Attract and Retain the Best Recruiters for Business Growth – Part Two

TransformAs a recruitment company owner, how do you successfully negotiate transforming the small, ‘lifestyle’ business you created into the bigger, ‘corporate’ business it’s becoming?  In the second of three blogs, Chris Orkney, Sales Executive at Bond International Software, looks at how to manage the transformation – from using ‘lifestyle’ perks to incentivise staff to finding a true vision for the future…

In the first blog of this series, Chris discussed why recruitment business growth and transformation is natural and where the appeal lies for recruiters in joining companies from, or soon after, their inception.

Managing transformation

I’ve seen a number of cases where ‘lifestyle’ to ‘corporate’ business transformation resulted in consultants leaving.  In one, five people had been with the company for four years and, following the transformation, only one remained. 

Recruitment isn’t a 9-5 job, recruiters invest in blood, sweat and tears.  If people have been with a company since its inception and worked their way up, when new people are brought in (especially in positions above theirs) it can feel like a slap in the face.  They look at their years of input and feel they’ve lost out because they didn’t fit into the new model.  I’ve spoken with a number of recruitment company owners who said they felt that way in the past.  This is one reason why there are now more new start-ups than ever before.  When consultants’ becomes ‘dispensable’, they often think ‘I’ve been billing well for this company for years and I’ve been overlooked – I’ll start my own company.’

Changing rules

As a business moves ‘corporate’, change can be inconsistent.  Sometimes it’s about the numbers a consultant is billing and sometimes it’s about the perception of their work.  If a consultant is billing well but they’re occasionally late into the office, that could lead to disciplinary action considered unusual and heavy-handed due to their previous experience.  In the ‘lifestyle’ phase, hitting target then arriving at 9:05 the following day would probably be ‘something and nothing’, however, now the business is changing, junior consultants may see that as a senior undermining the rules.  In a ‘corporate’ business, seniors must set the right example – everything is monitored, scrutinised and micro-managed because, if the business has a couple of bad months, it’s not just a couple of bad months anymore, it might be something the business can’t actually bear. 

Managing costs

As businesses grow, they can’t afford to shrink – so they instinctively micro-manage due to fears of increased costs per desk.  Which is understandable, especially considering how a consultants’ desk costs their salary, mobile phone, recruitment software license*, job board licenses, electricity, office rent and so on – if a consultant leaves, all the other desks become more expensive as a result and the pressure only increases.  On the other hand, the more consultants fitting into the office, the better – as long as they’re billing, the cheaper they become – adding ‘buying power’ with the suppliers to the business. 

Use ‘lifestyle’ to incentivise

If a consultant joined the business for its lifestyle aspects and you want to keep them through the transformation, find out what actually makes the lifestyle for them – and make it contractual.  If they hit target, their reward is that lifestyle perk – flexi-time perhaps – and if you do it for one person, do it across the company.  Then it’s no longer a case of one person setting a bad example if they arrive late, its one person reaping a reward…which is available to everyone else. 

If adjusting to change is proving difficult for a consultant they will probably leave, but with lifestyle perks they have an incentive to stay…and keep delivering for you, not one of your competitors.

Find your vision, then be open and honest about it

The main thing is to be open and honest – with every single member of staff – about what’s happening, why it’s happening, what your vision is and how they fit into it.  When the time comes, don’t promise the world, assure people they’re part of the bigger picture but tone it down.  If you want people to prove themselves first, give them a progression plan detailing where they fit into your short, medium and long term plan.  The ability to negotiate at this stage is imperative because if you over-promise, you’ll have a disgruntled consultant and if you under-promise, you’ll have a leaving consultant.    

One of my biggest tips: as your company is approaching transformation, find someone who’s an expert, who’s done it umpteen times before and can help your business through it unscathed.  You might have to give them part of your company, but it’s better owning 90% of something amazing, than 100% of something that’s failing.

*Considering recruitment software license costs when your business changes, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how, with AdaptUX OnDemand, if you start with, say, ten users and need to reduce to three, you’re not tied into a contract to continue paying for ten.  You would only pay for the number of users you have.  I recently spoke with a recruitment company owner nearing the end of a contract with a different provider – they had started with six users and had to drop down to three – and every subsequent month they still received an invoice for their ‘six users’.  Not only had they suffered losing staff, they also had to continue suffering the ‘insult to injury’ of having to pay for software they weren’t using.

In Part Three, Chris looks at why it’s important to retain consultants following the transformation to ‘corporate’, and shares some great tips on how to do so…