Hays, SThree and Robert Walters.

Between them they operate in 76 countries, employ over 15,000 workers and generate over a billion in annual profits.

After pouring over their annual reports we pulled the key insights and takeaways for UK agencies.



The labour force is evolving as we transition into a global workforce and a digital economy.

Accelerating contract and temp growth

This in-turn is creating a modern mobile workforce that is more flexible, project based and durable in turbulent economic times.

“The worldwide market is benefiting from a structural shift towards highly skilled freelance roles in a number of sectors and is set for long-term growth.”

This is reflected in their 2016 financial report which shows the contract and temp market accounting for 58% of their net fee.

Emerging markets

Outside of their core countries (Australia, Germany and the UK), Hays have identified several emerging structural growth markets.

  • 39% of the Group’s net fees are generated from these areas which include Germany, Latin America and Japan.
  • Switzerland, France and Japan reached “real scale”
  • Spain, China, Belgium and New Zealand earmarked for rapid growth.

The German Opportunity

Germany was highlighted for its opportunity as a less mature market.

Despite being a developed economy it is unaccustomed to outsourcing recruitment. Hays estimate that as little as 20% of addressable skilled roles are filled by external recruiters.

They ramped up investment in the summer of 2015 adding 1,200 consultants, with a specific emphasis on targeting the SME client sector.

As the German market improved during the course of the year, their investment delivered quick returns, as they had  the capacity to respond.

They hope to replicate their success in IT contracting in Germany to other favourable markets including Japan, France and Canada.

“We expect contract to become a more important part of many of our businesses around the world.”

Training & investment

As a global leader in recruitment Hays have found a successful recipe and exported it across the world.

To practice this Hays rolled out 4,000 days of training across their business in 2016 and invested heavily in cutting edge technology.

Data science and its assistance in building relationships from their multi million populated database will play a major focus for recruitment in 2017.


They cite the skills drain, establishing a new presence in niche specialisms and adapting quickly to changing regulation or new environments as their main concerns.

Disruptive technology, in-house automated tech and failing to innovate also poses a threat to modern agencies.


Robert Walters 

An increasingly specialised workforce in a shrinking talent pool is driving demand and value for recruitment agencies.

Access to a specialised pipeline

“In talent short markets, specialist recruiters can excel”

The rapid movement of technology and digitsation into all industries is changing the needs of businesses as skill sets become increasingly specialised.

  • Digital channels fueling demand for niche developer skills like Ruby and Java.
  • Focused professionals looking at UE and UI.
  • New markets such as fintech are creating demand for hybrid skill sets.

An international opportunity

Robert Walters specialise in building international pipelines in both emerging and mature markets.

They choose markets that represent long-term growth opportunities and identified Indonesia as one of the biggest global opportunities.

  • Among the fastest growing middle classes globally
  • One of the fastest growing economies
  • An anticipated shortfall (55%) of senior management over the next decade
  • A huge digital adaption with 67% of purchases made on mobile (more than the US)
  • A desire for international English speakers as only 10% of natives possess business level fluency in English.

Their ability to outperform competition is rooted in having their hands in an international and local talent pool, and the infrastructure of a successful global agency.

“The support from our internal functions like finance, IT and marketing is also something local competitors can’t match, and it enables our consultants to focus on recruitment and building long-term business relationships.”

Robert Walters have established themselves as the primary specialist international recruiter in Japan.

They did this by capitalising on the national shortage brought on by an ageing population and almost full-employment.

  • Supplied the most pressing need for bilingual professionals.
  • Low immigration and extremely high employment held the door open for international pipelines.
  • In Tokyo there are two jobs for every candidate.


The global staffing group recognised the opportunity opening up in contract five years ago and pursued it. At the time their gross profit share was evenly split between a contract and perm focus. Fast forward five years and they now boast a market split that’s weighted two-thirds in favour of the contract market. Their runners have now grown by 77% with gross profit up 8% in 2016 alone. Germany and France are highlighted for their GP growth in contract with a 22% YoY growth Germany and a 16% respective rise in France

Sectors to consider

Findings suggest that ICT, life sciences and engineering are propping up a decline in banking & finance and energy.

The oil market remains in the doldrums and is unlikely to resurface anytime soon, which have led businesses to diversify into renewables and power generation.

  • ICT accounts for 46% of gross profit
  • Focus on disruptive models in healthcare
  • Data analytics a fertile market

To thrive in these markets they suggest that agencies need to be decisive and proactive in leaving shrinking, or over commoditised, niches.


  • Technology is changing the way work and creating new markets with an increasingly specialised workforce.

This in-turn is creating greater demand for external recruitment with access to specialist talent.

  • The labour force has become global and mobile.

Which is why agencies need to build their pipelines deeper and wider and look to the opportunities in emerging international markets.

  • Opportunities in contract are overtaking perm as economic uncertainty and the way we choose to work evolves.

Agencies need to have the infrastructure in place to meet the growing hunger for contract demand.