Archive for March, 2013


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By Russell Adams, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

In a market where organisations are increasing their proportion of direct hires, do you still need to be talking to recruiters and what are they actually doing for you?  Are they really adding any value and what are they doing that you couldn’t do yourself? Indeed with LinkedIn it is now easier than ever before to be found by organisations looking to hire. So are recruiters really adding any value? The answer to that question will definitely depend on who you are talking to. Sadly the industry is lightly regulated and with no formal qualifications it is very easy for poorly trained individuals to operate without much scrutiny or redress. As we are all aware, the market is still tight. With strong competition for most roles it is likely that you will need to engage the services of recruiters in order to try and access the best opportunities in the market.

So what should a good recruiter be doing for you?

Career Advice

A specialist recruiter should be able to give expert career advice and both challenge and assist you in your career goals and objectives. They should be highly knowledgeable in your field and very well connected.  Your recruiter should be a career partner and not just an agent that will place you in a role.

Recruiters can and should provide impartial career advice. When paid commission you need to appreciate that some may have a short term attitude and advise what is best for them and not for you as the candidate. However, the best recruiters will take a look term approach, appreciate that people will remember great advice and certainly never forget bad advice. Although in the short term they may lose out on a fee, longer term if they do the right thing then you are much more likely to engage them when you are looking to recruit. So look out for the signs that they are thinking long term.

Recruiters can if they are willing provide advice across a range of areas including advice on CV’s and Interviewing. They typically do not change for these services but do it as a way of adding more value to the candidates. Again they are likely to only provide in depth advice to those individuals who they have built a relationship with.

Job Search

In addition to some of the added value areas, fundamentally you want your recruiter to give you access to the best jobs in the market. So, do plenty of research and ask plenty of questions; what roles are they recruiting? Who are their key clients? Are they recruiting the types of roles you are interested in? The competition out there is fierce and through building a strong relationship with key recruiters in your sector you can try and ensure you gain access to these roles. A good recruiter should always call you back. In the current market, recruiters are incredibly busy, there are large number of candidates on the market chasing relatively fewer roles, however if you agree up front how to communicate and how frequently then you should be able to find a way that works for both parties.

 Process Management

A good recruiter should “coach” you through the recruitment process.  They should be using their in depth knowledge of the client and the individuals within it to guide and advise you on how to position yourself. They should be able to give you a strong insight into the culture and how you will fit.  The are also likely to get in depth feedback from the client after each stage so make sure they are sharing this information with you, so you can understand what you may need to do more or less of.  In fact a really good recruiter will always think long term. The better ones will coach you through a process even when they aren’t representing you but it is with a client they know. They will appreciate the long term benefits of doing this and the potential for the future.

 Offer Negotiation

Whilst there are a multitude of reasons for moving jobs, increasing your salary and benefits is often an important aspect.  Your recruiter should be instrumental in negotiating the right salary for you.  They should know the client well and will have a real feel for what the client may be willing to pay for someone with your skill set.  But make sure they are clear about your parameters because as much as you want to receive the best offer you also don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you are jeopardising a potential offer because the recruiter is demanding an unachievable  salary on your behalf. Also make sure you understand the full package. The benefits on offer may vary considerably from your current role and other roles you are considering and it is wise to look at the package as a whole. This will both influence your thoughts around basic salary but also may give you some leverage. Make sure you have this information early in the process. Like any negotiation the Recruiter will be aiming to find middle ground that is acceptable to both you and the client. It is ok to push but get a feel for where those boundaries lie.

Post Placement

A good recruiter won’t just place you and collect their fee, they will support you through your notice period and then though your induction into the business. They should provide you with an insight into the key players in the business you are joining, the culture and advice on how to integrate into the business. They should keep in touch and ensure that your induction runs smoothly, feeding back to the client where appropriate.

Conclusion 

Identifying and then building a relationship with the right recruiters will be critical if you are determined to make the best career move possible.

So how can you ensure your recruiter is doing all these things for you? Firstly please choose wisely. It is best to get recommendations and check their credentials.

Secondly to gain this level of advice, support and opportunity you need to invest time in building a relationship with the recruiter. This is easier said than done when working in a demanding and consuming role, so select a small number of well connected recruiters. For some additional advice on job hunting please read our recent blogs Looking for a job in 2013and How to avoid joining the wrong business.

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By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

Whenever I brief a candidate that there is an assessment centre in a recruitment process I tend to encounter a range of responses. I use the word ‘range’ pretty loosely as in truth the vast majority of candidates dread an ‘AC’ at worst and are ambivalent at best. Occasionally, when working with sales driven businesses you will encounter candidates that positively live for ‘out of the comfort zone’ experiences. Overall, I think my favourite response is from the AC veterans, the guys who have assessed other candidates, been assessed on multiple occasions and probably helped to write exercises previously. They know how it works, what they need to do and more importantly…how to impress. And yes…sssshhhhhh… some even enjoy the experience!

Here are some tips from AC veterans I have worked with:

  1. Prepare. Ask your recruiter for a copy of the competencies/qualities that are being assessed on the day. There is a good chance that the day will include an interview so you will have a great opportunity to really impress. If you are unable to clarify the competencies then ask for a job description or research the business. For further tips for an interview click here; Top tips for a competency based interview
  2. Get your mind-set right. Sales based candidates can skip to point three…this is not a competition. Most companies use assessment centres because they are looking for multiple candidates and/or because it gives a different insight in to candidate behaviour. If you enter an AC with the belief that you need ‘to win’ there is a good chance this will influence your behaviour in the inevitable group exercise and also social situations. It is better to think about being the best you can be. Also, avoid comparing your performance to your peers on the day. Most AC’s have a benchmark score for passing the day so if you beat everyone else but still do not benchmark you will fail.
  3. You are always being assessed. I have attended numerous ACs where candidates have hit the benchmark score, but in the ‘wash-up’ an assessor has recounted a conversation or observation that has created a negative impression. Avoid taking a cigarette break if you can. If you do take a break be aware any conversation you have is still being assessed. Similarly, if lunch is included be sure to maintain good manners and dare I say it sensible food choices. If an overnight stay is involved – stay clear of the alcohol! Finally, be aware of your body language, do not lean, slouch or invade people’s space. Think about your facial expressions when part of any group conversations or exercises – be positive and smile…a lot!
  4. Network. At the start of the day you should make a note of all the assessors, ideally name and job function. Over the course of the day you should spend time with each individual. It is crucial that you prepare a bank of insightful questions prior to the day. They might be geared towards an HR or Operations Director or other relevant function. Assessors will tend to remember the people that have asked intelligent questions and truly engaged them. It is also worth spending time getting to know the other candidates; there are networking opportunities for the future.
  5. Plan each task. In the heat of the moment it is easy to just launch in to a task. However, it is crucial that you take the time to read all relevant instructions. I assessed an AC last year where 5 individuals in a Group task all failed to read one crucial piece of information which led to them all failing the task. You should plan your time and allow for unexpected changes to the structure of the exercise (normally about ten minutes before you are due to finish!). All exercises are generally designed to put you under pressure to complete within a tight time-frame. Do not panic and importantly, ensure you complete the exercise. Finally, if you are offered various materials you would be wise to use them. An obvious one would be the provision of a flipchart for a presentation. Use it!
  6. Nail the Group exercise. Most candidates hate Group Exercises, often describing them as fake or ‘not a reflection of real life.’ While this may be true they are also remarkably affective at putting candidates under pressure which results in a multitude of interesting behaviours that you would not see in an interview or other exercise. There are a few things you can do to ensure you are perceived positively. Most importantly do not ‘over dominate’ the exercise. Avoid (contrary to popular belief) being the person that writes notes or prepares the flipchart presentation, you will quickly end up being side-lined from the conversation. Use your peers name when addressing them and invite the quieter participants to voice their opinion. Express your own ideas and ask for feedback. Ensure the group is on target to complete the task on time and if required steer the group to complete tasks as required. Finally, stand by the group’s ultimate decision/conclusion. Do not fall in to the trap of criticising other group members if faced with ‘apprentice’ style questions from the assessors.
  7. Do not let one bad exercise ruin your day. Confidence is crucial on an AC day and a single exercise will not usually determine your success or failure. If you perform badly on one exercise you must pick yourself back up and move forward.
  8. Take Psychometric exercises seriously. Psychometrics are being increasingly used in advance of AC days to either highlight areas to explore over the course of the day or to provide additional evidence of capability.
  9. Be positive. Over the course of the day you will have numerous conversations and will experience a range of emotions.  It is important that you remain positive and that you express this. Do not fall in to the trap of making any negative comments about the assessors, the AC, other delegates, current employer, ex-boss or your consultant. I have witnessed numerous candidates ‘de-selecting’ themselves through a flippant remark to the wrong person.

I hope this helps and please share your tenth tip in the comments below or via our Blog page on LinkedIn:

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Click one of the links below for further blogs from AdMore:

Do Today’s candidates have a ‘hierarchy of needs?’

8 Great Smartphone apps to support candidates in their job search

How to avoid joining the wrong business

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By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development

15 questions you need to ask before accepting an offer.

This year we have seen a significant increase in the number of candidates returning to the job market, albeit relatively passively in a lot of cases. Surprisingly, while the reasons can be poles apart such as redundancy or a lack of career progression, it can often drive similar behaviours amongst candidates. I have commented previously that a significant number of candidates have made the wrong decision about a career move because they have not completed their due diligence. While this list is not exhaustive, considering the following points before accepting an offer may help you in your decision.

Why is there a vacancy?

Ask this question when you are briefed by an agency, ask this question in your first interview and ask this question in your final interview.

How often is this position recruited?

This is a very difficult question to ask in an interview but you need to know the answer. Linkedin provides a good opportunity to do some research and it is worth making contact with a couple of past employees to informally ask them about how often the role has been / is recruited.

Why do people leave the business?

Ask everyone!

How many people have been promoted internally at my proposed level in the last 2-3 years? Who was the last person to be promoted and what did they do to achieve this?

How is the business performing financially?

Check out the last set of company accounts. This is particularly important if the business is small and relatively unknown.

What is my prospective Line Manager like to work for?

It is crucial you work hard to informally reference your new boss. Speak to people you trust to seek their opinion. Check out their Social Media (Linkedin/ Twitter) profiles.

What does your Sponsor(s) think?

It often takes someone without prejudice to give you some simple and much needed honest advice.

What was the average bonus payment in the last financial year and what was the average pay rise?

Do I fit the company culturally?

Look at the company’s values and working culture. Do you like what you see? Does the reality match up with what is described in their marketing material? Again, talk to employees past and present.

Why do they want me?

This is a difficult question to ask as you will want to believe it is because you are the best candidate. However, are there other reasons, for instance your inside knowledge of one of their competitors?

Does my consultant sound convinced that he/she is recruiting for a great business?

It is worth working hard to build a good personal relationship with your consultant as they will provide the odd snippet of information that could help you to make your decision.

Does the offer of employment and/or contract match what I have been told verbally?

Don’t be afraid to dig deeply in to the Terms &Conditions of the contract however be careful how you position your resulting queries.

When did the company last restructure and are there any plans to do so in the future?

Look for a pattern, you will be amazed by how often retailers restructure from one working model to another.

What impact will this move have on my personal brand or future career opportunities?

Am I taking this job because I want it or because I think I have to take it?

Think about the longer term implications of taking a job for the wrong reasons.

This is of course not an exhaustive list, and would welcome any thoughts and additions to the above.

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By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

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By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

I have always been a big fan of Maslow (click here to learn more) and despite modern Psychological doctrine having exposed flaws in this theory of motivation I cannot help but feel that it has a great deal of relevance to how many candidates manage their job search today. I believe that the recession has fundamentally changed how many candidates view their future job selection and crucially what is most important. Having spoken to a number of colleagues within recruitment, and admittedly this evidence is purely anecdotal; we have seen a very real shift towards a ‘hierarchy of needs.’

Having spoken to many hundreds if not thousands of candidates over the course of the recession the first question that the majority of candidates will ask is; does it pay enough? Interestingly, prior to the recession the same question was probably being asked with a slightly different emphasis; how much can I earn? The key difference is that candidates are now focused on whether the salary will cover their costs rather than enabling them to invest. Arguably, it amounts to the same thing but it does indicate a rather different mind-set. I have found that salary has acted as a much smaller ‘barrier to entry’ than prior to the recession when candidates were more focused on achieving a significant uplift in package rather than merely covering their costs.

The second most important element is Job Security. Prior to 2008 the majority of candidates barely talked about security. Unsurprisingly, and against a backdrop of numerous business collapses this has become the second most important criteria.

The third element that most candidates will tend to want to judge is their cultural fit. One key consequence of the recession is that many people have taken jobs under duress (whether that is financial or emotional) that they might not otherwise have done so. Often, these individuals have been perfectly capable of doing the job but for whatever reason have not been a good cultural fit. In the early to mid part of the recession that led to further turnover and as a result, increased anxiety in the market.

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These first three elements, in blue in my pyramid, are I feel the most essential for candidates today. The next two elements tend to be asked by fewer candidates but interestingly they are perhaps the most important for future financial, intellectual and emotional prosperity.

The fourth element is a two way street! Will I be valued and will I value them (employer & colleagues)? Many candidates tend not to think about this prior to accepting an offer as the first three elements can often be all consuming in importance. However, this will often determine the longevity of the role. It has a particular relevance for Gen Y candidates whom often place this as a key requirement for future positions.

The final element, the famous ‘self-actualisation,’ in my pyramid is; will I grow?

Many candidates will ask what the opportunities for progression are but I think they are missing an opportunity here. In truth most companies will, during a hiring process, indicate there is room for progression without committing to anything specific. The more savvy candidates will ascertain what the company does to ‘grow’ their people. What is the performance review process, what support and development is there, do they even have an L&D team post recession, how much money are they prepared to spend on external education?

So what does this mean for recruiters? The way in which we attract candidates through technology and social media continues to evolve at a dramatic rate.  I believe that most candidates seek to satisfy the first three elements early in their job search with the further two elements being a focus further in to an interview process. Given the lack of confidence in the current jobs market it has become crucial that employers and their recruiters seek to address these basic needs early in any recruitment campaign. A failure to do so will only serve to reduce the pool of available talent!

NB: You will note that I haven’t placed any emphasis on whether candidates question their level of capability / competence to do the job. The reason behind this is that I believe most candidates have a much higher level of self-confidence in today’s market and to some extent rely upon the employer’s ability to select on capability.

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By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

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Russell Adams, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

With the changes in accessible technology the way in which candidates can search for a new job has changed immeasurably in recent years. Fortunately, whether it be networking, applying for roles or getting advice, smartphone applications are making it easier and more convenient to conduct our job search. So which of the apps out there will really give an advantage in your job search?

Evernote – a fantastic App to help you organise your job search

This app allows you to collect and organise everything to do with your job search. It is very easy to use and you can store everything from online clippings, interview notes and contact information all in one organised and accessible places. Managing your job search and keeping track of opportunities and interviews and agencies etc. is a task in itself. This App allows you to set up different folders for companies you are interviewing with and is a great way to stay organised and focused.

Twitter – a great way to keep updated on what is happening in your target companies

Twitter is used differently depending on whether you are a business, an individual and whether it is a personal or a professional account. For candidates, Twitter can be used in a number of ways. First and foremost it is a great way to follow and keep on top of what is happening within the target companies you would like to work for. However do not underestimate the power Twitter has as a networking tool within your industry. You can easily engage with leaders and colleagues within your industry and raise your profile through intelligent comment and debate. If you are fortunate enough to be able to attend conferences and seminars within your industry, using twitter is a great way of engaging and communicating.

Business Secrets – great business advice from this App

This app provides great business advice and is organised under 18 easily accessible areas. It provides useful insights in to how companies operate.  It is somewhat generic but might help you to broaden your outlook.

Salary Checker – are you being paid the market rate?

This app was developed by a large multinational recruitment company but is one of a number of such apps available.  Most tend to focus on particular sectors but will allow you to understand the likely salary paid for the roles you are targeting. Although only a guide this can be helpful to understand where you are positioned in the market.  My advice would be to try and find a salary checker with a specific focus on your job function as this will give you the most accurate guidelines.

Foursquare – Is any of your network close by and do they have time to meet up?

This App really comes into its own once you have started to build a sizeable network.  Foursquare allows you to see the locations of your contacts and can help in organising ad hoc or chance meetings. If you are attending industry awards or conferences it allows you to understand who else in your network is present and can be used to gain time with people working for your target companies. The downside of foursquare is that it is currently only used by a minority of individuals and although this is on the increase it will only really come into its own once further penetration occurs.

Cardmunch – A great App that allows you to scan business cards.

During the course of your job search hopefully you will have the opportunity to meet lots of contacts and as a result you are likely to build up a collection of business cards. This App is great in that it allows the information on the card to connect to LinkedIn allowing you to connect and keep a clear track of people in your network.

Glass Door – provides insight into companies looking to hire and reviews of those companies.

To be honest the reviews of this App are mixed. Most agree that the principle and concept of this App is excellent but it doesn’t have a currency changer (dollars to sterling) and has not reached a level of penetration that makes it really useful yet.   I would suggest however this is one to watch. Having jobs, salaries and company reviews in one app is very powerful for job hunters and I am looking forward to some further development of this App.

LinkedIn – a great networking tool and way of keeping in touch.

As we all know LinkedIn continues to be a major social media platform used extensively by both Corporate Recruiters and agencies alike. LinkedIn is great for networking, recommendations and endorsements. The functionality of this App in my opinion still needs further work and it does tend to ‘freeze’. I am sure with the growth of LinkedIn they will continue to invest and make this a more user friendly App.

I hope this helps and please add your comments if you are using other Apps that support candidates in their job search.

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By Russell Adams, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

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By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

Last year I wrote about the lost generation of middle managers in retail whom face limited progression opportunities as a result of the recession. Since that article the redundancies have continued to flow thick and fast with all sorts of rumours about which retailer is going to collapse next. One might think that with all the doom and gloom in the market that the opportunities to develop your career are few and far between. However…

If you are ambitious and do want to avoid this scenario you have two very simple options, either ensure you are promoted in your current business or move to another organisation where there is genuine opportunity for advancement.

How to progress your career within your current business:

  • Does your Line manager, Head of Talent, HRBP know you have ambitions to progress? Sounds simple but don’t assume so. Be explicit about your career targets. Clearly you will need to judge when and how to position this conversation but it really is the starting point.
  • Are you getting the results? You know in your heart of hearts if you really are delivering, if you are not you need to address this.
  • So, you are doing well…does everyone else know that? It is all well and good if you run the most profitable part of the business but if the board / functional heads don’t know this you will have few sponsors when the next round of restructuring starts. I have met a lot of candidates with relatively modest results but who were fantastic self-publicists and as a result they were promoted!
  • Seek feedback. The old 360 appraisal can be painful but it will do two things; firstly it will highlight what you need to do to improve and secondly it says a lot about your focus on self-development. This is a competency that is being increasingly measured in assessment of stretch potential.
  • Work harder, it sounds old fashioned but to be blunt it makes an enormous difference to your senior stakeholders. Admittedly there has been a societal push towards work/life balance (and rightly so) but once again those who do more…achieve more.
  • Get involved in project work. If you are Head office based get in to stores, if you are operations based get in to Head Office. A key determinant of progression is breadth of experience. Your Operations Directors, Managing Directors and other board members will have done this at some point in their career. This will also expose you to other stakeholders and will give you a chance to self-publicise!
  • Socialise. Get to know the senior team on a more informal basis. Once again, the people whom are liked by the board tend to get the better jobs.
  • Identify sponsors, people whom have a vested interest in you doing well and will fight your corner / put a good word in when necessary. It’s an ego boost for the other party and you will also get good career advice.

You need to look elsewhere…what do you do?

  • Put together a ‘campaign’ plan with short, medium and long term objectives.
  • Identify what you want to do next. It is worth sense checking with your contacts that this is realistic. A major salary increase and a promotion are highly unlikely.
  • Call your contacts in the recruitment firms. While we recruitment consultants are often grouped together with estate agents, double glazing salesmen and those chaps whom knock on your door to kindly inform you they have just tarmacked your drive and you owe them 200 quid… However, we do on occasion add real value. There is an art to working your relationship with consultants – in short, what you put in you will get back. Behave transactionally or with contempt and expect a mirrored response. Similarly, if you want to get the best out of a consultant, treat him like a human being and they will do the same.
  • Speak to your sponsors. If you have built a few up throughout your career they should be able to put you in touch with their contacts, hopefully with a recommendation.
  • Call old bosses. If you did a good job for them before they will be inclined to give you another go.
  • Fire up your Linkedin profile. It is beginning to position itself as a job board these days and most internal and external recruiters use it as a secondary database. While you are there delete any old profiles on the job boards – they are very much aimed at the junior end of the market. Bear in mind that this is your shop window and as every Operations Director will tell you, customers won’t go in and buy if it isn’t well cared for.
  • Don’t be afraid to invest in some external support and advice this may be as simple as a CV rewrite or career/life coaching. A good quality CV rewrite will cost between £300-£500…roughly the same amount as a new set of wheels for your car…
  • Finally, do your research before accepting an offer. A large number of candidates have found their CVs becoming very patchy over the course of the recession as they have hopped from one business to another. The one factor that generally underpins any mistake in a career move is a lack of due diligence. Would you buy a house without having it surveyed?

Good luck…

Jez Styles

juggling mum

By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

A friend of mine started a new job a month ago. For her, this wasn’t a straightforward decision as this was her first role after leaving work to have twins 2 years ago. This was a role she was perfectly suited to and qualified for and which, crucially, would allow her to work part-time. Given that they need to pay for 2 nursery places (in Greater London, this cost is extortionate…), the family was going to be only £50 per month better off however she was keen to work. Being career minded, she was also conscious of not leaving too big a gap given that, once the children start school, she will need to refocus on her career. So, she went through the process of selecting a nursery, leaving the children for settling in days and making the other arrangements necessary for a return to work.  She has been through the emotional wrench of leaving her children who have taken a while to adjust but who have started to settle into their new routine. 4 weeks in however, and her (female) boss has  questioned why she has had to take a couple of days off because the children were sick and now feels she is over qualified for the role.

I decided to write this post to highlight the difficulty women can face when re-entering the workplace. I thought that my own less than positive experience was unique, being in the cut throat world of agency recruitment, however I have spoken to several women recently who have faced similar challenges in different industries.

When I left the office to start my maternity leave, I cried all the way home. It dawned on me that for the next 6 months, I was no longer needed at work. I was, like all of us, fundamentally dispensible. For someone who enjoyed her job, this was a sobering thought.

When I had broken the news of my pregnancy 6 months earlier, I was shocked by  the number of younger female colleagues who came up to me and expressed genuine surprise that I was pregnant – their thought process being that the corporate work ethic was such that this would surely not be tolerated by the powers at be! A sad indictment that, although only in their mid 20’s, they clearly thought that having a family would be at odds with a long term career in that business. Of course, there were working mothers at the company however they generally held one of 2 positions – in office support where they were able to work part-time or senior Directors who employed full time au pairs. There were few role-models at middle management level.

I returned after 7 months to a very different environment. My (very supportive) boss had left along with several trusted colleagues. On my first day back, I received a 30 minute ‘handover’ and was left to crack on. I had no pipeline.  Although I returned to work 4 days a week, I spent the 5th day taking calls, dealing with escalation issues or managing offers when a member of my team was on holiday. Doing any of these things with a screaming baby in the background was difficult and unprofessional – not my usual modus operandi but I was determined that people at work wouldn’t get any sense that I wasn’t pulling my weight.  I needed to work ‘normal’ office hours so I could do the nursery run and so I was arriving later and leaving earlier than everyone else on my team, an uncomfortable situation in a culture of long working hours.  In my first month back, my childcare provider changed their opening hours meaning that I had to change my day off, further compounding my ever increasing feeling of guilt.  A few months later, in only my second conversation with my Director since my return, he expressed concern about my lack of progress. I was mortified and despite his comments about ‘understanding what it’s like to be a working mum’ (really?!), I realised that things had to change. I sought out support, enquired about other roles I could do internally until ultimately I took the decision to leave.

It is a subject I feel passionate about and so, on International Women’s Day  http://www.un.org/en/events/womensday/  , here are my thoughts on the challenges women face when returning to work and what employers should bear in mind:

  • Lack of confidence. Even the most effective, professional and successful woman can be reduced to a quivering wreck by the challenges of parenthood. Add to this a long period away from the working environment (up to a year), with adult conversation generally limited to discussing feeding and sleeping routines and it gradually erodes your self-belief. This is also a symptom of women undergoing such a dramatic change in body shape and weight. Chances are they won’t fit into their pre-baby power suit and won’t have the time (or money) to buy new clothes. All these things affect confidence levels.  The biggest piece of advice I can give is to use your allowance of 10 KIT (Keep in Touch days) to make the transition easier.
  • What people never tell you about when you have a baby is that they are ill ALL THE TIME! And, whatsmore, they incubate germs so effectively that by the time they pass them on to you, they have taken on the equivalent potency of the Ebola virus. I have never been more ill than in the months after my son went to nursery, coinciding of course with my return to work.  New parents (men and women) WILL undoubtedly take time off because their child is ill or they are ill themselves. It won’t last forever and showing flexibility in those difficult early months will really help.
  • New parents are sleep deprived – I have witnessed several male colleagues whose performance at work has been affected by an insomniac baby. A new parent returning to work may well have had a disturbed night’s sleep and have been up for several hours before they even get to the office. Again, some of these issues are short-lived and giving extra leeway for a few months is surely worth doing for someone who is a valued member of staff.
  • Handovers. Unless you have been through a period of redundancy or been on maternity leave yourself, it is likely that you simply will not know what it is like to have 6-12 months away from your role and to try to pick it back up again. In a sales environment this is particularly challenging however in any role, there should be a period of time spent enabling the employee to re-familiarise themselves with the business. So much can change in a 6 month period – companies can restructure, people come and go, priorities change. If you do a formal induction for new employees, you could argue that this would be equally useful for mat leave returnees.
  • Take the time at the outset to really iron out details regarding working hours and any implications this may have on performance targets. Both parties have a responsibility to do this to ensure that there is transparency and above all fairness.
  • Emotional stress. I hesitated to talk about this for fear of compounding stereotypical views however returning to work is always going to be an emotional wrench, however career focused the employee is.  In my case, I took great pains to hide my emotions about leaving my son to show that I was just as work focused as my colleagues (as if the 2 things are mutually exclusive?!).
  • Be patient. It will take some time for those confidence levels to creep up but when they do, you may find you have a formidable employee. Most mothers I know can achieve more in an hour than you would think humanly possible and are even more focused in order to cover their workload in fewer hours.
  • Don’t make the following assumptions:

a. that the employee will have ‘gone soft’ since having a baby. Frankly anyone who endures a painful 24 hour labour culminating in an emergency C-section has reserves of strength you will never fathom. Yes, I do cry at anything emotional on the telly (but so does my husband) and I pretty much did that before anyway – it’s called compassion.

b. that the employee is passing time before she gets pregnant again.

c. that the employee is no longer interested in progressing her career. That assumption is never made of new fathers and arguably new parents have even more motivation to earn and achieve more.

Of course there are exceptions to all my points however, in my view, if a woman wants a fulfilling career in addition to being a mum, she has, in the 21st century, every right to have one.  It will be interesting to see what the take-up is of the new paternity rights for men which take effect in 2014 enabling them to share equally the period of maternity leave and what affect this has on the level of understanding in the workplace for returning parents.

What is your experience of returning to work post mat leave?

 Useful links:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/reform-of-flexible-parental-leave

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By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

William Morris, the designer, famously said “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”. It occurred to me over Christmas that we could apply the same sentiment to the changing face of British Retail. If a store isn’t fundamentally useful or temptingly beautiful then it simply won’t survive long term.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but what I mean by a ‘beautiful’ store is somewhere that offers an experience that you simply can’t get elsewhere, not least of all online. Somewhere that is exciting, where you can touch, feel and try the product, somewhere which is inspiring to look at and where you are made to feel special. Brands like Apple and Hollister and shopping centres like Westfield have created retail experiences and product so desirable that people are simply compelled to leave their homes to visit.

Useful is somewhat harder to define. To be really useful in retail terms, customers firstly need to have absolute clarity about what it is you sell and what makes you the specialist in that market. They must have confidence in your ability to deliver the product or service quickly and efficiently. You must deliver great service consistently. Lots of retailers may think they are specialists, however do their customers agree? To me, the perfect example of this is Timpsons. There is no ambiguity about what they do – they are true specialists and they offer a useful and good old-fashioned service along the way.

Like many people, driven by lack of time and pure convenience, I did most of my Christmas shopping online. I was lucky, all my purchases arrived promptly, making the whole process very efficient, however I couldn’t help but feel a little sad at having missed the frisson of excitement from actually visiting a shop and looking at tangible product. However, without the ultimate ‘useful’ option of online shopping, I would really have struggled to get the job done. Not all online retailers get it right, however they are fundamentally ‘useful’ in that they save us time – so critical in today’s pressured world and this is why they are becoming so dominant, at the expense of some of their bricks and mortar competitors.

However, when we returned to the office in the new year, I compared notes with my colleagues about our positive retail experiences and the following stood out.

B&Q – not the obvious place for a delightful shopping experience – but it was just that. I was greeted on arrival by not one, but two employees, one of whom helpfully explained that I could sign up online to receive special offers. While browsing around their Christmas decorations, I received a jolly “Good Morning Madam!” from the Manager, leaving me to wonder whether I had, in the manner of Marty McFly, inadvertently been transported to the 1950’s! When I asked for assistance in finding a product, I was cheerfully escorted to the correct aisle and on my way to check out, I passed a group of children doing an early morning arts and crafts workshop, their Dads hovering nearby. It felt vibrant and inclusive, despite the fact that my purchase of lime-scale remover (?!) was in fact, completely mundane.
John Lewis – here I was genuinely inspired by the range of products, all displayed beautifully. The store was packed and everywhere I could see staff buzzing around, often in dialogue with a customer. This was the retail we know and love – a busy, exciting store with lovely brands, an ambiance which encourages browsing and if needed, helpful and knowledgable staff. Here I was genuinely tempted to part with more cash to supplement my online purchases.

And finally Kiddicare which my colleague described as “functionally brilliant”. It was easy to park with wide aisles (big enough to accommodate a double pram). The range was amazing with clear signage and pricing and the service was exceptional with staff being customer-focused rather than task-focused. They have a reasonably priced café and soft play area which resulted in significantly increased dwell time, despite having lively 20 month old twins in tow!

In my opinion, in years to come we will see one of two things in our high streets and shopping centres. Either businesses selling a useful product or service (and doing it with a genuine affection for the customer) or beautiful stores where you can spend time and where you are made to feel special. As ruthless as it seems, the market is ‘de-cluttering’ and I can’t see that there will be latitude for those retailers who fall within the middle ground.

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By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment- Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

Smart Resourcing

By Sophie Mackenzie http://uk.linkedin.com/in/sophiemackenzie , AdMore Recruitment http://www.admore-recruitment.co.uk Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

I was lucky enough to attend Smart Resourcing 2013 last week – an event organised and hosted by Recruiter Magazine. The conference is aimed at in-house recruitment professionals however, following our recent shortlisting for Best Newcomer at the Recruiter Awards to be held in May, we were offered the opportunity to attend with one of our clients. Despite being significantly outnumbered by my in-house opposite numbers (and feeling like the proverbial fox in the hen coup as a result!), I thoroughly enjoyed the event and found much of value to learn and to take back to the agency environment.

The event was introduced by the charming Editor of Recruiter Magazine, DeeDee Doke and after a ‘seductive’ opening statement by the chairman, Roopesh Panchasra (which is difficult to do justice to on the written page but suffice to say involved Barry White!) the keynote speaker, John Vlastelica, took to the stage. Making his UK speaking ‘debut’, John shared his significant experience and numerous amusing anecdotes about recruitment and the challenges of influencing successfully in a recruiting role. I strongly urge you, if you have the opportunity to hear John speak, to seek him out – he provided a highly energetic and inspirational start to the day.

Chris Bogh, the Founding Director of Eploy presented with one of their key clients, Matalan, represented by their Head Office Recruitment Manager Paul McNulty. Paul described the benefits they have seen following the implementation of their web based candidate management system which has seen a reduction in agency spend of 87%!

There followed a series of parallel sessions covering a range of topics from training, board level engagement and an insight into the RAF’s recruitment strategy and process. This was a great idea, enabling the audience to choose which subject was most relevant to them and their business. I chose to hear Catherine Possamai, Director of Internal Resourcing at Capita talk about the challenges of engaging the board in a business with staggering complexity and scale.

Following lunch, there was a panel discussion about Big Data, a subject which provoked a range of opinions. I have to say, I struggled to get my head around the issue and my main learning was that it’s not the size, it’s what you do with it that counts!?

In the second parallel session of the day, I heard about the significant recruitment project delivered by the Network Rail team and how they effectively managed a volume campaign and an effective onboarding programme which has positively affected retention within the business.

The final afternoon session was fascinating, opened by Paul Modley, Head of Recruitment at LOCOG. We took a visual trip back to London 2012 before Paul explained the phenomenal task faced by the team to deliver recruitment on such an immense scale against specific timescales and with the added challenge of working with an RPO and against a significant political backdrop. Through all of this, the commitment to diversity was evident and what was interesting was how Paul and his team engaged the relevant local communities to achieve the results they wanted. I certainly hadn’t fully appreciated the implications of keeping a workforce motivated when faced with the ‘cliff edge’ once the Games had taken place and clearly, the LOCOG team took the lessons from Sydney and took steps to limit the impact of this.

The final ‘slot’ fell to Ryan Broad, Head of Global Recruitment for MPC, the company responsible for visual effects on Prometheus and Life of Pi. This was a real eye opener for me, never having recruited in a creative space before, and Ryan outlined the issues involved in delivering a pipeline of creative talent and ensuring that at any one time, he knows who is available, what their skillset is, where in the world they are and at what price! Quite staggering and even more so considering the fact that Ryan manages all this information through Taleo. The key message I took from Ryan’s presentation was the importance of understanding your candidate market and what motivates them to take a role – in this case, the opportunity to work on cutting edge technology, on a cool movie and ideally with their friends!

All in all, it was a brilliant day – well organised, useful and inspirational. Although aimed at in-house professionals, I found it useful to get a greater insight into the challenges faced by my clients and got plenty of tips to take back to the office. If you get the chance to attend next year, I strongly urge you to do so.

Having this opportunity to hear some of the best recruitment minds share their experience made me reflect on the industry as a whole.

What struck me about the day was the willingness amongst the presenters, panellists and delegates attending to openly share best practice and the over-riding commitment to everyone involved to raise the profile of Recruitment as a profession both internally in their own organisations and amongst the wider business community. I couldn’t help but wonder why there are so few events of a similar nature on the agency side? Are recruitment agencies so competitive that they wouldn’t see the benefit in coming together to discuss how to improve? Surely the in-house representatives at Smart Resourcing are ultimately competing with each other when it comes to attracting the best candidates; however they ultimately consider themselves as ‘on the same side’. Equally, I wonder why the two sides of the recruitment profession are so polarised? Do both sides feel they have so little to learn from their opposite number? Adrian Thomas, former Head of Resourcing at Network Rail, spoke passionately about Recruitment as a profession and the need for it to have greater appreciation for the role it can play in delivering strategic advantage for companies.

Whether in-house or as an agency supplier, we all have a part to play in this and we should all be thinking about how we can do things better to ensure our industry gets the recognition it deserves.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about other useful industry events you have attended…

Thanks to all involved with Smart Resourcing for giving me the opportunity to attend!

Smart Resourcing 2013 http://www.recruiter.co.uk/news/2013/03/recruitment-just-got-smarter/

Smart Resourcing 2013 Speakers http://www.smartresourcing2013.com/speakers/

By Sophie Mackenzie http://uk.linkedin.com/in/sophiemackenzie , AdMore Recruitment http://www.admore-recruitment.co.uk – Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

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