Business advice: Staying ahead of the curve is crucial

Tara Ricks profile

As our landscape continues to evolve, planning for and staying ahead of curve volatility into Q1 2024 and beyond is crucial.

As our landscape continues to evolve, planning for and staying ahead of curve volatility into Q1 2024 and beyond is crucial. Planning for what your sector/market may deliver requires a strategic approach that encompasses data driven decision making; robust performance management; key performance metrics and a transparent and fully adopted target operating model.


Data is the very cornerstone of your recruitment strategies and your investment decisions. Leverage advanced analytics (and AI) to make informed decisions, along with analysing customer buying behaviours, candidate data and conversion rates and predicting trends. Most businesses will have invested significantly in their CRM system; are you measuring adoption and usage? This system should be managing every client interaction, tracking candidate progress and plotting the status of every customer. Analysing this data give valuable insights, identifying areas for improvement, enhancing your customers experience and providing the ‘triggers’ that allow you to make decisions on headcount productivity and growth.

Performance management

A challenging market will always call for real transparency and an understanding of what expectations are, and what looks good, in your business. Implement a performance management process that encourages continuous feedback and professional development. 

Key performance metrics

I believe it is implicit that individual and team performance is measured against a clear dashboard of activity expectation. It is terribly hard to understand how well you are doing (and importantly, improving) if not measured against an expectation at every level of experience. In addition, identifying and tracking key performance metrics is essential for monitoring success at board level. Some key metrics I would advise include:

  • Time to fill – Measure the time it takes to fill open roles. Once you are aware of the metric you can set internal targets, driving efficiency in the recruitment process.
  • Quality of hire – What roles are retained, exclusive, contingent, via PSL or via and RPO/MSP? Determine where your resources are best invested to get the biggest bang for your buck.
  • Source of hire – Analyse and report on where your successful candidates are coming from. This insight will inform your investment allocation across your various marketing channels.
  • Candidate & client satisfaction – Solicit feedback from both and report on satisfaction with the recruitment process. Many firms use Net Promotor Score to aid here, giving visibility as to whether you would be recommended by them, or not.
  • NFI [Net Fee Income] per head – Evaluate your sales efficiency and understand team NFI and NFI per head. In growing teams, if you are not measuring on an NFI per head basis (and that, too is growing) it is easy to be convinced that business is good – however, you may simply be acquiring NFI that will not be profitable. 

Target operating model

A key first step in planning for 2024 is to reassess and potentially redefine your target operating model. Consider the current market trends, the tech stack in your business, the depth of your service proposition, your hierarchy and career framework and candidate dynamic. Create a flexible operating model that allows for scalability and adaptation as the market shifts. This may require more digital transformation, more interrogation of your data, more or better collaboration between teams/departments and optimising all internal processes to increase efficiency.

Planning into 2024 requires a holistic approach, that addresses the very dynamic nature of the recruitment market. By embracing data, implementing effective performance management that is consistent and constant, redefining your target operating model and focusing on key performance metrics you will be giving yourself the very best opportunity to thrive in 2024 and beyond.

Tara Ricks is a non-executive director and board adviser.

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