Spotlight on: James Lloyd-Townshend, CEO of Frank Recruitment Group

Frank Recruitment Group is an international specialist technology staffing business based in the UK. It is backed by the Private Equity firm TPG Growth, which has also invested in Uber, Airbnb, Survey Monkey and Spotify. We caught up with CEO James Lloyd-Townshend to find out more about the future of the business and the recruitment industry.

Mishcon de Reya: How has recruitment in the technology sector changed since 2006 when the business was launched? How has the sector evolved from an employer’s perspective?

James Lloyd-Townshend: The biggest change in recruiting over the last decade or so is the shift in the job search power dynamic. It’s not just about candidates showing off their worth anymore; they know what they want and they’re not afraid to ask for it. Today, employers must compete to attract top talent and really sell themselves and their culture too.

Mobile has also changed things significantly. Websites and apps must now be mobile-responsive, and the speed at which business moves has increased because of mobile usage. In the recruitment sector, finding the best candidates is mainly down to timing. We often communicate via WhatsApp with candidates because it’s fast and easy.

Mishcon: You have offices in Europe, the USA, Australia, and Asia. How are the recruitment landscapes different in these regions and how do you see them evolving?

James: To some extent, recruitment is recruitment wherever you go; it’s supply and demand. The key thing is to offer the best service. We aim to provide a frictionless service, stronger niche candidates and a faster turnaround than our competitors.

That said, location does matter, and we are intentionally investing in areas that have seen recent tech growth and have a promising future on the horizon. We’ve just opened a new office in Cologne and we’re due to launch one in Arizona – which is one area that’s seen drastic growth in the industry recently – early next year.

Mishcon: As a firm working closely with technology, how does Frank Recruitment Group leverage technology to fulfil its mission of ‘global leader in niche technology consulting’?

James: We actually use phone and email for the majority of our work because of the nature of recruitment and the crucial human element in sales. Still, one of the best things about a career in tech is the speed at which new technologies are released, or existing ones are improved. This means that there are always opportunities to learn and identify ways to make your systems and processes run more efficiently and more effectively.

We recently implemented Salesforce across the company after we realised we were outgrowing our old system. Because of our expertise as a company in the software – one of our brands recruits for Salesforce exclusively—and a brilliant team, our project became the fastest implementation ever seen by Salesforce’s UK and Ireland team.

Mishcon: Could you talk more about your CRM Salesforce platform?

James: Implementing a new CRM is a huge undertaking for any organisation, but the timing was right as we needed something that could scale and grow with us. Our sales teams had to be able to connect with our customers with speed and accuracy on a local and global level. We worked with partners and niche consultants to create a process which allowed us to migrate our CRM system in just over three months. Salesforce is now the beating heart of our organisation, and it’s great to see it being adopted so enthusiastically by our staff.

Mishcon: How can AI be incorporated into recruitment processes?

James: The challenge with AI at the moment—especially when it’s used for things like human selection process—is that it’s still quite an immature technology. We’ve heard of the issues Amazon recently had with accidental biases; you have to be very careful. For us, every jobseeker and business is unique, and it’s our team of people and the human touch that makes us so successful. That’s not to say we won’t incorporate it into our processes as the technology improves, however.

Mishcon: How are you approaching the changing labour market, where freelance work and the ‘gig economy’ are becoming more common?

James: We completely embrace freelance and contractor work and, in fact, a significant portion of our business comes from these types of roles. The main reasons we see clients looking for contractors rather than permanent candidates are headcount, super-niche skills and experience, project-specific work and overall cost. Another thing we hear on a daily basis from clients is “I need help and I need it today,” so we often need to source and place candidates at short notice.

Contractors are perfect for this, and we can usually find someone in just 24 hours, as the interview process is typically shorter, allowing contractors to hit the ground running when they start work on a project.

Mishcon: Diversity is an increasingly important topic in recruitment. What part is Frank Recruitment Group playing in that story?

James: Diversity is currently a huge topic – not just in recruitment, but in tech specifically. We have a number of proactive, targeted diversity and inclusion strategies in place to combat inequalities and improve our own recruitment process. One way we’re doing this is through supporting Capgemini in their Architects of Positive Futures mission to actively tackle inclusion issues in the workplace.

Gender balance is really important in tech and in 2017 we delivered the highest number of experienced female hires in our business. We are also the official recruitment partner for the 2018 Women in IT Awards which was held in January this year.

Additionally, within the Microsoft Dynamics ecosystem, we are one of the founding members of the Diversity in Dynamics programme. This will be the second year of our ‘returnship’ programme with key Dynamics Partners, where we find and train consultants who have been on an extended career break and are looking to get back into technical consultancy.