Despite a year of political uncertainty and recent reports that we may see a slowdown in economic growth rates in the UK, the staffing sector continues to attract new players to the industry. In 2016, there were 4,529 new recruitment businesses registered in the UK alone and we have witnessed many new entrants to the sector across Europe over the last 12 months.

The market is becoming increasingly competitive and niche startups are putting pressure on all of us to think differently, to invest in new technologies and, quite frankly, to up our game.

In addition to facing competition from new entrants, the recruitment sector — along with most markets — will continue to see change and disruption from tech companies that want a piece of the staffing pie. According to a recent MIT study, 90% of companies believe their core business is threatened by new digital competitors that are challenging their products and services. Google Jobs, for instance, brings both opportunities and challenges to the way that we do business.

So, how can recruitment companies differentiate themselves in an increasingly crowded market? Here’s our strategy.

In a very competitive market, our goal is to avoid the “fee war”. Instead, across the 20 brands in the Impellam Group, we focus on our mission to “provide fulfilment and a sense of purpose for our people and candidates and help our customers build better businesses in a changing world”.

Trust is in crisis around the world, according to the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer. The general population’s trust in business, political parties, nongovernmental organizations and media has declined broadly since 2012. Our own industry does not always have the most trusted reputation due, in part, to a continual desire to compete on price rather than find the best solutions for our candidates and customers.

Impellam’s vision is to be “the world’s most trusted staffing business”. We seek recruiters who put our candidates and customers at the heart of everything they do and who believe in providing a sustainable solution for the long term. This helps us to build trust and loyalty with all our stakeholders.

In order to achieve this, we focus on the development of our own people so that they can become true specialists in their sectors. This enables them to connect with the best-quality candidates and tune in to their customers’ real needs. This focus has been central to our strategic approach for many years and we are now seeing this resonate in our conversations with clients about how we can work with them to improve their business outcomes.

If we look at the managed services market, our customers are increasingly focused on value-add and positive outcomes over cost alone. Our own research shows that only a few years ago, the No. 1 driver for choosing an MSP provider was centred on cost reduction and process simplification. Clients now regard this as merely a ‘hygiene factor’ and something that should be fulfilled under any MSP contract. Our clients increasingly look for innovation, and they want to partner with organisations that can offer them strategic insight that will result in improved business outcomes and in turn, help them to stay ahead of the curve and competitive in their markets.

Like all businesses, our customers grapple with the values vs. value debate — still searching for cost-effective solutions but also recognising that it is engaged employees, true specialists (who come at a premium these days) and those who will share their company’s values that will ultimately help their business to succeed.

So, as the market continues to crowd and the many startups and tech companies force us to be even better at what we do and clearer about the value we create, Impellam’s focus will remain on people, values, innovation and our mission and vision. This is how we will continue to add strategic value for our customers, build trust and help them to find the talent they so desperately need.