Go Global or Go Broke!

October 22nd, 2008 by Dave Nerz

Recent financial events have me thinking about our globally connected world and the importance of diversification. We have long understood the continued globalization of world economies but it is highlighted when China’s demand for commodities has an impact on Main Street. These signs of change can cause many to retreat to our comfort zones and expect that our world won’t really change. Or we assume, perhaps even hope, that what we do will remain unchanged.

If you haven’t been touched by globalization and the flattened world, you are either in a uniquely localized market or in a niche that is insulated from the global economy. Most recruiting businesses are touched, impacted, maybe even clobbered by the growing worldwide influences on our economy and particularly on the industries we serve. Ask someone in the auto industry.

There are many routine examples of globalization. These include the stories about outsourced call centers and manufacturers moving to offshore locations. Those stories are for the most part a “bad news” story for US-based recruiting businesses. But what is more difficult to quantify is the “good news” that has gone unnoticed. There is a growing market with profitable opportunities for those ready to test the boundaries of their comfort zone. Recruiting is seeing increased demand for cross-border and international placements. In part this is fed by the new generation of employees. In my close circle of contacts, I have seen a friend marry a UK citizen and move to the UK, a business associate wish his son farewell as he left the US for full-time employment in Australia, and yet another business contact has a daughter recruited to the US from Australia by a European employer. The current generation is more mobile in a global sense just as the baby-boom generation was more mobile than their parents on a national or regional basis. What have you noticed?

The big recruiting firms have owned this international recruiting segment for years and they worked hard to maintain it for themselves. With the growth of technology and the expanding selection of more cost effective business tools like VoIP telephone solutions, there is nothing to prevent smaller firms from developing their international connections. NPA, the Worldwide Recruiting Network is one way smaller recruiting firms can compete globally. NPA has been facilitating “split-fee” placements for 50 years, but in the last ten years, NPA has been adding members outside of North America at an ever-increasing pace. Now, a third of our members are outside of North America.

The positions sought internationally are changing just as much as the frequency of placement. International placement was once a small and highly specialized field. The primary direction was moving executive talent from the US or UK/Europe to other parts of the world. Today this movement is multidirectional and the flow is about the demand for talent. With raw materials and commodities values increasing to record levels, those that have the experience getting raw materials out of ground, processing materials, distributing commodities will be well compensated to take on a similar challenge in a new location half-way around the world. Likewise, those with unique language and management skills, specialized degrees, or a track record of success in any start-up operation capacity, can write a compensation package that will exceed their expectations.

NPA allows even one-person firms to expand their reach globally to meet client needs. NPA affiliates routinely engage their HR contacts in discussions about global growth strategies. This elevates the member recruiter’s role to a key problem solver in the client’s eyes, while positioning the HR staff as an integral part of the corporate strategy discussion.

In these fast and tumultuous times, diversification is the word in finance. Likewise in the world of recruiting it is good to have options as markets shift from hot to not. Consider staffing and contract if your focus has been exclusively direct placement. If you are focused on one industry exclusively can you weather a downturn in that segment? Diversify into multiple industries. If you always work a deal alone, consider working splits. Half a feefor half the workis a full fee. And if you only work regionally, expand your horizons to the national level. If you work nationally, reach out and grow your international capacity. Go global!

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