How Konnekt Is Helping Clients Win The War For Talent

Marie-Claire Grima - 12th December 2018

"The crux is understanding the client’s operational business and what they need in terms of recruitment, as well as what the candidate wants," says Lara Camilleri, Konnekt’s Finance and Legal Recruitment Manager.

With Malta’s economy growing at such a rapid pace, the problem of skill shortages in Malta has become extremely pronounced across all industries. Indeed, 64 per cent of respondents to this year’s EY’s Malta Attractiveness Survey stated that they had encountered difficulties finding or recruiting the personnel that they needed, an obstacle which often ends up hindering the company’s own growth or progress. It comes as no surprise, then, that the services of Konnekt, one of Malta’s first-ever recruitment agencies and still one of the market leaders in its field, are in such high and urgent demand.

Back in 2007, the agency was made up of just two people. “We’re now close to 40 people in the company,” said Lara Camilleri, Konnekt’s Finance and Legal Recruitment Manager. It started off as a generalist recruitment company, before setting up specialised categories in 2015 – one for IT and iGaming, and one for Finance and Legal, the department Ms Camilleri heads, whilst retaining its generalist recruitment arm. Besides recruitment, Konnekt offers clients a diverse array of ancillary solutions, including salary benchmarking, payroll services and a job board. “When we get a new client, we meet and get to know them so that we can understand their business, and get a good feel for them,” Ms Camilleri explained. “That helps us when it comes to sourcing candidates. If we understand what the company is after, we can match them up with candidates who have the right strengths and aspirations, and who can offer the company what they’re looking for. The crux is understanding the client’s operational business and what they need in terms of recruitment, as well as what the candidate wants.”

In fact, Konnekt has often made effective placements simply on the basis of knowing the client very well, consequently spearheading growth for the company that makes use of its services. “Sometimes we put forward a candidate that a company doesn’t necessarily have an active vacancy for, but we consider the person to have good and relevant talent for the company in the short- to medium-term future. I once connected a lawyer to a law firm which did not practice in the lawyer’s specific area, but I could really see a fit between them. The client was so pleased with the candidate that they actually opened up a new line of business and practice area, which was set up and developed by the candidate we had recommended.”

Indeed, the depth of this client-candidate-agency connection is what makes Konnekt so unique in the world of recruitment. “When we see clients who are seeking a relationship that is simply transactional, we stop the relationship right there,” Ms Camilleri said. “We want to build and maintain an advisory relationship with our clients. If they’re not responsive, not giving our candidates feedback, we halt the process.” This kind of trust allows Konnekt to be honest and transparent with clients, even when it’s difficult. “If they come to us with a vacancy, and they have unrealistic expectations – the salary is too low for the market, or the role is too broad to be handled by one person – we tell them. It’s not easy, and it can be frustrating, but it’s the right thing to do. Doing the right thing is something we live by – all this is what makes us different.”

Lara Camilleri, Finance and Legal Recruitment Manager, Konnekt.

Having a professional, straight-talking and perceptive recruitment agency on one’s side is an asset for any company in Malta, which is experiencing what Ms Camilleri described as “a war for talent”, particularly when it comes to millennial candidates. “Members of our parents’ generation used to spend 10 or more years in the same company. Some employers still expect that from their employees, but that rarely happens anymore – it’s an unrealistic expectation. Nowadays, the average lifespan of a job is less than two years, particularly for entry-level or mid-level jobs. There’s a tremendous amount of staff turnover; in fact, data from JobsPlus states that 47 per cent of individuals aged between 25 and 39 changed their jobs in 2017. The number of new start-ups has mushroomed, and the iGaming industry has significantly shifted the market, making it difficult for smaller companies in different industries to compete. In general, it’s a candidate-driven market, whether it’s salaries, demands, or expectations from the company. Nowadays, we have clients who make job offers on first interview, because they won’t want to miss out on a star candidate.”

The financial services market has seen a 25 per cent growth since 2013, and in a market where competition is rife, talent is extremely valuable. Ms Camilleri emphasised the importance of handling the recruitment process with grace and courtesy, and building lasting relationships with interviewees, even if the candidate is not precisely what the company is looking for. “A candidate you refuse today can easily be one of your employees tomorrow. They may not have the experience you need for the current active vacancy, but they could be perfect for a role you may have in the future. This is why it is extremely important to handle candidates with care throughout the process. In reality, with candidates effectively being spoilt for choice with opportunities, the employer is being ‘interviewed’ just as much as the candidate is. So closing off an application by providing feedback in the right manner could mean that you are still the employer of choice in the near future.”

This also applies when a valuable employee is leaving the company. “When you have an exit interview, the focus tends to be on why the candidate is leaving. While that’s important to know, you should also find out what kept them at the company, what made them love their experience working there. If they have a good exit, and if they maintained positive relationships with managers and colleagues, chances are that they may come back to the company eventually – in the industry, they’re known as ‘boomerang employees’.”

While social media may have us believe that what people want most from their workplace are in-house breakfasts and daily smoothies – and indeed, Ms Camilleri said that some people do inquire about such perks – a much more important element for attracting and keeping employees is making them feel supported and valued at their place of work. Study leave is something that is frequently sought after, and some companies are more than happy to oblige. “That element of flexibility makes candidates feel that they’re being heard, supported and valued.” Beyond that, Ms Camilleri added that people want to work for a company where they can spread their wings. “Most millennials want to progress. They don’t want to be stuck in the same role for a long period. They want to know what their options are, and where they can grow, where they can be in a few years’ time.”

What has kept Ms Camilleri at Konnekt – a place of work where she herself has had the chance to grow – is the potential that recruitment has for changing someone’s life. “Sometimes you come across a candidate who’s unhappy in their present role, but you can see so much potential in them. When you find the job that they’re looking for, they’re immensely grateful and the client is so happy with them – it’s the most fulfilling thing. This reality is even more amazing when you see those individuals grow within the business you would have appointed them in; it is a truly priceless feeling. In recruitment, there’s a lot of rejection, and you need to have thick skin to handle it well, but the other aspect of it is certainly rewarding, and it makes it all worthwhile.”

This article originally appeared in The Malta Business Observer

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