The Ri5 interview: 
Talent Works International

The Ri5 interview:
Talent Works International


Since Ri5 last spoke to Talent Works International, it’s fair to say things have been progressing at a rapid rate for the business.

With a growing headcount, new offices in the UK and US, and a steadily increasing roster of clients – not to mention a recently established creative comms arm to the business - we caught up with global CEO Neil Purcell and head of brand and insight, Simon Thomas, to find out more about what they’ve been up to and what’s on the horizon.

As Purcell points out, the past 12 months have been busy for the team, but in a very positive way. “Our plans have really started to take shape,” he says. “We’ve launched our creative comms business, which is now a key focus for us, and it’s been a great success. 

“And from a growth point of view,” he adds, “we’re currently just over half way through our financial year and are looking at between 100% and 120% growth in turnover, profit and headcount for this financial year. It’s previously been anywhere between 50% and 100%, so we’re really benefiting from the changes we’ve made.

Much of Talent Works’ growth has been driven by new business, and a number of new people have been brought into the business to support that.

Purcell says: “We’ve hired Rob O’Brien as one of our new business team – he came in around three months ago and has made a great impact. He was previously based at Jupiter, so he’s also worked with our creative director Dan Birmingham before.

“Then there’s Vicky Grey, who joins as our new Head of Client Services – she was previously talent attraction manager at the Co-operative Group and has also worked agency-side previously, so will bring a wealth of experience from in-house and agency perspectives.”

In Purcell’s view, these hires – among others – help to build on Talent Works’ trend of bringing in people with experience and understanding of both the internal and external challenges of recruitment.

Crucially, Talent Works has seen growth across all three areas of its business – sourcing, brand and insight and its creative comms offering. But what’s most important in Purcell’s view is that the biggest growth has been across the business’ integrated solutions offering, which brings all of those three strands together.

In addition, the business has witnessed significant growth on both sides of the Atlantic. “We’ve seen huge growth across the US side of our business,” says Purcell. “We’ve acquired around 15 new clients over there, and five of those are making good use of our integrated solutions.

“We’ll also continue to invest heavily in the US, to follow the recent opening of our Boston office. We previously had a presence in Chicago and New York,” he adds, “but Boston will be our US headquarters and will be home to a team that currently consists of five people, but which we’re planning to increase to 15 or 20 during this financial year.

“And across the UK business, we’re aiming to bring in an additional eight to ten people in the next three months, and a further 25 to 30 over the next year.”

The headcount growth in the US has been driven by Talent Works’ success in the healthcare sector, where they have been busy building full employer brand and EVP offerings; and also carrying out significant work in broadcast media and technology.

In addition, Thomas emphasises how proud the team is of being responsible for sourcing the senior management team for the launch of Primark in the US, which took place in September.

Meanwhile, in the UK a highlight has been a large piece of research work carried out for Capita and the Army, which is currently underpinning their officer recruitment campaign.

And, as Purcell adds: “In the UK we’re seeing significant success in the technology space, whether it’s on the employer brand and EVP or sourcing side of things; and we continue to see growth throughout the FMCG sector - and of course we’ve also got a long-running history in banking and finance too.”

As far as the UK is concerned, Talent Works recently opened its Manchester base, and consciously took on a large space to accommodate the headcount growth that was planned.

With UK offices outside the M25, Thomas says the business has been able to tap into a considerable pool of talent that might not have been available had Talent Works been based in London.

“We think there’s probably been in underinvestment by organisations in the North West,” he says. “But we’re passionate about the talent available here – across all the areas of our business – and we’re delighted to be able to tap into that. That for us, is really exciting – to make an investment in the region and for everyone to benefit from it.”

And Purcell adds: “There’s a real benefit to not being based within the M25. The quality of the people we’ve been able to bring into the business from places like the North West has been exceptional. There’s an enormous hotbed of talent outside the M25 and we’re lucky to be able to tap into that.

“And not to forget our Northampton office, where we’re being joined by team members who might previously have been commuting into London but now don’t need to.”

As a business, the team’s focus is now to increase its profile in line with its current and predicted growth. In Purcell’s opinion Talent Works has, until now, been one of the industry’s best-kept secrets. “But,” he says, “we’re now at a point where we can put some real momentum into promoting ourselves and what we do. Our clients already know about us, but we’re also really pleased with the attention and awareness of our offering and brand that’s started to become apparent in the industry – this has helped us in making key hires for the business.”

Also on the horizon is further reshaping and additions to the team, in order to boost its client services offering. Purcell says: “While we already have a strong client service mentality running through the business, the next big thing for us will be our services proposition. Our client services function is now being reshaped to provide the best service for clients – and that will be a big push between now and the end of the year to bring a new structure and headcount into the client services operation which is central to everything we do.”

Finally, Thomas outlines another forthcoming project that is very much in line with the young talent agenda that’s a current hot topic: “We’ll soon be tasking our internal sourcing manager with setting up an apprentice and graduate programme during the next 12 months,” he says. “We anticipate this will accommodate up to five people across the business, and they’ll be encouraged to spend time across all areas of the business in order to the opportunity to experience all the aspects that might shape their future career choices. It’s something we’re all looking forward to.”

Monday, 16 November 2015

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