In my many years of following the staffing and recruiting industry, two cliches have come up now and again.
“Two and out or in for a lifetime.”
This term relates to the penchant of staffing and recruiting companies to hire freshly graduated college kids with limited experience and/or no job prespects in their chosen field. Often these young people would learn the ropes well enough to be functionally effective, then leave after a couple of years to hopefully greener pastures.
The high pressure of the job has a little bit to do with it, but it’s my opinion that hiring and training have more. This may explain in part why the staffing and recruiting industry has very high turnover rates among their own staff (studies by the American Staffing Association note that staff turnover rates can reach 70 percent or more). The flip side of course is that a certain percentage of people find the business to be a perfect fit for their own talents and skills and make a lifetime career of it.
But what I really want to talk about today is a second term.
This second term is a little more obscure. And it’s one I’ve seen applied to those in the recruiting industry in particular. The “desert flower” term implies that the recruiting firm or recruiter is of a type that only blooms when it’s raining orders. That they can’t survive in tough times — perhaps because they are too niche-focused, too small, too connected to one client or just too passive in their approach to recruiting and selling.
That recessions can be tough on recruiters and HR professionals in general is an understatement. In fact, according to recruiting industry author and trainer Steve Finkel, every recession from 1975 on has caused the number of recruiters to drop by 40 percent to 50 percent. In a media-hyped market where the news of mass layoffs of tens of thousands of people by GM, AIG, and other big firms take center-stage, the loss of thousands of recruiters and staffing professionals by ones and tens gets lost, but is no less important to those affected.
But there are those recruiting and staffing survivors out there who’ve been “been there, done that” and continue to prosper. They are not, and never have been, “desert flowers” who wait on the life-giving rain of orders from talent-starved customers.
They are mesquite trees.
If you’re not familiar with these hardy denizens of the desert southwest, know that the mesquite is a tough, fast-growing, drought-resistant hardwood that has proven itself to be particularly well-adapted to survival in tough conditions.
The mesquite tree is known to grow well in desert conditions when hardly anything else will. It can sink a tap root through rock-hard ground nearly 200 feet to get to water. Its pods served pioneers as a food source and its wood is among the best for smoking sweet-tasting barbeque, among other things. Cattle ranchers and farmers throughout the southwest will attest to the fact that the mesquite is one tough hombre, nearly impossible to get rid of.
In short, the mesquite tree is a revenue-producing survivor that never, ever gives up.
By now you’ve picked up on my analogy, and know which you are. If you’re a desert flower, you’ve been waiting for the orders to rain on you. How’s that working for you? I wish you well as you wait.
If you’re a mesquite tree, you’ve been very aggressively going after new business, working your customers to find unmet talent needs, expanding the envelope of your search and placement capabilities, looking for new water sources. If you’re a mesquite tree you are surviving now and setting the stage for your rapid growth when a better climate returns.
So, are you a desert flower or a mesquite tree?