Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

RECRUITMENT SPOTLIGHT - Richard Barker, Director, Talent Locker

Onrec sat down with Richard Barker, the Director of Talent Locker. Richard launched Talent Locker back in 2015 to change recruitment for the better. To create a healthy environment where the individual matters. Where Consultants had a deep understanding of their clients’ and candidates’ hopes, aspirations and goals. Always guided by finding the right and best fit for both.

Onrec: How did you get started in recruitment and how did the idea of Talent Locker surface?

My background is actually in IT, and I worked as an IT Systems Support Analyst for many years before joining an IT recruitment agency. I had realised that while I enjoyed the technical side of IT, what I really loved about my role was building relationships with people, so it was the best of both worlds.

It was also in this role that I met Talent Locker’s co-Director Martyn Hurricks. We worked together for 10 years in this initially small recruitment agency which ultimately became a large, corporate listed PLC.

This experience led to the idea of Talent Locker. Martyn and I found that as our employer grew, they unfortunately lost the personal touch and strong relationships that we valued with our customers.

So, in 2015 Talent Locker was founded with the aim of creating an environment where the individual matters. Where we take the time to create a personalised experience for both clients and candidates.

Onrec: What exciting new trends are you noticing?

In the world of recruitment, retained business is booming. The time and input recruiters provide to their clients is being recognised and we can charge appropriately with an up-front fee for our service, as opposed to the more inflexible contingent model.

When looking at hiring trends, flexible and hybrid work continues to be the expectation from candidates. Salary and benefit expectations remain high, in line with inflation and cost of living.

An increasing number of organisations are open to hiring Outside IR35 contractors, as they have a better understanding of the legislation and appreciate the value of contractors for project work.

Onrec: What do you think will be the next big thing in online recruitment?

Chat GPT, or other AI processes and systems are definite game changers. Tech advancements in recent months have been huge and the potential for their support is undeniable.

We’re already seeing how candidates can generate CVs and cover letters through AI, so it will be interesting to see the impact this tech has on the end to end hiring process.

Onrec: Biggest challenges we face going into the second half of 2023?

The cost-of-living crisis and rate of inflation has meant that consumer confidence in the market has dropped, and it has become tougher to generate business.

People are nervous about hiring, and while the use of marketing and software is very important, it’s often necessary to bring it back to the basics.

In my opinion there is nothing better than a face-to-face meeting with a client for relationship building.

Onrec: How many people do you employ globally?

We saw huge growth in 2022 and are now a team of 17. There are currently 16 of us based in our centralised hub in Hampshire with offshore support in India.

A stat we’re really proud of is our staff retention. Our attrition rate is only 7%, which is incredible when compared to the industry average of 43%.

Onrec: Where do you see the recruitment industry in 5 years?

As mentioned previously, there will definitely be an increase in Retained recruitment, or an upfront payment structure. Recruiters are valuing the service we provide.

To be clear, this is not Executive Headhunting but a margin upfront split of circa 15-20% to cover the necessary costs to deliver a high-quality service.

Onrec: COVID hit the industry hard. How did you manage and adapt?

Tech, trust, and flexibility!

Tech - as meeting in person was impossible during the lockdowns, we needed to rely on technology to bridge that gap. Office365 and Teams were incredible as a temporary replacement for client calls and interviewing candidates. Our team would also meet regularly on MS Teams for quizzes and catch ups.

Trust - we’ve found that trust is a big factor in keeping productivity and engagement high. We genuinely trust our team to get the job done and don’t like to micromanage consultants. The results speak for themselves!

Flexibility - the pandemic had a real impact on flexible ways of working. It’s clear that workers can be just as productive at home as in the office. We have continued a flexible approach even post pandemic and are happy to provide any tech or equipment our team need to WFH. Many Talent Locker employees work from home on a Friday, we also have an early finish on a Friday, and work hours vary based on individual needs.

Onrec: Do you have any other plans to expand? And if so, where?

In 2023 our plan is to delve deeper into our current markets while continuing to provide our best-in-class service. We currently specialise in transformation, including Business Change, CRM, ERP, Cloud Technology, and Workplace Change.

As our team almost doubled in size in 2022, we are focused on helping these new team members learn and develop within their specialist markets.

From here we will organically grow our team, as market demand increases.

Onrec: What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self?

That’s a difficult one. I think the main one for me would be to take time to think through actions – don’t just react instinctively.

When I was younger, I had a tendency to jump in two feet first without giving myself time to understand, process, and think through an outcome.

Sometimes you need to take an hour or so to really think through a situation!

Onrec: What do you enjoy outside of work?

Exercise, running, spending time with friends and family, watching the wildlife at the lakes near my home, and just generally switching off from work!

Onrec: What is your career low and how did you overcome it? And what is your career high?

My career low would be the time I spent stuck in a big corporate company before founding Talent Locker. I was generating huge volumes of business with little reward, and it was a frustrating and disheartening time.

Without a doubt my career high has been starting and building Talent Locker with Martyn. I feel privileged to work in an industry I love with our fantastic team and am so proud of the culture we’ve built together.

          Mini Q&A          

 Onrec: If you were stuck on a deserted island, what 3 things would you take with you? 

Sunglasses, an unlimited supply of Rosé, and a pen and paper.

NOT my mobile phone.

 Onrec: If you could compare yourself with any animal, which would it be and why? 

A female lion – everyone thinks the male is in control but it’s the females who dominate the pride.

 Onrec: What was the last gift you gave someone? 

A skateboard for my son’s birthday.