The Power of Retainers

During that time the UK – and the world – have gone through huge challenges, including:

  • 2003 The invasion of Iraq
  • 2008 Global Recession
  • 2018 Brexit
  • 2020 Covid-19

All of these have had varying impacts on markets.

2008 Global Recession

A declining economy led to huge numbers of redundancies with organisations across all sectors putting a stop to hiring.

Nearly 2.7 million people were looking for work by the end of 2011 and the quarterly unemployment rate hit 8.4% – its highest level since 1995.

Source: ONS


Fast-forward to 2020 and the global pandemic.

As Covid impacted every aspect of life, the use of the word unprecedented became almost as popular as baking banana bread.

As a professional recruiter, there was nothing in my armoury to compare the steepness of the drop-off in recruitment activity to.

Procurement and the pandemic

One thing that with hindsight is clear to see is how critical the procurement function was for many businesses.

The importance of procurement teams in organisations’ response to the pandemic is a clear theme in Procurement Heads’ Big Interview series.

“I think what stands us aside from many is we partnered to develop and supply a vaccine that met an immediate global pandemic need that was accessible to all.” John Dickson, Chief Procurement Officer at AstraZeneca

“We saw a 96% correlation between where our suppliers were based and where the cases of Covid were emerging and that got the focus of the business and where we need to be paying attention to our suppliers. From there we went into tracking key suppliers to key projects are they sustaining operations? Are they seeing tier one or tier two disruptions? We started to report that regularly along with mitigation plans we had put in place, pretty core really.” – Rory Lamont, Group CPO, Hitachi Rail

Covid clearly caused swathes of disruption.

Initially, economic inactivity caused by the pandemic created a vaster talent pool of immediately available professionals.

However, with the easing of lockdowns came an economic resurgence (albeit a moderate one) tempered by, among other things, Covid variants.

Organisations that had paused hiring campaigns were pushing on, and the pent-up demand to get back to business led to top talent being in incredibly high demand.

Companies who had previously had multiple candidates to pick from due to covid-redundancies were now faced with trying to attract the best procurement and supply chain professionals, most of whom were in multiple processes.

So, where does retained recruitment fit into this?

After the recession in 2008, the recovery took far longer, it was far less of a candidate’s market than we are currently seeing and therefore retained campaigns were, in my experience, less in demand.

Looking at the present day and across Heads Resourcing Group we have partnered with many organisations that understand the value a retained campaign can bring.

Recruitment as a professional service

I am an advocate of recruitment being viewed as a professional service, much like law firms or accountancy practices.

As professional recruiters, we value our time.

And I want businesses that partner with us to see the value in that.

A fragmented approach to recruitment won’t yield the desired results in the current market

We recruit permanent and interim procurement and supply chain professionals in the following ways:

  • Retained
  • Exclusive
  • Contingent

What is the difference between retained, exclusive and contingent recruitment?


With retained recruitment campaigns, the recruitment agency works on an exclusive basis and is paid upfront or a scheduled fee.


There’s no upfront fee involved but an organisation will only partner with one recruiter to fill the vacancy.


Multiple agencies compete to fill the job opportunity.

Retained campaigns are the ‘marginal gain’ of recruitment

As a cycling fan, I am a great believer in the theory of marginal gains, which Sir Dave Brailsford used to such a powerful effect with the British Cycling team.

Anything that gives your organisation a one per cent advantage over your competition is absolutely worth the investment.

At a time when standing out to candidates is challenging, partnering with a professional recruitment agency with the deep market knowledge and a stellar network that can represent your brand and sell your organisation’s culture is imperative.

If you are looking to hire procurement or supply chain professionals on an interim or permanent basis, we would love to offer you that marginal gain.

For a discussion about partnering with Procurement Heads on your next recruitment campaign, call us now on 01962 869838 or email us via

Alternatively, you can register your procurement or supply chain role here

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