric is an award winning Specialist Recruitment firm. Along with Wildcat Resource and Lifestar, Empiric is part of the Tourstan companies serving a global client base in Banking and Financial Services, IT, Energy Markets and Life Sciences.

Contact Clair Milligan


Mobile: 07949 153331

Twitter: @Clair_Milligan and @Empiric_Women