Interview with Steven Bryan – Health and Safety recruitment

Interview with Steven Bryan – Health and Safety recruitment


Cristian:Hi Steven and welcome.The today’s interview will be about HR in UK, and mostly about Health and Safety in the UK. So Steven, what does Bryan & Armstrong do?
Steven: Bryan & Armstrong is a specialist Health & Safety recruitment business, supplying Health & Safety professionals on an interim, fixed-term and permanent basis. We work on behalf of our clients to recruit people with the right experience, qualifications and soft skills to meet the needs of the business.  

SteveCristian: Are you only covering UK or foreign markets as well?
Steven: We are focused on supplying to the UK market because we are based in London and operate in a market driven by UK legislation and standards. Although UK legislation is derived from EU Directives, a lack of foreign language skills means that there is a limited market in Europe for UK candidates. We have supplied clients in the Middle East, but changes to visa legislation is making this more difficult and as the UK economy improves, we are finding fewer people based in the UK are willing to work overseas.

Cristian: From my own experience it’s harder and harder to find the right people for the job.
Steven: Yes Cristian, I would agree with you and I think that the problem is three-fold. Firstly, salaries and day rates have not recovered sufficiently since the recession to encourage people to move jobs. Secondly, there is a shortage of new entrants to the industry with the right qualifications or experience and finally, I think that the industry is failing to invest enough in training and development. Without a financial or career development incentive, people are now looking for a better work-life balance, flexible working or the opportunity to work on a consultancy basis.

Cristian: I think health and safety is a quite specific niche within the HR area. Who are the usual employers in the field?
Steven: Health & Safety legislation applies to all employers in all industry sectors, so we work with a wide range of clients – we have recently worked with a national newspaper, a coffee-roaster, an insurance company, a film studio and a central government department to recruit Health and Safety specialists. Although our service offering is specialist, the breadth of our client base keeps our work interesting and challenging.

Cristian: And the candidate profile?
Steven: Strong technical skills, a positive attitude and good communication skills are essential to a successful career in Health and Safety. There is no typical Health and Safety professional – people come to our industry with very different skill-sets, career history and levels of ability. We work with people at all stages of their career from entry-level to executive.

Cristian: When did B&A start? And did you always wanted to be in the HR business?
Steven: After 4 years working for a large international recruitment company, in 2009 Paul and I decided that the time was right to leave to set up in competition and Bryan & Armstrong was born. My career in recruitment was never planned – I just found a job that I was good at and enjoyed, learned my trade and then turned it into a business.

Cristian: Do you have to be different to succeed in the HR field? Or to put the question differently, when you started B&A did you have a clear idea about what does it take to succeed?
Steven: We set up the business with a clear idea of how we would operate and what we would need to do to make the company a success. We aim to offer added value to our clients, competing on quality rather than price – we want to be the best, not the cheapest.

Cristian: What would be your elevator pitch on B&A?
Steven: I would ask the other person who they work for and what they do – showing a genuine interest in other people is by far the best sales pitch.  

Cristian: How does the recruitment in the health and safety work? What are the steps for a candidate to get a good job?
Steven: The nature of the Health & Safety profession means that strong technical skills are essential to securing a good job. We find that good communication skills, people management experience and commercial acumen are all in high demand, as Health & Safety is increasingly seen as a business improvement tool.  

Cristian: And what is the typical wage one could get?
Steven: Permanent salaries range from £25K-150K and contract rates are between £150 – 750/day. Typically a Health and Safety Manager will earn around £50K or £250/day.

Cristian: I had a look on the list of your clients and I could see some big companies there. I always thought the companies have their own HR department. Why do they outsource to you?
Steven: We have 10 years’ experience, an established industry network and access to passive candidates. In a competitive, candidate-led market, our clients outsource to us because they know we can secure the best candidates quickly.

Cristian: When it comes to choosing the right people for the job, what do you think it’s more important: experience or willingness to improve and grow with the company?
Steven: A good Health & Safety Manager needs both experience in the industry and a willingness to learn because legislation and best practice is always changing. If I had to choose then I would say that experience can be gained, so a willingness to improve and grow with the company is the most important.

Cristian: Did the crisis change anything on the market?
Steven: I think that priorities have changed – we are finding that people are looking for job security and a good work/life balance where increased salaries are not available. We are also finding that there is increased competition for the best candidates.

Cristian: I’m wondering if the new generations coming after us are really employable in the same way we were. They seem to have different values in life and different goals. Is this true?
Steven: New people coming into the industry are not as motivated as previous generations to find a job for life or climb the corporate ladder – they understand that careers are more flexible, so are more focused on shorter-term career development and progression. Many people are now paying for their own professional development and have seen redundancies first-hand, so tend to see a permanent job as being a 3-5 year commitment.

Cristian: Any advice for a candidate looking for a job in the health and safety area in UK?
Steven: I think that the best advice is to get to grips with how companies work so you can really understand what drives the business and its employees – only then can you be effective in your role of influencing policy, and most importantly, the way that the company operates.