This article originally appeared in ShortList on 24 July 2013 12:18pm
Apply appropriate pressure in a down market: Clennett
Recruitment managers have to strike a balance between motivating and demoralising their staff when they are under pressure in a tight market, says industry trainer Ross Clennett.
Clennett told Shortlist that when trading conditions were difficult, most managers were under pressure to lift performance, but passing on too much of that pressure to their teams could hurt morale.
"There's appropriate pressure, but there's also inappropriate pressure, and people feeling like they're just being flogged day in, day out without any acknowledgement of some of the gains they are making.
"They just think 'Why bother? I'll go and find somewhere else where I can do the same sort of work, but I'm getting more positive feedback or I'm feeling that I'm valued'," he said.
"If you're not, as a leader... creating a positive environment then those good consultants are going to be vulnerable to approaches from other recruiters, who are selling a more positive, optimistic and upbeat message."
Under too much pressure to increase billing, consultants could actually become less effective in their interactions with prospects and clients, said Clennett.
"If the recruiter feels under pressure and they're feeling negative and pessimistic that will show up in their voice, and let's face it - who wants to talk to someone who's pessimistic or negative? No-one wants to, so those conversations will be very short," he said.
Clennett said there were a range of steps managers could take to encourage high performance without putting their team under undue strain:
Set activities within consultants' control - Managers should direct recruiters to focus on activities within their control, rather than things they could not change, like market conditions, said Clennett.
"They can't produce a job if no job exists, but what they can do is pick up the phone and call people [or] pick up the phone and arrange visits," he said.
"A smart manager focuses on the things the consultants have 100% control over, that is picking up the phone and generating conversations. Less intelligent managers will focus on 'Let's find jobs'."
Narrow the focus - One of the best ways to generate new business in a tight market was by concentrating on one thing at a time, said Clennett.
"When consultants have a very clear focus from their leader it makes their job easier and they're less likely to be distracted."
Breaking down a big task into smaller elements gave the team simpler and more achievable goals, Clennett said.
"Say to the consultant... 'Right, today we're going to focus on [the suburbs] Botany and Mascot... We are going to look at every single company that's on our database in those postal codes, and we are going to update our database. We are going to arrange visits'."
Similarly, Clennett recommended dividing business development calls into different categories – for instance dedicating the morning to current clients, and the afternoon to former candidates.
"Provide a framework that makes it less like 'Oh my god! It's another day of just calling, calling, calling'. If the calling has a focus and everyone's doing it, then that's better for morale," he said.
Offer fun rewards - It was particularly important during a tough market for managers to acknowledge and reward consultants for the things they achieved, said Clennett.
"Consultants can't control whether they get a job, but what they can control is the activity that they're doing," he said.
This might mean rewarding consultants who hit calling targets with movie tickets, he said.
"There's an element of fun. There's an element of it being a game. If it seems like a slog and you're just doing it to get your manager off your back then that's going to show up in the voice that your prospects hear down the other end of the phone," he said.
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