-audience: headhunters, recruiters, human resources, business schools-
In this essay I address a future scenario for recruitment agencies in developed countries and I will lean on elements of the Oxford Scenario Planning Approach, in order to suggest future business scenarios for recruitment agencies and head hunters.
While head hunters are responsible for locating qualified candidates, recruiters are responsible for filling positions. Recruiters are people who are generally employed by the company that is advertising the open positions, although they can also be third-party individuals with no affiliation to the company in question.
I will use the term recruitment agencies to cover both head hunters and third-party recruiters.
In order to assess whether my assumptions and scenarios have validity and are valuable to the industry, I would like to invite head hunters, recruiters, and HR personnel to do so.
Oxford Scenario Planning Approach
Before I dive into the recruitment industry and the relationship between job providers and job seekers, I would like to discuss the Oxford Scenario Planning Approach. Scenario planning is an instrument that is often used and based on macro-economic, industry, market and internal data collection and analysis. This is the starting point for the development and assessment of scenarios to base a business model upon. The typical approach to scenario planning, forecasting and business modelling, is taking a probabilistic stance and make predictions in percentage terms or as best-case/worst-case scenarios, or a normative stance and envision what a future should look like.
The Oxford Scenario Planning Approach however is based on plausibility. By recognizing the part of uncertainty that is unpredictable and by actively exploring the sources of the turbulence and uncertainty, the goal is to iteratively and interactively generate new knowledge and insights to help organizations re-perceive their circumstances.
A core feature in the Oxford approach is making a distinction between:
- the immediate business environment an organization inhabits (where business transactions take place) which suppliers, customers, competitors, partners, and other stakeholders, and
- the broader environment, or context, in which it operates, which is made up of all the factors that are beyond the organisation’s direct influence. Scenario planning is about exploring how the second layer might transform the first layer.
Successful scenario planning processes are committed to examining and understanding plausible futures as opposed to probable futures. In turbulent and uncertain conditions, it is impossible to assign precise probabilities to possible scenarios.
As a result, the Oxford scenario planning approach eschews assigning probabilities to scenarios and instead focuses on identifying and developing scenarios that are perceived as plausible, challenging, and useful.
Each scenario consists of a story that relates to possible changes in the larger contextual system in which an organisation operates.
Changes in the contextual environment of recruitment agencies
The changes that I have assumed to cause turbulence and uncertainty, and are novel and could be ambiguous, are the following six:
- Firstly, technological changes such as the increasing importance of social media in recruitment creating the opportunity for job providers to connect directly and more cost-effective with active and passive job-seekers.
- Secondly, changes in social values such as an increasing level of entitlement leading to conflict, job frustration and low job satisfaction levels.
- Thirdly, changes in labour markets, also driven by the 4th industrial revolution, impacting how automation substitutes for and how the net displacement of workers by machines might worsen the gap between returns to capital and returns to labour.
- Fourthly, the rise of the gig economy changing the traditional role of employers.
- Fifthly, changes in society with respect to how people learn and educate themselves, driven by the 4th industrial revolution.
- And lastly, demographic changes in terms of an ageing population.
Future scenarios for recruitment agencies
The four scenarios as a result of the impact of these changes that I have developed, are:
Recruitment agencies as labour quality and performance consultants for employers
Recruitment agencies as professional life time agents for job seekers
Recruitment agencies act as gig worker employers
Recruitment agencies as skills and competencies development gatekeepers integrated with education providers
INVITATION TO THE INDUSTRY
In order to assess whether my assumptions and scenarios have validity and are valuable to the industry, I would like to invite recruitment agencies to do so. In order to make this assessment, the Oxford Scenario Planning approach recommends them to use Sir Geoffrey Vickers’ ideas on judgement in decision making (Ramirez & Wilkinson, 2016) ideas. Sir Geoffrey Vickers was remarkable in many ways. Among the positions he held was secretary to Churchill’s War Cabinet and head of the National Coal Board of the United Kingdom when coal was the number one fuel for the country’s economy.
One of Vickers’ main ideas was to define what in his experience contributed to making a “good” decision. He suggested that a good decision is one based on good judgment in three distinct but interrelated areas:
- Firstly, a sense or appreciation to judge or even reappraise where the decision is taking place, that is, a “reality check: what is going on” in its context.
- Secondly, a set of values to assess or judge if the decision is being made according to relevant appropriate (or good) metrics, and which will help the learner’s mind to determine if the decision is effective or not in terms of “values: what it means to us”, where “us” is specific to the decision maker’s situation.
- And thirdly, judging whether the strategy (what Vickers called the direction of travel) that the decision directs or supports is right; this is the “instrumental: what can we do” judgment.
In everyday life you work towards the future. In scenario planning you work with the future.
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