Consequences – you owe it to your staff

At a recent RDLC (Recruitment Directors Lunch Club) event, 30 founders and owners of SME recruitment businesses considered how the staffing sector appears to have gone a little soft on consequences.

Mon, 16 May 2016 | By Dean Kelly & Gary Goldsmith

At a recent RDLC (Recruitment Directors Lunch Club) event, 30 founders and owners of SME recruitment businesses considered how the staffing sector appears to have gone a little soft on consequences.

Be it solutions or commodity, talent management or talent acquisition, search or contingency, consultancy or agency, however you brand your particular flavour of staffing service, the one thing that is consistent is what we do is sales and sales people have targets.

We started with the agenda point: 'Talent within a business, the ‘human element’, should never be devalued or overlooked'. Immediately, as you'd expect, there was resounding agreement within the room. Many started to suggest that they were almost tired with the constant introduction of yet another whizzy, up-to-the-minute tool that proclaims to be the missing link between jobseekers and jobs, the latest app or AI program, and that because of this the days of our agencies were numbered.

An RDLC member highlighted global management consulting firm McKinsey & Co’s now famous report that compared schools and education across the world, asking what makes a world-class school? The report concluded that no building or system could affect the outcomes of children more than the teachers who worked within them. As a simple correlation of a people organisation we, as recruiters, transcend the systems; we are the consultants, professional recruiters, the conduit for skilled human capital. We are also unashamedly sales people, but then again, as career analyst and author Daniel Pink points out, everyone sells!

But what happens if delivery drops and service slides?

Pre-recession, sharp KPIs [key performance indicators] were all the rage; if someone didn't hit them, there was almost always some form of repercussion. What if a recruiter hits the KPIs but that doesn't result in them achieving target. Is that the business’s fault because the KPIs are wrong?

If the recruiter misses target AND misses the KPIs, then everyone agreed the problem sits with the recruiter. However, what if the recruiter hits target but misses the KPIs. Is the business measuring the wrong thing or could the recruiter be capable of a lot more?

Are we balanced in our approach?

Recruitment agencies are always looking at fantastic incentives: increased commissions, additional bonuses, lunch clubs, exotic trips, EMI [Enterprise Management Incentive] schemes, the list goes on. So we can all put a big tick in the huge carrot box, but what about the stick box? Does it even exist anymore?

At the RDLC meeting, this question caused much mumbling and conferring among members.

Admissions were slow at first, then they flooded out to the room. It would seem that most SME employers are very nervous about losing staff, even their poor performers. Why were they happy to keep underperformers for so long, when in fact they cost them money and posed issues for their peers? Were the recent efforts to introduce a perception of fairness and a pragmatism to underperformance overshooting and actually causing our charges to underperform?

We asked employers to reconsider what 'Good' should look like. Common themes were:

• Accountability throughout the organisation. Everyone in the business knowing what is expected of them and ‘what good looks like’

• Individuals striving to do better month-on-month. Consultants should want to be an elite performer in an environment where ‘it's cool to be good’

• Fresh ideas and initiatives driven from the sales floor up, not exclusively pushed down from the boardroom. No such thing as a bad idea, just 'our' ideas

• People wanting more responsibility, keen to demonstrate they are worthy of building businesses. Avoiding the ‘what's in it for me brigade’, seeking out those with genuine ambition and loyalty to the business

• All of these aspirational traits can be nurtured in any business if the culture is right. A sales culture where doing the bare minimum isn't acceptable or sustainable

Ideas to help businesses trend up and help stop the rot

A team leader – often just a senior recruiter – should mentor a trainee. The mentor should also be required to do the first deal for their rookie. Gifting of a first deal from someone in the business has an instant impact. The buy-in to that person is immense, a powerful connective tool in the fight to win hearts and minds within the business, which helps keep the respect alive and then need to impress high.

Extra hours. If an individual fails to achieve the activity output that is required to be successful, offer them the chance to make up the gap during additional hours or weekends.

Revisiting training. Consistent underperformance will put salary enhancements or commission at risk of being withdrawn. This requires the individual to prove they have the skills through extra training and then delivery.

Missing out. Dishing out the incentives, treats and prizes only to those who deserve them. Social exclusion is a tough pill to swallow.

Risk & reward. Set a daily/weekly target. If the team doesn't hit it they have to clean the office; if they do, then the boss does it! Also works with lunches, tea making etc.

Presentations. Each week the top and the bottom performers present to their peers their successes and failures, the whys and the hows. Announcing they know that missing a target is unacceptable to their colleagues is a step to taking on full accountability.

Consequences don't make people run for the exit, they motivate them to be good, to avoid the embarrassment of failure and to always do better. Consequences give people more self-respect, recognition, kudos and rewards – in life, work and financially.

A member summed up the discussion, stating: “Real life is full of consequences, for the right reasons, and we owe it to our staff and our clients to have the right ones in place to help us to be better on all levels.”

Gary Goldsmith and Dean Kelly are the founding partners of the Recruitment Directors Lunch Club (RDLC). Contact them @RDLC_PIRATES on Twitter

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