For God’s sake….regulate recruitment !

ImageI was going to write this weeks blog all about how recruitment can learn lessons from Cricket Australia and about the impact a manager can have on team performance, culture and staff retention…I am a sucker for a sporting analogy! But then I spent most of yesterday, when I would normally write my blog, embroiled in a battle with a competitor about who had the right to represent a certain candidate to a particular company. It is not a common situation I find myself in…. experience has taught me how to avoid these unpleasant scraps. But every once in a while, through no fault of your own, you can find yourself dragged into something like this. It is annoying, messy, wastes time and in my opinion it is largely avoidable…but not at the moment. Why not? For the simple reason that there is little motivation to stop a rogue recruiter ‘trying it on’ should they feel inclined to.

Now, I don’t want to paint a picture of recruitment being a dodgy industry full of unscrupulous sods trying to make a quick buck.  From my experience the large majority of recruiters are the opposite – decent professional honourable folk working within ‘the rules’ in a competitive market. But, as we all know, there are those who have little regard for doing the right thing and will do whatever it takes to make a dollar. And whilst I honestly don’t waste much time worrying about them, I do get pissed off when you come up against the same offenders time and time again.

When the vast majority of us are doing things the right way, why should those that don’t, be allowed to continue to operate and get away with it?

So, instead of another sporting based blog, here is a very quick five point plan to put that right:

1. The introduction of a recruitment licence (different to a qualification) with a set of rules that must be abided by.  A central body that award licences both to individuals and agencies manages it.

2. Any licensed agency or individual can be audited anytime.

3. A formalised process by which anyone  (candidate, client, competitor or someone else) can make a complaint against a licensed recruiter, and that complaint will be investigated and a determination made

4. The power to punish licensed recruiters if they are found to have breached the rules, both with monetary fines and in extreme cases removal of the licence.

5. As any licence will have to be voluntary it will need to be supported by an on-going campaign to promote its awareness and give it credibility not only amongst recruiters but clients and candidates who use recruiters also. This is the key one – without it none of the above matters.

I should mention that, although it is not the first time I have raised this topic, my five-point plan is more food for thought than an absolute solution, And it probably has more holes in it than Swiss cheese – I look forward to being shot down and taken to task over it!!! But I’m putting it out there again because. …what is the alternative?

The usual argument against legislating the recruitment industry is that ‘rogue’ operators don’t last long and exit the industry leaving a trial of messy deals and unhappy people behind them. Probably true. But I have been working in recruitment for over 10 years and they existed back then and they do now.

The other common argument is that it is simply not required. Well, the next time you are on the receiving end of your candidate getting back doored, a competitor stealing a placement from you, not having a fee paid, not being paid a bonus by your employer or whatever else…then you can’t really complain.

I have always gone along with the theory that, if you have nothing to hide and operate professional and honourably (all be it with a fiercely competitive spirit) then why would you not want this. I am certainly no do-gooder, nor do I want our industry to become full of red tape, and neither am I perfect. But I for one would prefer not to have our industry open to rouges and, if it is ever required, have a bit of back up in my corner…then I could write blogs about sport which is much more fun.

Luke Collard

18 thoughts on “For God’s sake….regulate recruitment !”

  1. Great post Luke. I totally agree!! I recruit for the Real Estate industry & even Real Estate Agents are regulated.
    They have a basic certificate they can gain to work in the industry that only takes a week, then they can go on to compete a licence that enables them to operate their own office. If they are dodgy they lose their licence & are unable to practice Real Estate.
    Recruitment should have similar regulations.

  2. Excellent post Luke! Agree 100%. Here’s a question, is it wrong to label the dodgy ones as dodgy in front of clients? Should we be naming and shaming?

  3. Great article Luke, and some valid points for discussion. There should definitely be some controls on the industry to stop candidates being misrepresented and ensure everyone who works within the rules can compete. I’m in the Adelaide accounting market and constantly come up against another interstate based agency, who will remain nameless. They never meet candidates, or seek their permission to represent them to firms, and due to their ability to act quickly (and with little regard for client or candidate) often get to represent candidates for opportunities. There is little that can be done about their lack of standards in the current unregulated market; but, if regulations were in place, we would soon see the end of people operating this type of model.

  4. I have been on the receiving end of this twice in the last year, I have been in recruitment for 25 years, I am small but thoroughly professional and ethical, but each time it has happened it has been from an employee of a large company, who shall remain nameless, but should know better and should also thoroughly instruct their staff in how to follow ethics, they are by no means in the rogue category, sadly. Each time it has been by a company that is a member of the RCSA. So we have ethics, but we don’t follow or practice them in our work place – the mighty dollar rules and excuses all actions it would seem.

  5. Hi Like and greetings from South Africa, here we have a professional body called APSO (African Association of Professional Staffing Organisations….www.apso.co.za), this is a profesional body which most reputable agencies belong to and pay fee annually to. If disputes arise they are referred to this organisation for mediation and it is this body who has a code of ethics which must be adhered to n order to claim a fee (along with many other beneftis for our industry, such a cerftifcation for recruiters etc), perhaps have a look and gain insight?
    thanks for the article.

  6. Well said Luke.The RCSA Members are regulated in that they have to abide by an ACCC authorised Code for Professional Conduct. They also employ a full time Ethics Registra to handle/administer complaints, organise mediation and if necessary prepare briefs for the Ethics Committee (normally made up of very experienced Members with many years in the recruitment industry). They can only take action against a Member if a complaint is made and proved. In the majority of cases complaints are generally settled at mediation level. I too believe that all recruitment agencies should be licenced and regulated and a great many in the industry believe the same. At least those who deal with honest intentions do! For me, self regulation, with ‘bite’, is far better than having Government agencies involved. My thoughts – not my employer’s.

  7. Great article Luke. I believe there also needs to be some type of regulation or licence and I praise you for bringing this hot topic to light. I believe in our industry association (RCSA) and I know they have provided me with assistance and advice in the past and it would make a great starting point for the management committee to investigate this on behalf of the industry.

    The main issue/s i see with the RCSA is that we we pay good fees to be a member of the association and their hands are often tied if the agency we are having issues with are not a member therefore, all operating agencies will need to be a member of the association (in hindsight this is probably a great idea). The RCSA (or similiar) should have more power to enforce regulations like you propose.

    I am sure many recruitment owners/managers and consultants would like to see their hard work guarded by the industry sharks that are circling!

  8. I agree, however in my opinion The RCSA have no bite, their are a lot of Good recruitment groups out their who do not want to belong to the RCSA and still operate in an Ethical Manner. I have worked for both. , in a case of dual representation of candidates
    it has always been my experience we are at the mercy of our clients, and Candidates.

    . The better relationship always gets the spoils. This will not happen if the Consultant does his job right the first time,.
    i have always believed you seek the right to represent your candidate from that first meeting or phone Conversation, by instilling confidence in him that he does not need to go any where else you have the bases covered for him..
    .
    By constant contact and keeping them posted of your progress on his application, and informing him of the Company and the type of job you are putting him up for instead of being evasive and secretive

    , He in turn will let you know what other applications he has going and what type of groups he is being represented to and who he has been represented by.. We do not need to be Regulated, we just need the Consultants to do their job correctly and gain the confidence of their Candidates and the right to represent them.

  9. I truly understand the sentiment expressed here, but unfortunately the whole idea has so many holes in it that it is entirely unfeasible.

    I have expressed my views on this matter on multiple occasions and have actually written a blog that has an entirely different suggestion – http://wp.me/p2gWZv-2Y

    But back to licences and so forth. The first issue is the cost. Imagine the initial set up costs alone, in the UK some 80,000 existing recruitment businesses would need to be vetted and verified as being compliant before you could even establish a licence. Who is going to do this process, or do we just grant every existing recruitment business with a licence and then sort the wheat from the chaff?

    Secondly who is going to fund this whole idea? The licence fees won’t fund the set up costs, you need to establish an entire department function from top down, in the UK alone I would estimate that you would need circa 8 C’ level execs, 24 regional officers plus all the admin and operational staff. Throw in technology (on-line licencing systems), confidential call line service and then a review and investigation team.

    Thirdly, in the UK we already have the EAS (Employment Agency Standards Authority) which is a government run organisation that has the power to undertake spot checks, fully operational audits and can seize equipment and documentation on the spot.

    However the real issue here is that many of the complaints Luke’s being one in point, are actually very subjective and really are a case of ‘he said, she said’.

    The real truth here at the end of the day is simply that much of the responsibility lays with you. You skills around client and candidate management and control need polishing. If you can’t trust your clients or candidates to play with a straight bat then either your in the wrong industry or you need to review your business model.

    A licence won’t sort this out, any of it.

  10. MMM isn’t that what our federal government does? Regulate and add red tape to the majority who do the right thing to control the small majority who do the wrong thing, 457 visas being a classic example.

    Our industry Association , the RCSA has a robust Code of Professional Conduct and the power (authorised by the ACCC) to discipline members including suspend or expel members and levy fines. I can certainly know that the Board of the RCSA has taken all of these actions within the correct legal frame work and with the appropriate due process. They also continue to lobby employers about engaging only with organisations who abide by this code. So plenty of BITE.

    Lets also not confuse ethics and commercial disputes and in many cases a fee dispute is not a matter of ethical behaviour but one of who has a commercial right to represent a candidate and what does representation mean in the context of their agreement with the candidate. For that I suggest you look closely at the agreements you have with candidates and clients not more red tape.

  11. Obviously a topic that has polarising views within our industry….it has been very interesting to read the different points of view and thanks for taking the time to comment. I won’t respond to each individually, but will make some further general comments :

    It seems that there are as many people in the ‘yes’ camp (i.e for better regulation) as there is in the ‘no’ camp. This in itself is interesting and suggests there needs to be at least some further discussions around the topic…..as opposed to just a blanket no.

    The RCSA has been mentioned a number of times as the solution – regardless of what is in place currently, it doesn’t seem to be as effective in this area as it could be.

    The idea behind any regulation is not just to protect agencies and recruiters, but individuals (candidates and clients) who use recruitment services. In my opinion, a key point of any regulation is that it is also outwardly focused and gives any individual who should feel the need, an obvious and easy route to complain.

    There are lots of very sound reasons why introducing (or improving) legislation is difficult. Whilst I don’t have the exact solution…. should we really expect a professional services industry that earns lots of money and has aspirations to be seen positively (and shake off the negativity that many attach to it) to not be regulated. I cannot think of another industry that has this ‘luxury’.

    Where the industry goes to from here is largely dependent on the industry itself …… but there is clearly enough interest and diverse opinion to have that discussion.

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