There has long been a debate about the ways HR professionals engage with recruiters, and indeed, to a greater extent, how they can effectively attract and retain industry leading talent. While there’s little hiding the fact that recruitment companies have historically relied on benefits packages – often heavily weighted towards cash remuneration – some commentators are questioning the extent to which this practice is helping to create employees who are truly engaged.

At a recent panel discussion held by APSCo a group of industry leaders discussed, at great length,  how the recruitment profession keeps its employees engaged, how organisations interact with potential talent and what the term really means.

Fostering emotional buy-in from the outset is crucial according to Nick Broughton, Managing Director of Co-Venture. Stressing the importance of investing in the recruitment process, Nick highlighted the need for HR professionals to ensure that potential candidates have the opportunity to meet with a range of employees, from charismatic leaders to passionate graduates, during the interview stage. Nick also discussed the need to ‘sell’ and ‘assess’ simultaneously. Often there is a tendency to put candidates through rigorous assessment processes before ‘selling’ them on the benefits of a career in recruitment, by which time they have already formed an opinion of the firm.

Lisa Jones, Founder of Barclay Jones, also commented on the need to revaluate how employers engage with prospective candidates, noting that an organisation’s online presence is just as important as face to face interactions. With candidates spending as much as two hours on a company’s website before an initial meeting it is crucial that recruiters work to ensure that not only is there enough content for candidates to engage with the brand, but also that the values accurately represent those of the organisation. The first interaction a candidate has with a brand is now likely to be online, and with the APSCo Deloitte Recruitment Index finding that for 61% of recruiters growing headcount was the biggest challenge they faced in the year ahead, ensuring that an agency has an engage online presence is particularly important. 

The meaning of engagement was questioned by a number of the panel members throughout the course of the discussion, and Daniel Ball, Principle at Wiser Graduates, was keen to examine whether current approaches to benefits and remuneration are really engaging recruiters, or simply motivating them. Arguing that recruitment leaders should avoid the ‘endless reward cycle’ at all costs, Daniel suggested that offering personalised training, support and tailored development paths was the best way to ensure that employees are truly engaged with their business’ objectives and not just striving to obtain their next reward.

While companies tend to focus on engagement from a talent management perspective, engagement is also the solution to a whole range of business objective, according to Graham Mitchell, Business Psychologist and Founder of T2i. Graham again questioned recruiters understanding of what engagement really means, noting that the concept goes far beyond the idea of a ‘happy, productive worker’. He claims that, from a psychological perspective, real ‘engagement’ is when a worker makes discretionary efforts which align with overall business objectives. He subsequently highlighted the need for HR professionals to ensure that employees buy in to their company’s strategic vision.

What became clear after an engaging debate amongst the panel, and indeed, the recruitment leaders and HR professionals in the audience, is that organisations cannot take just one approach to engagement. While opinions differed in terms of how HR departments can best engage with their employees, it is evident that recruitment companies can’t afford to let engagement slip, and a broader focus on engagement is needed if companies hope to attract, and crucially, retain industry leading talent.