Alex Martin Unpacks The Journey To Creating A Leading Recruitment Agency

In double quick time, Recruit Digital has leapt to the forefront of the tech, media and advertising sector for digital recruitment. We cornered Alex Martin, founder and managing director, and asked him to tell us how on earth he has created this niche agency in a market that is growing at a rapid pace. 

Alex, you've done well to build a strong brand in a helluva competitive marketplace. You're working with top corporate's and agencies across South Africa. As a relatively new entrant to the scene, what has been the secret to your growth? 

Whilst we’re a relatively young recruitment agency, we were actually the first in South Africa to position ourselves as digital-centric, and to specialise fully in this arena. Before we launched there were some traditional advertising recruiters, and also IT recruiters etc that have been around for decades, all having a little crack at digital, but without covering the full ecosystems and its various niches. Digital is much broader than most people realise and it touches all industries. It is no longer simply an arm of a marketing department. We realised this pretty quickly and expanded the client base beyond agencies and digital services companies. As a result we now recruit digital expertise for businesses in areas such as education, publishing, retail, finance, logistics, technology, property and numerous start-ups too, without forgetting marketing and advertising which is still a big play for us. Really, we cater for any business with a digital first outlook or product, or those undergoing digital or company wide transformation and innovation. I think once we fully understood the terrain, and putting together a team of intelligent and passionate recruiters and taking a fresh approach to the way we do things; we’ve been able to provide a good quality service and enjoyed the organic growth that followed. 

Digital skills are fiercely traded in South Africa amongst strong growth companies such as AWS, Jumo, Yoco and Zoona. This is an opportunity, but also a problem for medium growth companies such as digital agencies trying to hang onto their talent - what can be done to remedy this problem? 

Agency vs client-side for digital skills is an ongoing debate, although it depends what disciplines - marketing, tech, creative etc because they differ.  For the very scarce skills, such as development, its hard for an agency who bills on time to compete with a well financed start-up or corporate, but the skill level required differs greatly too. There will always be movement both ways, we’ve witnessed it, however more investment into training, apprenticeships, and helping the increase the talent pool will help great deal. Agencies can only set their stalls out as best they can and work on the positives they have within their offering, which in some cases are very appealing for people, especially the fun, creative and social characteristics that define agency culture. Not every dev wants to sit in the back-end of a multinational banking giant…


Do you agree with the statement that every company is becoming a tech company? (if you can, please elaborate why) 

I don’t think every company is becoming a tech company. For me, a tech company is one that builds technology products or services, and their technology IS their business. Amazon, for example, is a tech company. So despite the mass adoption of digital expertise and technology in today's businesses, a company like Pick n Pay on the other hand will remain a retailer, and selling products to people will always be its core business. Tech for them is an enabler to do more of this, and so the tech enhances or compliments their current business. 

Every company, though, should (if they haven't already) consider how to use technology and digital means to improve their success, and to reach business goals. Digital can be harnessed to improve everything from marketing, to customer/client engagement, new product or services, HR process, financial management, process and workflow, staff and workforce engagement, and data management. 

In today's landscape it is increasingly tough for companies to build a sustainable team - what secrets can you divulge for Heavy Chef's audience in identifying, inspiring and retaining top talent? 

I think it’s important for companies to play to their strengths, and realise that there are many factors people consider when looking for, and choosing a new job. Whilst the most obvious play for making a key hire is salary, the ‘package’ that is on offer is much bigger, and other things to consider are:

The Leadership Team, who are they, what can they offer (exposure to, training with, contacts, inspiration, leadership)

Company Culture, what makes yours special, why do people stay, why do your staff enjoy being there, whats unique about it. 

Training, career development and investment in people. 

Sign-on, Retention or project completion bonuses are becoming more common, as the war for talent continues.