5 Ways to Stunt Your Growth as a Recruitment Firm

Featuring Insights from Greg Savage during his Podcast with David Alonso.

Is your recruitment firm stunting your own growth with these practices?
Read how to catch (and release) common growth traps here.

The past 12 months have been nothing short of challenging. Whether your firm is struggling or thriving during this pandemic, now is no time to prematurely stunt your own growth in any way, shape or form. Check out the top 5 ways staffing and recruiting firms stunt their growth, and how you can overcome the barrier.

1. Rely on Technology to Recruit for You

“No amount of technology, marketing, social media or anything you do will cover up the fact that you have crappy recruiters,” Greg Savage.

These days, you can automate and put technology toward almost anything in the recruitment and staffing cycle. This is both good and bad. Firms need to utilize software, technology and automation to allow their recruiters to do more of what recruiters do best.  Enable tech to support the recruiter, not replace.

Technology is critical. But, harnessing it effectively is even more pivotal. And, recruiters must be taught how to use technology without abusing it.

“I’ve [sat] behind the recruiters, [one] was on paragraph 16 of writing an email to a candidate to try and persuade the candidate to go for an interview. And I said, ‘For God’s sake, pick up the phone.’ The recruiter said to me, ‘But I might interrupt her.’ I said, ‘Well do you think a 16 paragraph email will interrupt her?’ – Greg Savage

As stated so concisely by Mr. Savage, “Recruitment is about influencing, persuading, consulting, advising and creating outcomes.” It is not about doing what technology can do for you (and better than you).  Technology can not build relationships the way great recruiters can. But, technology can help recruiters connect, match, and streamline. Recruiters need to be able to spend their time doing what humans do best, and have access to technology that can do what software, automation and machines do best.

“Whatever can be predicted will be automated and it will be automated in our business. So if recruiters are sitting there this afternoon as they are all over Sydney and everywhere else across the world today, they are spending the whole afternoon screening candidates off job boards. Well that is not a function that clients will pay us for, because technology will screen candidates better than us. It’s the influencing human part that has the value.” – Greg Savage

In the staffing and recruiting industry, automation is fairly new for us. Recruiters, leaders, and suppliers need to work together to discover what and how technology can improve their processes, without dumbing down the human element. Firms should start by assessing which tasks (that they are already doing) can be automated or made better with technology.  Matching candidates to jobs, sourcing candidates from job boards, emails and text messages, video interviewing, recruitment marketing, and the list goes on.

But, technology and automation do not replace the recruiter. They enable the recruiter to do more and focus on their human skills to consult and influence. When your recruiters can amplify their time, this is when you grow.

“Human skills are going to count more and I think it said the challenge of a recruiter is to become better and better at those things that only human beings can do and automate the rest.” – Greg Savage

2. Have a Robot Run Your Social Media

With social media being so pervasive (rampant?) these days, the last thing any of us want is for our feeds to be inundated with brand rhetoric or sales pitches. But, we all want to get our message out there. This is where it becomes incredibly important to have a well-defined voice and strategy when it comes to social media.

Most firms will have a mix of audiences they are looking to reach on social media.  Potential clients, candidates, industry experts, recruiters you want to join your team, as well as your current employees. Your brand (and culture) as a company and as individuals and leaders, should be represented consistently for all of these audiences. And, if you your company culture or brand isn’t developed to the point that you’d like to promote it, then start by fixing the foundation.  Don’t promote a brand or culture that isn’t true to your firm.

“Social amplifies your personal brand for good or for bad, but it starts with your brand in real life. You have to be authentic.”

A great way to develop an authentic voice on social media is to lean on the perspective, opinions, and insights of the leadership team or CEO. However, many CEOs are still reluctant to be the face of their company on social media. If a CEO doesn’t have a presence on social, is there a barrier to the firm’s growth? Or is the company’s brand sufficient?

From Mr. Savage’s point of view, it is critical for company leaders to represent themselves on social media.

Here’s why.

A CEO of a small-to-medium sized recruitment firm is going to have a very influential voice. Both within the company they run as well as publicly on social media or in other networking forums. They are the voice of the company, in most cases. The voice and views carry a lot of weight and can be amplified quite easily, as a leader and authority in the industry.

This is useful for both establishing the brand and firm in the market as well as for attracting top-notch recruiters and team members — Critical for growth.

But, to build authority and following, you have to be trustworthy, dependable and relevant. Authentic.

“When we feel there’s authenticity, and I’ve seen it myself, people come up to me at events or even in the street and say, “I love your blog.” And I puff my chest out and they go, “Well actually, I don’t agree with anything you say, but what I like about it is I know it’s you speaking and that really valuable for me, is your real opinion.” – Greg Savage

Authenticity, especially these days, is critical. And, it doesn’t have to be hard. Write about what you know. Posts also doesn’t have to be long. Articles, blogs, and whitepapers are great, but you can also get a lot across with a simple quote or short post, when you are authentic, knowledgable and relevant.

3. Ignore Long-Term Strategy

Our industry is unique in that for many staffing and recruiting agencies, the leadership of the organization were, at one point, recruiters themselves. This has good and bad implications.  It means these former recruiters know the industry and the role of their team very well.  However, it can also mean that the leadership may not have as much training or expertise in management and operations.

“We need to understand that most people who run recruitment companies are actually not leaders and nor have they been trained in management. They were typically good recruiters who bridged out on their own and did quite well. And they very soon, and I don’t mean this as an insult, but they very soon reach their level of incompetence. Now what I mean by that is that they often run businesses bigger than they’ve ever run before. […] We think in months and quarters and as our industry’s matured, it requires much more strategic thinking.” – Greg Savage

When a leader, whether it’s a team manager or a CEO, moves from production to strategic planning, there is a shift in thinking that must happen.  The monthly (or daily) metrics are still important, but these leaders also need to be able to step back to think through and work with their team to determine how to get there.  Whether it is through technology, a conference schedule, hiring more recruiters, or training, these are big picture strategies that should not be taken on a whim by the senior team.

Strategic initiatives should be well planned and tracked for ROI.

For example, just because you always sponsor 50 conferences each year, doesn’t mean that’s the right thing to do.  Are you getting a return (contracts) on that spend? Are you even tracking the return? What is the goal?

Another example that Mr. Savage offers is the paradox of a firm that doesn’t want to train their recruiters out of fear the recruiters will out grow the company and leave. But, the recruiters leave anyway because they do not get the training they need.  You can’t run a business successfully out of fear. Mr. Savage recommends training and training well, so that anyone you hire is set up for success; and if they fail, it’s quickly, and they are able to learn from it and grow.

These are things that successful leaders need to focus on in order to develop an effective long-term strategy, and not get wrapped up in the day-to-day metrics. These daily or monthly numbers are often the result of the strategic planning and actions your team put into place months prior.  It’s critical that leaders track and attribute these long-term strategic initiatives.

“So plenty of times, you’ve got the owner whose built the business to eight or nine people and they cannot break that threshold. But the truth is they’re not actually good at managing. I had a case of advising a client recently and I had to have a very difficult conversation with him and say, “Mate, you are the problem. What you’re good at is billing, client work, but you actually hate managing people.” He said, “I do. It makes me feel sick having to come in and talk to all these consultants everyday.” So I said, “You’re the owner, you’re the boss. Why don’t we just call you director of business development? You’re still the owner, but let’s get a person in who loves managing people who can lead them.” – Greg Savage

4. Promoting Pacesetters Out of Production

This paradox often goes hand-in-hand with the former section.  You get a rockstar recruiter and you want to clone them.  But we don’t have a cloning machine, so you split their time between running their desk in production and managing a team of people, who will hopefully learn their ways of success.  In worse cases, these superstars are promoted right out of production into an entirely managerial and training role.

This second tier of management is necessary because if you have everyone reporting to the CEO, you are even worse off. Even if that CEO is/was the best recruiter there ever was, they can not effectively train, manage, inspire, and set strategic direction.  Companies must find a way to effectively create levels and department heads, without sacrificing production.

As we talk about building that management hierarchy, again it comes down to profit and revenue. When you’re looking to plan ahead and look at some sort of management structure, what is the best approach? It is usually at the point of growth where a firm has 8 to 10 employees. If firms continue to try and grow with no management structure, hiring more recruiters and one leader attempting to directly manage 12 or 15 workers, the company will likely fail.

There is also risk in adding managers, if not done strategically and with a good understanding of your operating expenses and P&L.

“[They] promote people into pure management roles with no billing responsibilities. Too much cost in a business that size. It’s the secret Nirvana of the successful billing managing. It’s a very hard person to find, train and groom and that is a person who can bill, but can run and supervise and coach and develop one, two, three, four people. So in that eight to 10 person business, in an ideal world, you’ve then got two team leaders who are billing, but grooming people around them. Then it might grow to three or four. […] And so you grow it that way. But it takes clarity of focus, it takes appointing the right people and the right bonus structures.” – Greg Savage

5. Hide Your CEO in the Boardroom

“You’ve got to be hands on. Leadership is action, right? It’s what you do that counts, not so much what you say. And I remember in my last year of running my own recruitment business, it was slowing and I was exhorting people to get out and do more business development and get in front of people and I did 100 client visits that year myself as the CEO of a company that had 10 offices in eight countries. And that might sound a lot, but it’s only two a week.” – Greg Savage

As we mentioned in the section on social media and authenticity, it is often a remarkable differentiator for recruitment firms to have a leader or CEO who is an involved thought leader, inside and outside of his own firm.

From attending a client visit, hosting a round table, being active on social media, to writing inspiring blog articles and hosting webinars, there are countless ways for company leaders to stay involved and make an impact. In our staffing and recruiting industry, this level of thought leadership can help firms have the clout to attract the best recruiters, nail larger clients, and win awareness from top candidates. And grow.

“[I] set a good example. We won business. And I think that’s the sort of thing that a good CEO will always do, even as they get bigger. A lot of CEOs, even of small companies, tend to retreat into a backroom. And there’s no value in that.” – Greg Savage

The Savage Truth by Greg Savage

Check out the complete podcast with Greg Savage, hosted by David Alonso, where he discusses recruitment leadership and the future.

Episode 12: Greg Savage

Additionally, we encourage you to read Mr. Savage’s latest book, titled The Savage Truth, with lessons on leadership, business and life in recruitment.

The Savage Truth Book

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