Olympic Lessons – Are largest suppliers always the best option?

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The UK is in the grips of Olympic fever, and as businesses involved in the Games come under increasing pressure to deliver, I can’t help but acknowledge that there are several lessons we can all learn from some of the widely published mistakes, writes Liz Longman, MD of The Employment Agents Movement.
Take the example of G4S. As the security solutions provider continues to come under scrutiny for its handling of Olympic security staff recruitment, you have to consider if using one large recruitment provider for all roles is in fact the best option. By placing the responsibility of a huge project on one business, you not only leave yourself open to greater risks, but in some cases you can perhaps get less of a personal service.

Through the use of a network of businesses, HR professionals have the opportunity to limit not only the risks, but also in many cases get a better service. Had LOCOG used multiple small businesses the impact of one supplier failing to provide the staff agreed could have been severely reduced. In fact, through a network of recruiters, where one agency might fall down in its delivery it’s highly likely that there is another on hand to pick up the slack if needed.

A smaller provider is also more likely to be a specialist in its particular sector and location (security recruiters in North Greenwich for example) and will often have the local connections and knowledge suitable for the job at hand. With multiple Olympic venues across the UK, would it not have been advisable to source security staff locally from specialist recruiters near each venue? Not only would this significantly impact the local economies, but with the job closer to home, the number of staff failing to turn up to work is likely to be significantly lower.

On top of this, it is common knowledge that you often get a more personal service through a smaller business rather than a larger supplier with multiple clients. With an SME, chances are the person you meet will be the person doing the delivery. This means they really get to know you, understand your values and what you’re looking for, and ultimately deliver a personalised service. With HR professionals under increasing pressure to find employees who really fit with the business culture, this solution can be hugely beneficial.

In many cases, the costs to HR departments can also be reduced through using a network of smaller providers. Smaller companies with fewer overheads will ultimately have lower costs.

This belief that bigger isn’t always better is starting to creep through the HR arena and I’m increasingly hearing cases of organisations turning to local, specialist recruiters instead of larger suppliers. In fact at a recent TEAM networking event, one of our members mentioned a county council that is thinking of doing just this.

The council involved are looking to approach local specialist agencies to source future talent to ensure they not only recruit the people they need, but also gain access to specialists which might not have been found through a larger supplier with no local knowledge. Added to this is the obvious economic benefit to the area; by recruiting locally through local businesses the area’s income and unemployment numbers can be positively impacted.

The key lesson HR can take from the Olympics then is surely that larger suppliers aren’t always the better solution. In a tough economy where competition to attract the right talent is rife, HR can indeed benefit from the often forgotten smaller businesses out there. With a potential reduction in costs, a more personalised service, fewer risks and access to specialists in their field, the smaller recruiter has huge appeal which so many are unaware of.

If you have a network of these businesses at your disposal, there’s the opportunity to really implement a gold medal recruitment strategy.

Liz Longman is MD at TEAM (The Employment Agents Movement) and writes this article for HR Magazine

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