Insider knowledge

Written by
Changeboard Team

01 Mar 2013

01 Mar 2013 • by Changeboard Team


Paul Scott began his career in hospitality at Whitbread, starting out as a graduate manager. This took him to the US under the Marriott brand, before returning to the UK and to Whitbread’s bar and restaurant brands. By the age of 24, he was a general manager and accountable for a £2.5million P&L and 50 reports. “I didn’t fall into recruitment, I chose it,” he comments. “I was fortunate to have turned around a couple of Whitbread businesses into very successful operations. With that came more responsibility around recruitment, which I loved so much that I decided to pursue a full-time career in it.”

He then worked for a number of global HR recruitment businesses in the regions, before moving to London to be nearer clients in September 2008 when the recession broke. From there, he went on to help build two HR practices; one within a global recruitment company and the other for a smaller boutique banking search firm. In March 2011, Scott made the decision to embark on an in-house career to further his knowledge and expertise. He was appointed head of executive recruitment at Santander, where he helped design the end-to-end recruitment process and partnered the senior management team and executive committee in employing more than 50 executives during his one-year tenure. “When I joined, our forecast was to execute 20-25 appointments. Santander was looking for growth, so it ended up being double that. We implemented a robust assessment programme, putting everyone through a challenging and structured process to ensure we could secure the best possible talent both culturally and technically.” From there, he landed the position of head of executive recruitment – Europe for HSBC. “HSBC is a great brand and a fantastic bank. Managing around 80 mandates across Europe, we focused on service delivery, gender diversity and the best routes to market with continuous detailed analysis of data,” he says.  

Blueprint for growth

Although he’s ‘incredibly proud’ of his in-house years, Scott says it’s building businesses that really excites him, which has led him back to the consultancy world as managing director of fledgling recruitment firm Drake Fleming, the newest company to be born out of the Dryden Human Capital group. Established in 1996, Dryden Human Capital now comprises a portfolio of five recruitment and search firms. With operating offices in London, New York, Zurich, Mumbai, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Sydney, and plans in the pipeline for Singapore, the group currently has 100 employees and a turnover of £10million.

“Our chief executive, Matthew Jaquiss, joined 10 months ago. His vision is to introduce a portfolio of brands under the Dryden Human Capital group with different specialist areas. Drake Fleming is the first brand to emerge from that concept,” explains Scott. Scott’s mission at Drake Fleming is to build a credible boutique executive search and contingent recruitment practice with a global reach, focusing on HR and change management. Having been in the role for three months, headcount currently stands at 10, but Scott wants to triple this by the end of 2014 across the organisation’s international offices.

He believes what will set Drake Fleming apart from its competitors is a commitment to a set of five key values: collaboration, expertise, client service, commitment and integrity. While some might consider returning to agency to be a questionable move in a climate where organisations are increasingly focused on direct sourcing, Scott believes his in-house exposure adds credibility to the Drake Fleming proposition. “I understand how in-house works and what our clients expect, having been the client,” he reveals. “Delivering excellence in recruitment is not just about headhunting top talent, throwing it to the client, hoping interviews are arranged and sending an invoice. There’s much more to it than that. Clients and candidates demand a highly professional representation.” He adds: “‘Spray and pray’ won’t exist here – we want an environment based on trust. Our people are not slaves to our brand; they are individuals contributing to our overall success. I embrace the saying that a tree is only as high as its branches. Our employees have to do business in the right way. I’d rather someone did £200k ‘good’ business than £300k ‘bad’ business, because that bad £100k will come back to bite you on the backside.”

He is far from fazed by the current recruitment market, and tells me he actively embraces the changing landscape. Those who don’t, he says, will struggle to maintain client relationships and ultimately lose out. He argues that agencies need to appreciate how organisations now want to handle recruitment. 

Agency, RPO & direct sourcing model

“Cost and time to hire are important. Agencies must respect the direct sourcing model, appreciate where it contributes to the overall recruitment plan, and understand how they can fit in with that plan and do a good job,” he comments. However, Scott fears some businesses could be placing too much focus on cost-saving initiatives by introducing RPOs with not enough risk assessment against cost reduction. For Scott, the RPO model is a great concept which saves money, but he points out that they function at high volume and are often given limited information by their customer (the hiring manager).

This, he says, is purely down to workload, but without adequate information it’s difficult for them to attract the right talent. He explains: “When you have an on-site operation saving £10million a year in recruitment, but you don’t have all the facts, how do you know you’re not losing that £10million a year because you don’t have the right people appointed into the right positions? For example, if they only stay for a short while, don’t drive the efficiencies in the way you want, or they’re not best suited to the role but were all the business had to work with?”

Scott suggests that RPOs need the opportunity to talk more to the business and challenge for this information. Equally, agencies should not be afraid to challenge RPOs. “Ask questions you would ask the hiring manager: what’s the interview process, tell me about the business, what’s the culture, management style, performance measurable?” he advises. “At the same time, educate the RPO. Explain you want to do a professional job and this is a partnership. If it means taking up 15 more minutes of their time to understand the brief and be able to map the market properly, send relevant CVs and help with the wider recruitment objectives of the business you are recruiting for, so be it. Fastest finger first with a portal is not the way forward. It may work for some, so good luck to them.” Likening the in-house recruitment process to a complex mechanical operation, Scott believes that understanding the accountability of the in-house team is also key for agencies: “Internal recruitment teams and RPOs are under so much pressure to control the operation and cost, they don’t favour agencies talking to line because there’s a risk they cannot deliver accurate MI (management information) or show they are in control of recruitment process. “If you try to go straight to the client you are risking your relationship with the RPO and ultimately the client. Trying to bypass direct sourcing is not good business; we should all work in partnership. “For example, when I was at HSBC, gender diversity was high on the agenda with a focus on appointing more women into senior positions.

This is the kind of information we challenged suppliers on and reported to the wider market to show best practice. If agencies went straight to line managers, we wouldn’t know it was happening and ran the risk of missing out on the details. “Ultimately the common goal was to work in partnership with the in-house teams and agencies in forming trust. Once you have this in place, line management interaction can only be a good thing in capturing the details. Agencies should not only understand the clients’ needs, but also the objectives of the in-house team so they can help deliver against them – they are the customer after all.”

Fresh perspectives

So how does Scott intend to work in true partnership with clients, RPOs and candidates, and realise his aspiration of making Drake Fleming an international market leader in HR & change management recruitment? “Working in the banks, my eyes were opened. Too many consultants regurgitate the same old waffle that they’ve heard or read about the culture of an organisation or the commerciality of a CV. There are too many people just fudging it,” he argues. “We want to have sensible conversations with people who trust us, and who we can truly help. What’s right for us is to maintain a balance between delivery and values. That’s what I live for and what I’m here to do.”