Aspiring to a bigger role

Aspiring to a bigger role


The Recruitment Society was established as long ago as 1979 by a group of individuals working primarily in the fields of recruitment advertising and recruitment consultancy.  Like all such developments it filled a useful gap and, from these early origins, grew to become an inclusive body for anyone and everyone with a professional interest in the world of recruitment.

Membership now includes in-house resourcing and talent management specialists, recruitment intermediaries and suppliers of all types, online and offline recruitment media representatives, occupational psychologists, outplacers... the list is, as you might expect, pretty comprehensive.

The Society likes to position itself as "the UK voice of best practice and innovation in recruitment."  For Steve Huxham, who's chaired the Society for almost five years now, one of the biggest pluses is the opportunity it provides for people who usually find themselves on opposite sides of the desk - such as client and supplier - or competing with each other for business, to meet together in a non-threatening, networking environment of common purpose.

But, as he also observes, the Society has also been "gloriously uncommercial" for the whole of its history - "and if you're not-for-profit, the other ‘not' you haven't got is a marketing budget."  In practice, the Society, which has effectively been a largely London and South East-oriented organisation, has been something of a well-kept secret.  Now the plan is for things to change.

"The committee sensed that there was a gap in the market, and this was the genesis of the decision to turn the Society into a ‘professional' body," says Steve.  One priority will be to alter the perception that the Society is all about monthly meetings.  "They're one benefit, but not the benefit," he continues.  "Members are already seeing the Society starting to comment as a national voice on resourcing issues - we go to parliamentary meetings and have our first honorary political adviser, for example - and this will only increase.  The Society has always been something of a broad church, but equally there's never really been a lot of joined-up thinking about resourcing issues or interests.  We aim to change this.

"We also plan to bring in a range of tangible membership benefits, including things like free legal advice and discounted liability insurance.  Members will also get an individual certificate, enabling them to use the designation ‘Member of the Recruitment Society', and they'll also be able to include elements of the Society's branding within their own corporate identity - on their stationery and website, for example."

This is a whole new area for the Society, and according to Steve probably involved more lengthy discussion than any of the other changes.  "It's something we've never done before, and we've got to be very careful about it," he says.  "It's a simple thing, but it should help to raise awareness and stimulate debate - and of course we'll have to police its use very carefully."

The Society will also be launching its own new website shortly.  This will include publicly accessible bits plus a password-protected members' area that's designed to feature exclusive offers on books and services, among other things.

The new membership structure will change to include just two grades - members and patrons - for the time being (although others could follow), with no significant fee increases envisaged in the short term.  (In fact, some people could actually see a reduction in their next payment.)  The new arrangements will enable paid-up members to attend all meetings without charge, apart from the summer and Christmas socials.  "Money does have an impact, inevitably," says Steve.  "The more members you've got, the more clout you've got, and the more wonderful things you can do."  So the membership base needs to grow significantly, and this is all part of the master-plan.

"One of the things we're quite proud of is the extent of our collaboration with other associations and interested parties," says Steve, "such as the CIPD, the AGR, REC, ATSCo and so on.  Bearing in mind what we're trying to do, some of them may think, ‘Hey, they're trying to steal part of our territory.'  But it's certainly not the case - we're simply trying to bring in some of the people who aren't covered at all.  Rather than worrying about people who are already members of other organisations, we're more concerned with those who don't currently belong to anything.  And we're not a trade association; what we aspire to be is a professional body."

Steve believes that the secret of reaching out to new members lies with the existing membership.  "We have to be more proactive in terms of putting the word around," he says.  The aim is to hit 500 individual and corporate members by the end of next year, and to re-establish the Society on a truly national basis.  He's confident that the demand is there.

But with all the changes in mind, there's absolutely no intention of radically reinventing the Recruitment Society.  "It will still be a broad church, with the usual line-up of excellent speakers," he concludes, "still a welcoming ‘home' for the UK's resourcing community, with unparalleled networking opportunities."

And of course, next year will see the Society celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of its foundation - a fact Steve was forcibly reminded of when he recently attended the AGR's fortieth birthday bash.  "We'll have to do something," he says, "probably turn one of our socials into a big celebration."  You heard it here first!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

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