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The Professional's Professional

DHI Group Helps Employers and Professionals Navigate the Minefield of Today’s Fast-Evolving Job Market

by Scott Alexander

As the U.S. economy improved over the last few years, some companies found themselves in an unexpected position when it came to hiring skilled professionals. High-level jobs were more plentiful, but the surfeit of roles created something of a “workers’ market” in the professional fields which made companies’ and recruiters’ jobs significantly more difficult, as well as precipitating widespread changes in the way talent needed to be acquired and managed.

According to recent labor market reports, voluntary turnover is at historically high levels in many markets indicating that today’s professionals are in the driver’s seat. Qualified candidates often have the power to be selective about how and where they are employed. “In professional services categories, recruiting and hiring have been stronger than the overall market,” says Michael Durney, CEO of DHI Group Inc. (NYSE: DHX), which serves as a leading provider of specialized websites and services for professional communities. “In categories such as health care and financial services, it’s been a workers’ market for some time.”

After the recession of 2008, the job market took longer to come back than it had it years past, Durney notes. “During downturns, there’s a sharp decline in the amount of voluntary turnover because people hunker down,” he explains. “No one wants to change jobs in a tough economic climate because when you’re the last one in, you’re potentially the first one out. Historically, when the environment improves, voluntary turnover slingshots back up.” But, Durney adds, even though the economy was rising, the expected bounce back didn’t happen in 2009, 2010 or even 2011. “It really took until 2013 and 2014 for the amount of voluntary turnover to accelerate,” Durney says, pointing to a slow-to-rebound housing market that kept home equity volumes low and continued to dampen employee confidence. “Today, though, voluntary turnover is at historically high levels in the better markets.”

And those historic highs are precipitating a sea change in the way hiring is handled. “We’ve seen a major increase in what companies and recruiters are doing to attract talent over the last 12 to 18 months,” Durney says. “Talent sourcing has really become more of a strategic initiative than the simple corporate function it once was. Companies no longer just recruit around open positions. They’re engaging in ongoing dialogue with communities of potential employees, making an effort to establish themselves as employer brands.”

Durney likens the change to the advent several years ago of sophisticated customer relationship management (CRM) tools in the sales world that created whole new businesses for such companies as Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) and Oracle (NYSE: ORCL). “You’re starting to see that in the recruitment business,” he says. “They’re calling it ‘talent relationship management.’ ” Durney believes that the current market makes DHI’s specialized focus on each of the professional communities it serves more relevant than ever. “We think our deep focus and specialization around professional communities gives us a leg up in how we find talent and how we help companies interact with talent,” he says.

DHI Group Inc

DHI Group (formerly Dice Holdings Inc.) has expanded primarily through acquisitions. Starting out with Dice (a leading digital career resource for technology and engineering professionals that predates the Worldwide Web), the company made a string of 11 acquisitions since 2004 that placed it in specific, vertical professional markets that the company had identified as having the most potential upside.

DHI uses five criteria when evaluating these markets: Professionals must be highly paid; they must be difficult and/or expensive to recruit; there should be some kind of specific skill set, training or certification associated with the industry; there should be a level of community among its employers and professionals; and there must be high levels of turnover. Until now, only six industries have made the cut: technology (Dice), healthcare (HEALTHeCAREERS), hospitality (Hcareers), financial services (eFinancialCareers), energy (Rigzone) and security clearance (ClearanceJobs).

DHI’s sites are among the leaders in each of these verticals (in some cases, this is the result of merging several former competitors). But while DHI continues to search for acquisitions, Durney says there is significant opportunity to unlock within the businesses it currently has. The company is now moving into a deep operational phase, refining its focus around each brand by looking at opportunities that might help it expand geographically or increase each site’s “funnel.” The company’s recent rebranding as DHI Group underlines its strategy going forward. “We really wanted to eliminate the perception that we are a holding company,” Durney explains. “We want people to realize that we are really an operating company with a diverse portfolio of specialized websites and services.”

Durney says the name change was also spurred by the tremendous level of transformation the organization has undergone over the past several years. “We began as the Dice business nearly 25 years ago and have developed and expanded to serve multiple specialty verticals, with new products and services that will further expand our market opportunity. With that in mind, we needed a name that better represented the multibrand, globally unified company we have become.”

DHI’s new tagline, Delivering Hire Insights, is apropos, given the copious employment data the company has access to in tracking movements across all of its influential verticals. It embodies the company’s focus on going beyond simply acting as a résumé pool for both employers and professionals, helping employers efficiently find, engage with and recruit the most relevant talent, while helping professionals manage their career lifecycle.

Amid all the talk of rebranding, Durney is clear on one thing that won’t change: the way the individual sites operate. “We’re not changing the branding of our specialized websites and services, each of which provides unique value. In terms of the professionals we serve, their affinity and interaction is with the individual websites and services, and that won’t change.” In a brave new job market like today’s, a little stability goes a long way.

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