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The 2010's. A good decade for the recruitment sector?


The 2010's. A good decade for the recruitment sector?

What a decade the 10’s was.

We saw the good, the bad and the ugly and just about everything in between.

The 10’s has also been a landmark decade for the recruitment sector, and no, not only because Camino Partners was launched (I had to get my little pitch in). So, what has shaped the recruitment sector over the last decade?


No matter what decade was to be reviewed, technology would be a key defining factor. Technological advancements will always have a significant impact on people-centric industries, and it is absolutely true that over the last decade they have had a profound effect on the recruitment industry.

Firstly, access to performance data has become increasingly widespread and staffing firms, particularly SME’s, have been able to put data at the heart of performance. The flip side to this though is that micromanagement has never been so easy. Given that 75% of employees leave because of their manager, the risks are there for all to see.

Artificial intelligence has begun to impact on the recruitment sector, particularly towards the latter end of the decade, but its full potential is far from being realised. Aligned with artificial intelligence, is the use of chatbots. At the beginning of the decade, there was a high degree of uncertainty around chatbots, but there has been greater acceptance of bots – this was as a result of technological developments making them more personalised to the consumer and thus increasing their value to an organisation.

AI, VR & machine learning is beginning to disrupt; the administrative processes are starting to become more automated. Recruiters won’t die, but mundane processes will allow us to spend time on true recruitment, with a strong emphasis on relationship building.

Social Media

Carrying on from the theme of technology we have social media. It became unavoidable in the workplace in the 10’s. Whilst it was around in the 00’s, social media has boomed in the 10’s, to the extent that research in 2018 showed the average daily social media usage amounted to 136 minutes per day. Each week, a person will scroll through more content on Facebook than the height of Big Ben, which is frankly staggering (particularly as I am not a Facebook user!). Social media has also had a worrying impact on people’s attention span, with the average attention span now standing at around 8 seconds. Humans now quite literally have worse attention spans than goldfish.

How has this affected the recruitment sector? The world has become smaller which has provided the opportunity for incredible brand exposure, both through targeted sponsoring (which was not as widely available in the 00’s) and organic content. The opportunity for content to spread & engage organically on social media has somewhat levelled the playing field between SME’s & large corporates. Conversely, managing employees’ social media usage during working hours as that daily average of 136 minutes must come from somewhere!

The development of social media has changed the face of employer branding. Whilst employers could largely control what was said about themselves, that is no longer the case. They now must live and breathe their values and social media, amongst other factors, has been a key driver behind that positive change.

Legislation Changes

The biggest piece of legislation to enter the recruitment sector of the last decade was, of course, General Data Protection Regulation, which became ‘affectionately’ known as GDPR. Prior to its implementation, there was a strong air of trepidation about the impact it may have on the staffing sector, with numerous firms scrambling to change their procedures. But, GDPR has been great for the sector. It has allowed for a more engaged database which has, in turn, helped to improve the perception of the sector. If peoples’ data is safe and not being misused…

Our Head of Operations & GDPR lead, Natasha South, has written an article on the benefits of GDPR, which you can read by clicking here, but ultimately, GDPR has had a hugely positive impact on the sector.

The latter part of the decade saw the stumbling introduction of IR35, which did not have any significant impact on the recruitment sector in the previous decade, despite much being made of it. Much like Brexit…

Employee Well-being

The recruitment sector has long had a reputation for being high-intensity, high-stress and long hours. Traditionally, this has been a driving force behind the industry and viewed as being ‘part of the job’ with little understanding and regard as to how that type of environment may affect employees’ mental health.

The Government’s 2019 ‘Thriving at Work’ report into mental health estimated the cost of poor mental health to UK business is between £33bn to £42bn per year and a recent survey identified the recruitment sector as the most stressful working environment with 80% of consultants claiming to be stressed at work. Whilst these statistics are clearly alarming, it is a positive step that we now have access to these figures, it provides us with insights into just how important employee well-being truly is and gives us a measuring stick to see how we can improve.

There has been a realisation over the last decade, as business leaders learn more about mental health, that looking after your employee’s mental well-being has numerous positive effects on a business, such as improved company performance & employee retention.

Technological developments in the past decade have enabled employers to have flexible working options to help improve employee well-being. But there is much work to be done.

If the 2010’s was the decade for understanding there was an issue with employee well-being in the recruitment sector, the 2020’s should be the decade employee well-being & flexible working comes to the fore. At the start of the 10’s, such widespread remote working in the recruitment sector was unheard of, but now flexible & remote working options are almost a prerequisite.

Rise of RPO & MSP’s

The performance & growth of RPO & MSP recruitment models has been a defining factor of the decade as they have consistently seen double-digit growth throughout the 10’s.

High volume, low margin recruitment was largely dominated by MSP & RPO’s, which in turn, has led to the rise of niche SME’s, businesses which are set up to be an inch wide and a mile deep. This trend, along with the recruitment sector’s low barriers to entry, has meant that by the end of the decade the number of recruitment agencies being registered each year increased by around 500% compared to the start of the 10’s.

The rise of RPO, MSP & niche agencies in the previous decade has enabled a move towards ‘true consultancy’, more akin to professional services such as management consultancy & lawyers in providing statements of work.

Cold calling, or a lack of it

Although the art of ‘cold calling’ is a dying one (something which breaks my heart!), there is still immense value in picking up the phone to make effective BD approaches. Whilst technological advancements and increased methods of communication have become available, they have often been used as excuses to avoid cold calling, when they should be seen as enablers, to allow informed calls to be made rather than traditional ‘cold calls’.

All in all, the 10’s turned out to be a progressive decade for the recruitment sector. But what do you think? What are the main changes you noticed in the staffing industry over the last decade?

As I mentioned in my original LinkedIn post (add click here), understanding the past helps to inform us on the present & the future, so keep an eye out for a future post where I’ll be going out on a limb and predicting what the 20’s will have in store for us.