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Managing Multinational MSP

Randstad’s Kelly Quirk sees APAC as a golden opportunity.

 
 
By Katie Kuehner-Hebert

For recruitment outsourcing providers such as Randstad Corporate & Managed Services, the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region provides a golden opportunity to show multinational companies how they can effectively hold on to high-performing candidates once they’ve hired them.
 
 
So says, Kelly Quirk, managing director for the London-based firm, whose job is to advise multinationals on better ways to engage their candidates to ensure that they’ll remain at the company.
 
 
The go-go atmosphere in many of the APAC countries has created a “candy store” atmosphere for qualified candidates there, who might stay just six months at one company before being lured by another with higher wages. Multinationals doing business there have got to come to terms with the differences between how candidates in their home countries might view them and how candidates in the region might regard them, Quirk says.
 
 
“There’s almost a degree of inflated confidence,” she says. “Companies say, ‘Of course, they’ll want to work for us, because we are X company!’ But over there, that’s not necessarily the case. They may not need to work for you—they can just as easily work somewhere else.”
 
 
Quirk advises her clients to engage candidates by offering them competitive training, development, and career progression. In some cases, that even includes welfare vouchers for their families.
 
 
“It costs around 75 per cent more to replace a candidate than it does to retain them,” she says. “So companies need to invest in finding ways to retain more through engagement.”
Quirk’s career of providing recruitment consulting and outsourcing services has taken a variety of intriguing detours. In the beginning, the human resources profession wasn’t even on her mind—the medical profession was.
 
 
In 1997, Quirk received a bachelor’s of science degree in biomedical science at the University of Portsmouth. But she soon set her sights on a career in the business world.
“From a very young age I’ve always been interested in what drives economics, and I’ve always been very entrepreneurial in my mindset and my outlook in life,” Quirk says. “I think medicine is a wonderful career path, but it’s defined by how long you’ve served in a job and only in a ‘dead man’s shoes’ can you progress. But I was very hungry to progress quickly, and you can’t do that in the medical profession.”
 
 
Instead, Quirk chose to obtain a Masters of Business Administration degree at the University of Southampton, while at the same time working as a recruitment consultant at Robert Half International.
 
 
“I thought to be taken credibly in the market, I needed to get an MBA and also get some life experience,” she says. “While working in my first job, I became familiar with HR issues. My interest in developing a specialisation in HR while getting my MBA was largely because I wanted to be an expert in my field.”
 
 
After receiving her MBA in 2000, Quirk moved to London to join Robert Walters PLC as a managing consultant. “I found a home with my MBA background, because I was recruiting other people with MBAs,” she says. “It was a meeting of the minds and I very much enjoyed that, and I ended up placing people within the HR sector.”
 
 
The firm then asked Quirk to set up an HR division, but she soon realised she had a conflict of interest.
 
 
For recruitment outsourcing providers such as Randstad Corporate & Managed Services, the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region provides a golden opportunity to show multinational companies how they can effectively hold on to high-performing candidates once they’ve hired them.
 
 
So says Kelly Quirk, managing director for the London-based firm, whose job is to advise multinationals on better ways to engage their candidates to ensure that they’ll remain at the company.
 
 
The go-go attitude in many of the APAC countries has created a “candy store” atmosphere for qualified candidates there, who might stay just six months at one company before being lured by another with higher wages. Multinationals doing business there have got to come to terms with the differences between how candidates in their home countries might view them and how candidates in the region might regard them, Quirk says.
 
 
“There’s almost a degree of inflated confidence,” she says. “Companies say, ‘Of course, they’ll want to work for us, because we are X company!’ But over there, that’s not necessarily the case. They may not need to work for you—they can just as easily work somewhere else.”
 
 
Quirk advises her clients to engage candidates by offering them competitive training, development, and career progression. In some cases, that even includes welfare vouchers for their families.
 
 
“It costs around 75 percent more to replace a candidate than it does to retain them,” she says. “So companies need to invest in finding ways to retain more through engagement.”
Quirk’s career of providing recruitment consulting and outsourcing services has taken a variety of intriguing detours. In the beginning, the human resources profession wasn’t even on her mind—the medical profession was.
 
 
In 1997, Quirk received a bachelor’s of science degree in biomedical science at the University of Portsmouth. But she soon set her sights on a career in the business world.
“From a very young age, I’ve always been interested in what drives economics, and I’ve always been very entrepreneurial in my mindset and my outlook in life,” Quirk says. “I think medicine is a wonderful career path, but it’s defined by how long you’ve served in a job and only in a ‘dead man’s shoes’ can you progress. But I was very hungry to progress quickly, and you can’t do that in the medical profession.”
 
 
Instead, Quirk chose to obtain a master’s of business administration degree at the University of Southampton, while at the same time working as a recruitment consultant at Robert Half International.
 
 
“I thought to be taken credibly in the market, I needed to get an MBA and also get some life experience,” she says. “While working in my first job, I became familiar with HR issues. My interest in developing a specialization in HR while getting my MBA was largely because I wanted to be an expert in my field.”
 
 
After receiving her MBA in 2000, Quirk moved to London to join Robert Walters PLC as a managing consultant. “I found a home with my MBA background, because I was recruiting other people with MBAs,” she says. “It was a meeting of the minds and I very much enjoyed that, and I ended up placing people within the HR sector.”
The firm then asked Quirk to set up an HR division, but she soon realized she had a conflict of interest.
 

“I felt the recruitment industry saw HR professionals purely as a way of soliciting business, while not truly consulting to them, and I was very uncomfortable with that,” she says. “I had wanted to be a trusted advisor, and I didn’t want to use their contacts to generate further business.”
 
 
Consequently, Quirk moved on in August 2001, but her path took an interesting turn into the technology field, as she became the head of e-resourcing for Complinet, a provider of HR and corporate governance software to financial service firms. Soon after she started her new job, the tragedies of 9/11 struck and Quirk’s job duties changed dramatically.
 
 
“After Sept. 11, the world changed in so many ways,” she says. “All of a sudden, the HR function was asked to provide information about employees. Companies needed transparency to know who they were hiring.”
 
 
At that time, however, some of the information gathering was considered to be at odds with the European Union’s Human Rights Act, and the right to privacy. Consequently, clients were looking for compliance software and services that gave them guidance on how to appropriately obtain employee information in ways that complied with the new money laundering laws.
 
 
Clients were also coming to Quirk to seek advice on where to find job candidates who were qualified to be “money laundering directors,” experts who could ensure companies were complying with the new laws. Consequently, Quirk developed a job board for such candidates at Compliance Online, a competitor that Quirk joined in 2003.
 
 
“It was quite an interesting foray in a very interesting time in the market—no doubt about that,” she says.
 
 
As head of business and commercial operations, she juggled job duties that were much broader than before, and she was responsible for putting in place technology and infrastructure to make the business flourish.
 
 
“But I really missed recruitment—I missed the dynamism and people,” Quirk says. “Also, I had been at small companies, and you get to a point in life when you realize, ‘I’m a big company person, and I really enjoy working in large organizations.’ ”
 
 
In 2005, Quirk reentered the recruitment industry by joining Hays PLC as its business development director for the Europe, Middle East, and Asia-Pacific (EMEA) regions. “Hays, a hybrid between an ad agency and traditional recruitment, was looking at very innovative ways of attracting candidates,” she says. “That was very different from the RPO world at that time, which was very transactional. We wanted to look at different ways that businesses can retain people, position themselves as their employer of choice, and increase engagement.”
 
 
Quirk’s career was also developing a more international bent. She was tasked to develop corporate accounts, sales, and managed services on a variety of continents. “I personally developed a lot in terms of changing cultures and business dynamics,” she says. “It was just a wonderful opportunity, in the right time in the right place. Then I realized my home was in talent acquisition, life cycle, candidate attraction, and candidate supply management. My heart is really there, and I realized that’s where my skills could be better used.”
 
 
Last year, Quirk joined Randstad Managed Services as managing director. “They were very honest and said to me that they were very big, have about £ 2.5 billion in managed service business, mainly in general staffing rather than professional staffing,” she says. “They then asked me to develop the value proposition to maximize Randstad’s strength as a global player in the outsourcing world. For me, it was the next step in my career and a wonderful opportunity.”
 
 
Quirk is responsible for running all aspects of the managed services division—corporate services, HR outsourcing, overseeing its technology providers, governance, finance, legal, and sales. Quirk is also responsible for overseeing the division’s recruitment consulting services to clients—“showing them how to improve their processes, improve compliance, reduce costs, and increase their delivery capacity.”
 
 
Randstad’s business is growing “very aggressively,” particularly in APAC, where virtually every Fortune 500 company is trying to lay down a marker and compete fiercely for top candidates, Quirk says. Randstad’s clients there include Deutsche Bank, Oracle, Qantas Airlines, DBS, Prudential, and Nokia.
 
 
Multinationals doing business in the region are looking to RPOs that are truly global and can handle increasingly complex tax regulations and employee regulations in multiple markets, while also leveraging economies of scale and best practices, she says. But perhaps even more importantly, multinationals need more thoughtful recruitment delivery in the region, as local recruiters are often too thinly stretched to adequately handle complex requirements.
 
 
“Organizations are continually seeking cost efficiencies, but more recently the focus has been on finding and retaining talent in a highly competitive marketplace,” she says. “In a mature market, candidates are proud of the brand they work for, but loyalty and employee engagement in this market changes.”
 
 
Employers need to be aware that engagement differs across markets and that, as a consequence, the supply and demand of talent can prove impossible to manage, she says. “They need to be more proactive in how they manage their people.”
 
 
Randstad produces “solution architecture” when it works with its clients, Quirk says. “We find out what is causing client pain and how to relieve it,” she says. “We make recommendations on how to restructure the process, and then we deliver the solution.”
“Clients are looking for change, and they want strong, robust, scalable authority in the market. We are one of the very few to have the size and scale that clients are absolutely expecting in today’s world.”
 
 
Quirk plans on staying in London for several more years to complete a number of mandates at Randstad. But then it’s off to live and work farther east. “That’s where the world is evolving—it’s a very exciting place,” she says. “I want to stay here until I can say Randstad is the leader and drives best practices in the market. Then I’ll look at where I can lend my skills in Asia-Pacific.”
 
 

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