Irish recruitment firm with global ambitions reaps the benefits of the economic upturn
Julian Kulkarni, CMO of Morgan McKinley, explains to John McGee the role marketing plays in its brand positioning
With 800 staff and 17 offices in nine countries worldwide, including China, the UK, Australia, France, Hong Kong, India and Japan, Morgan McKinley is one of Ireland's largest recruitment firms.
Founded in Cork in 1988 as Premier Recruitment by Kerryman Pat Fitzgerald, it changed its name in 2010 when it acquired Morgan McKinley. The group also operates two specialist recruitment brands, La Crème and Accreate as well as a M3S, which acts as an outsourced HR department. Londoner Julian Kulkarni is the group's chief marketing officer and joined Morgan McKinley in 2013 having spent several years as CMO of the Brussels-based trade show organiser Easyfairs.
How does Morgan McKinley differentiate itself from other recruitment brands?
"Every recruitment company will tell you that they offer high-quality service, but we take an interest in our candidates, and provide excellent service, even when they are not actively seeking a new role.
"Secondly, we are highly focused on specialist professionals, in disciplines such as accounting and finance, risk management and compliance, company law, internal audit, IT and HR. Many of our consultants have had direct experience in, or exposure to, these disciplines. Thirdly, we not only have a strong nationwide presence in Ireland but we also have a substantial global network, which is important because talent has become increasingly mobile."
How competitive is the marketplace for recruitment firms?
"It is a highly competitive marketplace and the way firms compete has changed dramatically. In the past, recruitment companies held all the aces in the pack - clients did not have the time or resources to go out looking for talent. Now, that part is easier as it's possible to find candidates online. The recruitment companies that tried to resist the rise of career networking sites, notably LinkedIn, have largely gone out of business. Our philosophy is different. The best high street travel agents continue to flourish, not in spite of all the online travel portals but because they have embraced them as part of their mission to provide customers with the best advice and the best value.
"We have done something similar in recruitment: we embraced LinkedIn not only as a valuable source to identify the strongest talent, but also to engage with talent over time. In fact, last year LinkedIn named us as the sixth-most socially engaged staffing agency out of more than 60,000 globally - which is not bad when you consider that other agencies at the top of the list are many times bigger than we are. But the recruitment business has become increasingly sophisticated, not least because candidate communities are increasingly diverse, as are the needs of hiring organisations.
"The group is focused on what we call 360-degree recruitment. Rather than managing only on a job-by-job basis we seek to understand a professional's complete needs and ambitions. As a 'career ally' we build long-term relationships with highly-specialised professionals looking to establish a clear lifelong career trajectory. This includes, for example, the thousands of hours we spend helping people to improve their interview techniques, even when they are not currently looking to change jobs.
"We also have a specialist office support division, called La Crème, and Accreate, which is the only Irish executive search company that offers extensive international reach through a global office network.
Finally, our managed services division, M3S, acts as an extension to a company's own HR or recruitment function, finding the best permanent and contract talent, often to within very tight deadlines."
What marketing challenges do you face?
"The distinction between our service and our marketing is rather blurred. Instead of advertising, we aim to provide useful insights and factual information to hiring organisations and professionals through our monthly employment monitors and our annual salary review.
"We also host many live events and webinars on topics of career interest, such as our Women in Leadership series, as well as very specific topics, such as agile transformation for the IT project community, or workplace litigation for our legal community. We are willing to contribute our knowledge and insights without asking for anything in return and people seem to appreciate that. As the group's global CMO with responsibility for our global digital, data and online presence, a key focus of mine is gaining insights into global talent pools and using that information effectively for both candidates and clients."
In terms of Brexit what are the challenges and opportunities for the labour market?
"There is still a lot of uncertainty and that is obviously challenging. On the other hand we have seen a slight uplift in the number of professionals, especially in financial services, who are more open to pursuing a career in Dublin, whereas pre-Brexit they might have preferred London. However, if the Brexit process becomes difficult, this may well have an impact on the Irish economy."
Which sectors are performing well?
"Virtually all technology and science sectors are strong. There is high demand for everyone from Java software programmers to food hygiene scientists. Elsewhere the picture is more mixed, but we are confident that 2017 will be a good year."
Sunday Indo Business