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Revival keynote speaker Julia Ross explains why strong, innovative leaders are needed for business s

Innovation, efficiency-enabling tech and higher performing staff, led and mentored by strong and capable leaders, will be needed by any recruitment agency to survive what is quickly becoming the greatest economic crisis of our lifetime, says recruitment sector luminary Julia Ross.

But all is not lost, she insists, if agencies can be agile, unbundle their service offerings and pay increased attention to building meaningful contact with clients and candidates alike.

Julia, the Managing Director of Julia Ross Group, will be the keynote speaker at RCSA’s digital conference Revival, to be held online on September 17. It follows the very successful Reform conference held on May 28.

Latest data shows gross domestic product (GDP) - which is a strong indicator of a country’s economic health - in the US GDP dropped by a staggering 32.9% (quarter-on-quarter) in the three months to June 30, while in the UK it fell 20.4%.

Data for Australia’s GDP for the last quarter has not yet been released, but dropped 0.3% for the March quarter. New Zealand’s June quarter GDP has also not been released but dropped 1.6% in the March quarter. Both are expected to follow global downward trends for the April to June quarter.

“This the biggest GDP drop on record for the UK,” Julia said. “We are in unknown territory which is pretty scary and this is going to put a lot of businesses under extreme pressure and a lot of them will fall over.

“For recruitment businesses to survive, they are going to have to understand that there won’t be the same usage of recruitment agencies into the future; the key will be performing at a higher level than competitors.

“Clients and candidates will want efficient service and will need their hand held through this new world. It will take strong leaders to do that for staff, clients and candidates.”

UK-based Julia added that with less expected use of recruitment agencies, leaders who know how to manage the cost base, deliver efficiently and use IT effectively to free up time which can be used for relationship-building, will be the true drivers of success.

She speaks from experience.

Julia launched Julia Ross Recruitment in 1988, just as a catastrophic recession took hold across the world. It turned out to be surprisingly fortuitous as it pushed her to develop new strategies for searching and securing talent and clients while working in an economically challenging market.

“Everyone was recording a loss in turnover at the time of 50% or more,” she recalled.

“I knew I had to come up with loads of innovation to coax customers to me so I came up with Brekkie Temp where we would pay temps for four hours to come into the office of a morning and we would also feed them breakfast.

“The thinking behind it was we could provide a temp ready to go to any business which needed a temp if someone called in sick at the last minute.

“It meant we didn’t need to start searching our records for the right people, wait for them to get ready and then get into the city. We could just send someone in 10 minutes and generally, they all had work within a few hours.

“It was popular with our temps and allowed us to attract the best and offer clients the same.”

Julia laughs when she reflects on one leadership decision she made at the time which became legendary in recruitment circles - the singing receptionist.

“When someone would call the office, our receptionists would ask if they wanted to hear a song sung to them before they were put through to the person they were calling,” she remembered.

“It would be considered insane now but people loved it and as word spread, we received more calls and more clients and candidates.

“It was a silly concept but everyone was so depressed with the market at the time, we believed if we could cheer people up with a song, we should. It got us noticed and made clients happy at a horrible time.”

Julia, the first female solo owner of an ASX-listed business with Ross Human Directions, has received a host of accolades including BRW’s Leading Female Entrepreneur, the Telstra Business Woman of the Year’s Business Owner Award and NSW Chamber State Business Awards Sydney’s Chief Executive of the Year.

She now works as an “angel investor” in the UK, after divesting herself of Julia Ross Recruitment in 2013.

“Businesses need strong leaders now who can be innovative and make people feel better as well as understanding that delivering the personal touches for clients and candidates is more important than many people appreciate.”

The full-day Revival digital conference will be held online on Thursday, September 17 and participants receive seven CPD Points. Tickets for Members are $99 (plus GST for Australia) and $349 (plus GST for non-Members).

Bookings for the digital conference can be made here. For more information, contact Jodie Radley, RCSA’s Head of Events on 0421 636 762 or email

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