This article originally appeared in ShortList on 2 December 2013 10:00am
Rigorous management key to raising recruitment sector productivity: Clennett
Recruiters who use a database effectively not only source better candidates, but waste less time, and this is one of a raft of productivity issues agency bosses should be looking out for, says trainer Ross Clennett.
Research from Clarius last week showed that white-collar professionals in Australia are productive for only about 74% of their working day, on average.
Clarius CEO Kym Quick said good managers can keep track of productivity by setting KPIs and monitoring output – but there are a few common barriers that employees identify as holding them back.
The top employee-productivity killer, according to Clarius' survey of 1,000 workers, is not knowing how to use the office technology properly. This is followed by being bullied, spending work time organising social activities, and using social media.
Clennett said technological fluency is a key issue for recruiters.
"Consultants are generally not taught to maximise the [potential of the] database... They operate based on their existing knowledge, and I think it's not necessarily identified [by managers] as an area where people need to be trained when they start."
The result of this is that recruiters will set up "parallel documents" of their own that they are more comfortable with, either using Excel or Word to create client lists or call lists "when in most cases those things can be produced by databases, if the consultant knows how to use it properly".
Not only does this take longer, but valuable information is stored incorrectly and might be lost.
"The whole idea, of course, of a database, is that it captures all the intellectual property, all the interactions, everything that everyone does – so there's only one place to look.
"But if you know there's more than one place to look, but you don't know where those other places are, well, clearly that's a massive productivity killer."
Beware the appearance of busyness
The recruitment industry suffers from a phenomenon where consultants will look like they are busy, and yet won't produce results, Clennett said.
They will choose to focus too much time on their existing assignments, rather than tackling the more confronting task of chasing new business.
"That is a classic problem: recruiters overworking existing jobs, and treating jobs that are low-quality jobs like they are high-quality jobs, and putting too many hours into them."
In productivity terms this is dead time, he said, because as everyone knows clients don't pay recruiters by the hour.
The issue stems from the fact that the recruitment world has changed drastically in the past few years, and whereas most consultants might previously have gotten a couple of placements a month simply by sending the right résumé at the right time, such low-hanging fruit is now rare, Clennett said.
"For many years in recruitment agencies, this productivity gap was hidden by the fact that... 'easy' placements were not uncommon in the good old days."
Those days are largely over, and recruiters who previously did well are now finding themselves ill-equipped for a job that now requires a lot more business development activity, he said.
What can managers do?
To help consultants stop wasting valuable time, Clennett said managers should:
Grade jobs – In his training program he encourages recruiters to classify jobs according to the level of exclusivity, the quality of the client relationship involved, and the client's commitment to that particular role.
"It might be A, B or C; gold, silver or bronze – whatever you like, but you have to have some way to ensure the amount of time you invest in each one is appropriate, because that is an area that very easily sucks up time."
Know the utilisation rate – Managers have to be "vigilant" to prevent recruiters from interviewing more candidates than is necessary, Clennett said.
"It's easier [for consultants] to do lots of interviews and appear busy, but unless that interview turns into a candidate who's referred to a job, and gains an interview with the employer, then that is not going to turn into a placement."
The team leader should keep track of each consultant's candidate utilisation rate, or the number of candidates interviewed each month, relative to the number of referrals, and the number of employer interviews.
Train the team – "Of course I'm saying this; as a trainer I have a vested interest, but ultimately the leader has to ensure that these people who work for them have the skills to do the job."
Clennett said in the market of the past few years, with consultants struggling to maintain billings as demand falls away, too many agency bosses are "just exhorting people to work harder, to be more focused", without questioning whether they have provided their staff with the right tools to succeed.
"I honestly think this is a big gap in our industry. There is a lack of rigour around really ensuring that consultants are skilled enough to do the work, and deal with the demands of the job in 2013."
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