If you are in recruitment did you ever stop to think about the origins of your industry? Recruiters today have a lot to thank the original recruitment pioneers for. It’s easy to forget that the Recruitment industry has been around for a long time but most recruiters I would say do not want a history lesson and they know everything! Well, that’s OK. I knew everything too!
One of the oldest references to a public employment agency was in 1650 and the first private employment agency was opened in the US in 1893, an Engineering Agency and you will find a few dotted around the UK such as London domestic Agency ‘Masseys’ established in 1845. For specialist technical recruitment businesses and consultancies we are probably looking at the 60²s for the first ones to appear. The company I started out at was established in 1961 in Stockport by Alan OBrien – Manchester Design Services and latterly MDS Consultants plc.
Those early years would have been very much selling the idea of the contingency model and provision of contract staff to fill temporary technical staff shortfalls. That’s something recruiters can today be thankful for, that the hurdle of the contingency staff idea does not have to be sold before one even gets to talk about a requirement.
For those days in the technical environment, recruiters would be more akin to that of a consulting partner and in the case of MDS, perceived as a design consulting firm – the employer brand it would be seen as today.
Interesting how consulting firms in human resources became recruitment firms and then today its people are now in sales, the transactional processes, the people commodity, the calls, the send-outs, the interviews and the bottom line – the placement or deal.
Many great recruitment companies like MDS started with humble beginnings and like MDS got acquired by bigger fish [MDS was acquired by the Morson Group].
Originally MDS provided fill in technical staff to ICI Blackley, contingency staff that were engaged under a subcontract, a contract for service or alternatively, a subcontract deemed to be ‘of’ service in some cases. It was important to know the difference then and recruiters, then called contract managers, would mostly write and sign the contracts as well.
Today those great startup leaders like Alan O’Brien must include Gerry Mason, establishing Morsons in 1969 which today is ran by CEO Ged Mason. Closely following in company age must be Fircroft but certainly IT recruiters did not arrive until much later of course and had to wait for computers to come on the scene!
I came across this 1990 MDS Recruiters newsletter. It was very much in celebration of gaining BS5750 accreditation [ISO 9000], and [we] were the first recruiter to do so at that time. Of course, that had to be sent out in the post along with the brochures! BS5750 first appeared to us in tender documents from ICI. What is that – some kind of kitemark! it is wise to get ahead of the game and don’t wait to learn of these things from questions in tender documents. Step forward 10 years and questions such as – Do you Have electronic mail? what’s that then? We have a fax machine! And today questions maybe around how you engage with the talent pipeline.
Today, when the recruiter achieves ISO quality accreditations I’m sure there is little thought also for the early days when we had to first work out how to interpret the standard that was geared for manufacturing and production rather than service and we had to work the terms of reference into a recruitment process and workflow. That is very much used as the recruitment template today.
As recruiters click in the cloud to access the latest socially connected CRM and workflow, spare some thought for the early days when we had to write our own bespoke database software if we wanted to dish the Rolodex and card file system. I started writing my own database/CRM using FoxPro in 1989. You will find me here with more hair and be sporting a trusty Amstrad 8086 PC with its very own internal 20Mb hard drive. Yes, I said 20Mb hard drive – and that was actually ‘mega’ in 1989. The server was a not much bigger, an IBM AT PC with a huge 4MB ram operating DOS 3.1 and complete with maths co-processor chip – wow!
Indeed whilst today we operate in the world of connected big data and have a greater technological reach for talent acquisition and a means to build skills communities, those early values are now even more prevalent in importance in order to succeed today and going forward. That is – relationship building and engagement and just looking for the keywords.
Now that’s Social Recruiting
Recruiting has always been social folks! When was your last Golf Day? It was an annual event for many not so long ago…
I guess most recruiters will not look back too much but there are lessons and values to learn. Nothing is new in the building blocks but certainly, I think we are turning in a full circle and getting back to engagement and building community, certainly using different tools. Recruiters doing that will win more and faster.
The era of hiding behind email or posting a job and hoping for it to be found is over. The era of outbound and interrupt marketing is over. We are back in a two-way street and inbound marketing is coming back.
Who is the oldest technical UK Recruitment Business or Agency still operating today?
One of the oldest references to a public employment agency was in 1650 when Henry Robinson proposed an “Office of Addresses and Encounters” that would link employers to workers. The British Parliament rejected the proposal, but he himself opened such a business, which was short-lived
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, every developed country has created a public employment agency as a way to combat unemployment and help people find work. Agencies were an increasingly entrenched part of the labour market and I’m sure the earliest would be about the 1950s between the Fee-Charging Employment Agencies Convention of 1933 and the Employment Agencies Act 1973. Today the relevant legislation is the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003.