Category: Management


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

This recruitment issue is as old as time itself however it still occurs regularly and causes no end of consternation for everyone involved.

For the in-house recruiter, it places them in the middle of two battling agencies – never a good place to be!

For the agencies, it can be a frustrating problem which can ultimately end in loss of revenue.

The biggest victim in this is the candidate (although they are often the culprit – I will explain shortly…) as this can put them in a very uncomfortable position, damage their candidate ‘brand’ and even potentially jeopardise them getting a new role.

We have been asked by clients several times recently for advice on what they can do when this situation occurs so we thought it was worth sharing our thoughts. As ever, no hard and fast solution but perhaps if more people understood the consequences, we could reduce the frequency with which this still occurs.

Why it happens

There are several reasons why this happens:

An agency sends the CV of a candidate to a client without their permission or knowledge.

Sadly there are plenty of agencies who are still doing this. I understand why – in a competitive market when clients are using multiple agencies for the same vacancy, the process becomes more about speed than quality. Combine this with the micro-managed agency environment where consultants are measured on the number of CVs they send out, it is simply not conducive to any focus on quality or service. This is compounded when the client is happy to use the agency purely as a ‘CV shop’. There is simply no need to add any extra value. There are major issues with this approach. Firstly, it creates risk for the candidate. They may not want their CV to go to a particular client for confidential reasons. It also damages their brand as they are no longer in control of themselves a s a ‘commodity’. For the client, this means that they are looking at CVs of candidates who may or may not be interested in their brand, may not be culturally right and may not even be interested in the job!

A candidate forgets – or lies – about having sent their CV

Looking for a new job is a complicated, time-consuming and bewildering business.  Candidates are overwhelmed by non branded ads on job boards so, when they submit their CV, they have no idea which role they have applied to. Some agencies use this submission as permission to forward their CV straight to the client without speaking to them first so they may never know who has seen their CV. I’m sure we have all had the experience of having spent an hour on the phone, covering a candidate on a role, selling in the company, covering any objections and getting their permission to submit their details, only to find a week later that they went on to the company website and submitted their details direct! Grrr! Often this is done without realising the consequences although occasionally, a candidate will think they are increasing their chances by letting their details be submitted by rival agencies. These things happen and all of us involved in the process need to help candidates navigate these pitfalls by being as explicit as possible about what our actions will be so they can keep track.

One agency submits the CV on the ATS portal, one agency sends it direct to the hiring manager

In theory and when used correctly, an ATS should alleviate this issue, especially if the client adopts a first past the post policy or uses the duplicate alert function correctly. The problem of course is when agencies (that are most likely not on the PSL) bypass this process and send CVs directly to line managers.

So, what to do?

  • If you have an ATS portal, honour it. If agencies submit CVs direct to line managers but the candidate has already been legitimately uploaded to the portal, favour the agency that is a. on the PSL and b. is following your process correctly.
  • Use the duplicate alert on the ATS and penalise agencies that bypass this without your permission eg. by using their own email address rather than the candidate’s.
  • Be wary of CVs that are submitted very quickly after giving out a job brief. Has the agency actually spoken to the candidate? Have they given their permission to submit their application? Asking further qualitative questions about a candidate will help you gauge what value the agency is adding (why are they looking to leave their current role? What interests them about your business? How will they fit culturally?)
  • Ask for a cover sheet to accompany each CV. This is something we used when I worked in-house and it became very clear which agencies really knew their candidates. I know they are the bane of most recruitment consultant’s lives, but too bad! The information on a standard cover sheet is information that a good consultant should be getting in the initial registration call so it really shouldn’t be an issue to complete it.
  • When the CV is submitted by two of your favoured agencies, ask everyone to be transparent. If the candidate experience is important to you, ask the candidate who they want to represent them. Chances are they will favour the agency that had added the most value and who has spent the most time speaking to them about the company/role. By feeding back to both sides, any agency who isn’t adding value will understand that this is really important to you and your recruitment brand and will hopefully do better next time. The agency who ‘wins’ this particular battle will feel justified in spending time doing their jobs properly.
  • Beware of any agency who deals with this situation aggressively – chances are they are treating the candidate in a similar way which is simply unacceptable. In these situations, a good agency will put their own interests aside and ensure that the candidate is protected. Sadly, they often lose out because of this.

All of us working in recruitment have to accept that you will win some and lose some. Those of us who are trying to maintain high standards of integrity will take this on the chin. I like to think that the laws of karma will prevail…here’s hoping!

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

Previous Blog Links:

https://admorerecruitment.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/winning-hearts-and-minds-how-to-build-your-influence-in-an-in-house-role/

https://admorerecruitment.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/a-match-made-in-heaven-how-to-get-a-psl-that-works-for-you/

https://admorerecruitment.wordpress.com/2012/10/23/how-to-win-the-heart-of-an-in-house-recruiter/

Click here to Follow us on LinkedIn.

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

I recently wrote about the Top 10 transferable Retail skills (Click here). When I wrote that blog I found myself having to separate behaviours from skills and competencies. There is a strong appetite across many industries for Retailers not just for the skill-sets that they acquire but also for the behaviours that they exhibit. These behaviours, often under rated and generally taken for granted, are not unique to Retail but when combined with a typical Retailer’s skill-set they are very…very powerful.

  • Urgency & Pace

I suspect that this is the most under-rated behaviour of all. Retail has always been a fast paced industry, driven by consumer demand, trends & perishable product. Quite simply if you do not ‘get it right’ first time you will lose a sale to the competition. You snooze – you lose. With the onset of Social Media and Internet shopping the urgency of delivery has become even more important. Most retail jobs are highly task focussed and great retailers are able to prioritise, Urgent vs. Important, and deliver a result with pace. Having recruited for a number of organisations in other industries Line Managers often talk about the need for an injection of urgency and love the pace that retailers operate at.

  • Customer & Service Orientation

We have all had poor experiences in a shop before but on the whole the service offered, in my opinion, is far higher than in other industries. The reason why I believe this is of particular importance is that the provision of service is generally one of many tasks that frontline and back office support retailers have to provide. Remaining focussed on the customer when you have a refit taking place, maintenance issues, conference calls from head office, an audit, stock deliveries and a multitude of other tasks in your in-tray is both an art and a science. This isn’t just applicable at store level either, the demands being placed upon Directors and CEOs has reached stratospheric levels with an increasing uptake of Social Media. I have spoken to numerous Directors recently who are increasingly dealing directly with customer issues, in real time over Twitter…24/7. Now that is…

  • Commitment

I am not sure there are many 9-5 jobs left these days but in Retail that simply doesn’t exist. There are 0hr contracts, ever evolving shift patterns and an unceasing workload. The level of commitment will vary from shop to shop and business to business but I can only comment on my own experience from HMV. I can remember many late nights preparing stores for opening, refits, layout changes and I always found my respective teams (on relatively modest salaries) to be utterly committed. In Retail you just cannot achieve your core goals without dedication and commitment. It’s a hackneyed phrase but tasks are often split between JDIs (just do it – or JFDI as it was in HMV’s culture!) and nice to haves. Retailers accept this and just get on with it.

  • Compliance & Standards

Retail is Detail. I used to hate that phrase but the truth is it is spot on. Retail is about routines and processes. If you are unable to drive continuously high standards your business will fall apart very quickly. Retailers will have this ingrained in to their behaviours from the first day they start their job. Often the tasks are repetitive and boring but they do underpin the fun stuff. Delivering this compliance while balancing customer needs is not simple. I still find myself inadvertently tidying CD sections in my local HMV store and tutting at dirty or cluttered windows. Retailers will take this behaviour with them in to every role they undertake.

  • Competitive

Clearly this is a behaviour that needs to be moderated in the right way, however, there are few industries that are quite as competitive. Just look at the number of high profile administrations in recent months, let alone years. Retailers are used to competing and thrive on the challenge. Every single minute of every single day they are competing not just externally but often internally. Retailers are battered with KPIs and scorecards and there is nothing worse than being bottom of the table…actually scratch that, second isn’t much better! This competitiveness is often a result high levels of…

  • Drive & Passion

The beauty of the Retail Industry is that anyone can enter and anyone can do well. Of course degrees and other technical qualifications will help but if you have high levels of drive and you are passionate about what you do, you WILL be successful.

  • Resilience

I am not sure I need to explain this one given the rollercoaster most retailers have been on over the last few years. To be fair even in the good times it isn’t easy. There is rarely any respite, no rest period and little time for reflection. Retailers get two days off a year. When your average person is enjoying their May Day Bank holiday, Store managers and their teams are working harder then ever. It isn’t any easier further up the ladder either. Preparing for a 7am Monday morning board meeting, trying to shore up some shocking like for likes, late in to a Sunday night certainly requires some resilience – and not just for the individual but for their families too.

  • Results Orientation

I mentioned KPIs earlier. These days pretty much everything that a retailer does is measured in some way. The larger chains have engaged in some very detailed time and motion studies to increase productivity and that only serves to ratchet up the focus on results. Retailers live and die by their numbers. Even customer service scores and employee surveys are often boiled down to a single number. Are you above average? Did you top the region, the company or the industry? As with previous points, where Retailers really impress is their ability to combine an orientation towards ‘getting a result’ with doing it the ‘right way’ – through their people and with customer at the heart of their decision.

  • Receptive to and engaged with change

I think it is fair to say that this doesn’t apply to all Retailers and that the industry has had change thrust upon it to some extent with the advent of the internet and other external pressures. Having said that the industry has adapted and behaviourally Retailers have become accustomed to a state of flux within their respective markets. The most successful individuals and businesses are the ones that embrace change and where it is second nature.

  • Ownership & Accountability

With highly visible KPIs, strong processes and structure comes accountability. With accountability comes ownership! This swings both ways, when you are doing well you will receive the plaudits…when things are not going so well you will be held accountable. Retailers understand this relationship between success and failure and they own their results. You only have to listen to a politician on the radio to realise what a fantastic attribute this is!!!

As I mentioned earlier these behaviours are not unique to Retail but the combination is rare and it certainly explains why leaders from other industries are so keen to tap in to this Human Resource.

What the numbers tell you about your future career in retail

Retail: my tale of faith, love and survival

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

It is a thankless task, and one that is constantly ridiculed and looked at with derision from ‘the other side of the fence.’ The role of an in-house recruiter is tough, caught between the cross fire managing process, expectations and the worst of all: a hungry bunch of agency recruiters! However, not all is lost, that same bunch of recruiters can be your biggest ally if you manage them well. Some handy hints to get the best out of your PSL can be found here and if you follow the tips below you are on your way to less of a headache!

  • Build your team around you

The agencies you have carefully selected to be on your PSL should be working with you. If they are not, get rid. Agency recruiters are used to hearing bad news, don’t think by not answering their call they will go away. Explain what is not working, and why. Call a meeting, or give them a warning, but don’t let the situation drag on. Those that want to work with you will understand the tough job you have and will be honest with you. Get a team of recruiters that ‘get’ your situation. If you can’t speak to them on a Monday because you are in meetings all day, tell them not to call. If you prefer e-mail, tell them not to call!

  • Knowledge is power

It sounds obvious but recruitment consultants spend a lot of time talking to people – candidates you are looking to hire and clients who have similar needs to you. They will know first hand the challenges in the market. Ask their opinion – recruitment agencies are sitting on a wealth of information about salary expectations, market moves, and competitor challenges. Some of the information will be confidential of course however  you can gain a huge amount of market knowledge which you can then share with hiring managers and your wider resourcing team.

  • No nasty surprises

Be clear with your team of agency recruiters. Yes, terms and conditions have been signed, and it is all in there but be clear if there are points that might cause confusion in the future. If you have a 3 month ownership policy in place, tell the agency. If your payment terms are 120 days, tell the agency. No doubt the terms you have in place will be something you have very little control over so explain that this is what we are working with. The agency has a choice to work with you or not and being upfront will save numerous calls and emails further down the line.

  • Admin is a time killer

If you have limited admin support, why can’t the agency help? If you are booking in a number of interviews, get the agency to book them in your Outlook calendar. Be clear about the available time slots and ask the agency to attach the CV if necessary to make the whole process as easy as possible for you.

  • Banish the unwanted

A constant problem for in-house recruiters is the barrage of cold calls and unwanted speculative emails. They have a huge impact on your ability to do an already time-heavy role. If you use a mobile, put your trusted agency numbers in your contacts list. I always made sure I didn’t answer a call from any number I didn’t know. This would save me hours through a week. Also, if you are getting emails from the same source over and over again set up a rule in Outlook to ensure those unwanted emails go straight to your deleted items.

  • Everyone is on the same side

Share as much as you can with your agency team. If you have engaged an agency then I am sure you want them to fill the role?! Tell them the competencies that will be assessed and the hiring manager’s interview style. If you were prepping your direct candidate you would share as much information as possible, so why not with the agency?

  • Not all jobs to all recruiters

Just because an agency is on your PSL it doesn’t give them a divine right to work on every role you have to hire. There will be roles that you will hire direct so again, be honest with the agency. This will help limit speculative applications and ensure that when you do give a role to an agency, they have an expectation they can fill it! If you are briefing 3 agencies, again tell them who they are competing against. Recruiters are a competitive bunch!

Of course some of these points will be easy to install, where others will be impossible depending on your set up. If I could recommend one thing it would be to be honest, treat recruiters how they want to be treated: fair, with respect and as a partner.  If they don’t want to be part of your team, put them on the subs bench – there are plenty of players keen to be in your starting 11.

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

The retail sector has continued to take a battering over the last twelve months, not least with a number of high profile company administrations. This has resulted in a large influx of candidates coming on to what was an already an overcrowded and highly competitive market. It can be a heart-breaking situation for many candidates who have developed an excellent skillset and still have the passion and drive to grow their career. However, if you are flexible and open to new ideas there are a wealth of opportunities out there. Retailers tend to pick up a broad and highly transferable skill-set. Indeed, there are few other industries that could better prepare you to move to a different sector. If you are keen to consider options outside of traditional retail, the first step to understanding what you could do next is first identifying what your transferable skills are:

  • Leadership & People Management

Clearly this is a broad and complex subject but in my experience, the two core skills that are often in demand are; the ability to motivate direct reports, indirect reports and other stakeholders and; the ability to manage performance in a formal and structured manner. Retailers generally learn how to do this both on the job and in the classroom – an option not always available in many companies. This skill is perhaps in itself the single most important as it really does allow retailers to move in to virtually any industry where people management is the key requirement.

  • Profit & Loss Management

Most retailers offer varying levels of accountability however broadly speaking, most have a strong understanding of the key lines in a P&L and what pulleys and levers they can operate to drive a result.

  • Business & Project Management.

Again, this can cover a multitude of things but in this case I believe that retailers have an excellent ability to manage a broad range of objectives. The skills employed will be time management, priority identification and ensuring task completion.

  • Strategy and tactical development.

The degree of exposure and therefore capability will depend on the level that you have reached but retailers learn from very early in their career, at the very least, how to develop a tactical plan on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis.

  • Sales & Business Development

Not every retailer is given the opportunity to ‘sell’ or indeed develop their business on a wider context, however those that do are able to develop a highly transferable skill. This, coupled with people management ability is in high demand currently as many companies are looking for an additional edge in a stagnant economy.

  • Coaching

Arguably this could sit under general people management. However, retailers will often develop this skill in matrix management structures whereby they are coaching individuals that are not direct reports.

  • Customer focus.

There are very few industries where managers are exposed to customers directly in such volume and regularity. Retailers have to react to market changes at pace and with a high degree of accuracy. Balancing customer focus with profit is not always straightforward.

  • Operations Management.

Depending on your retail background the experience you have here will vary. By operations management I am referring to the management of the supply chain and the store operation. Food & ‘big box’ retailers tend to have the most advanced skill-set in this regard. Understanding the cause & effect of moving units from one place to another may sound simple but in high volume environments it can be incredibly complex.

  • Relationship management.

Retail Managers up to Director level will generally develop the ability to manage multiple relationships often with stakeholders with varying agendas. The ability to balance the needs of multiple stakeholders is often overlooked but is in high demand in numerous industries and job families.

  • Change Management.

Given the scale of change that the Retail Industry has faced and continues to face, the ability to manage change has become essential for most senior retailers. Change management is often a combination of the aforementioned skills with a set of behaviours that allows for a successful delivery.

I have generally found that it is a combination of these skills that most attracts employers to ‘fish from the Retail pool.’ I would love to hear from people that have changed industry and what enabled them to make a successful transition.

Click here to Follow us on LinkedIn Today.

Previous blogs:

How to avoid joining the wrong business

What the numbers tell you about your future career in Retail

Retail: my tale of faith, love and survival

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Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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

I’m an odd recruiter. Not in the sense that I don’t fit the traditional image we all know (and love?!) but because I went in-house, came back out again, and am far better because of it.

My recruitment agency career was going well – I had managed teams, moved to a search firm but still had an itch to scratch. The Holy Grail was an in-house role – how great would that be? No more business development days (fancy dress was not my bag!), no more internal arguments about candidate ownership, no more end of the quarter panic to hit your numbers. No, it would be great. Lots of jobs to fill, with warm line managers who wanted to work with me – heaven!

I really enjoyed my time in-house. It opened my eyes to the issues faced by my clients, which, without the experience I would have no idea of. I had many recruitment consultants ask me; “what’s it like? It must be great working in-house.” Or; “how did you make the move, I am keen to but always get rejected.” Oh, if only they knew! The role of an in-house recruiter is complex, where you are often accountable to multiple stakeholders. It is frustrating and rewarding in equal measure. It is impossible to understand the challenges that are faced everyday unless you have seen them yourself.

What I learnt very early on is that you can’t walk away from a problem. You can’t look at a tough job to fill and say ‘you know what, I don’t fancy working on that’. You can’t put it at the bottom of the pile and hope it goes away. Your clients (the majority just down the corridor) want results, and in some cases can’t understand why a shortlist isn’t forthcoming within 24 hours of the brief! You need to be on top of your game constantly. Who knows who will walk round the corner next and need to know why they haven’t seen any CV’s. You have to give answers and responding with “the market’s tough out there” just doesn’t cut it. Control was also an issue, as it is in any recruitment campaign, but in-house, the variables were huge. If it wasn’t a line manager going off PSL or a recruitment consultant not following process, it was a role cancelled at the last minute or issues getting salaries signed off. Fire fighting is something that is often talked about, but at times, it was a raging inferno and all I had was a garden hose!

Saying all this, I certainly felt valued in my role and felt a part of the HR team. Though my particular role was lonely at times (I would find myself calling recruiters on my PSL for a chat!), I did feel I was making a difference and that I was supporting the business move forward. With an outsider’s point of view, I felt I brought a commerciality to the role and certainly improved the process. So, why did I leave? Something was missing and ultimately it was this that led me back to the shark infested waters of agency recruitment.

What I missed most was the variety offered by working with both client and candidate. I admit, I may have been unlucky with my move in-house as I am sure there are many of you who have the variety I craved. But, as agency recruiters we build relationships on both sides and I really missed this. I missed updating with people to understand how they were doing, helping to shape their careers and offering advice. I missed talking about the wider market with clients, understanding their challenges and looking to help where I can. I also missed the commercial aspect. Reading an article in the press, keen to share that with my network and add some value.

My role now is more varied than ever before, and this is down to the fact I worked in-house. I’m involved in assessment centre design, CV re-writing and job profiling, something I wasn’t in the position to do before making the move. Previously I was in the rut of filing jobs, and didn’t really view recruitment as anything more than that. I feel I now work better with clients, and understand their frustrations and demands. I am certainly treated better – like I still have the old school tie!

By performing both roles I can understand what role is better suited to me, what plays to my strengths. More importantly I was able to join a firm that mirrored my values and beliefs.  I am sure the tag ‘failed recruiter’ sticks with many  in-house people after moving on from an agency because they end up treating recruiters how they were treated.  NOT ALL AGENCIES ARE THE SAME!  It’s not all about sales targets, and constant no finish line mentality. I am sure if more in-house recruiters thought about moving back over the fence the market would be all the better for it. You can still work with clients as if you were part of their HR team, and you can add real value to a business and make a difference – you just need to find the right agency for you. Have a look around, you never know, you might be tempted back to the dark side!

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

Keeping the magic alive: how to nurture the relationship with your recruitment agency partner.

So you’ve been together a while. Although the initial frisson of excitement you experienced when you first met has dissipated, you are faithful to them (for the most part) and they have really met your needs. They know you better than anyone – even better than you know yourself sometimes – you trust them to give you honest advice. Your relationship has settled into comfortable companionship.

And then…you stop communicating as much (“there just never seems to be enough time”), you both start taking your relationship for granted and before you know it, the spark has gone out. You are left feeling, well….dissatisfied.

No, I’m not moonlighting as a marriage counsellor; I’m talking about the tenuous relationship between you, the Client and your recruitment agency partner! Given that it can be so hard to find a recruitment agency that you like and that can actually deliver for you (let’s face it, you have to kiss a lot of frogs…), it is worth both sides making the effort to make it work.

So what can you do to ensure you get the best out of your preferred agency and don’t have to go back on the market?

Spend some quality time

It is often the case that you meet an agency initially to establish the relationship and rarely feel the need (or have the time) to follow this up with regular meetings. As an in-house recruiter or hiring manager, you will be constantly asked by new agencies if they can meet you to introduce themselves in the hope that you are sufficiently convinced to give them a go. There is no question that looking at the ‘whites of someone’s eyes’ will tell you more than any glossy website about how they operate – values like empathy and integrity and ultimately how they will be representing your brand in the marketplace. However with the best will in the world, your packed diary will mean it is near impossible to meet on an ad hoc basis unless you are actively looking to brief new agencies with work.

However, there are some really good reasons why it is worth investing time in update meetings with your existing agencies. Firstly, it reaffirms your commitment to the partnership. You are saying “this is more than just a transactional relationship. I am investing time in you as a trusted supplier so you understand the needs of the business. In return I will expect you to deliver results”. Secondly, it will move your relationship forward. It is incredibly hard to build a strong, intuitive relationship over the phone. Face to face meetings tend to facilitate more open and frank discussions. This can be useful to you if you need to renegotiate terms or deliver a sensitive or confidential assignment. It also builds trust on both sides which ultimately makes for better results.

An update meeting is also a great way to ‘refresh’ a brief for an on-going assignment. The fundamentals of the vacancies may not have changed however, chances are the consultant will have been working on it for a while and, particularly if you have struggled to provide detailed feedback on rejected CVs; they may have lost their initial momentum. By meeting the agency again to let them know what the business is now focusing on and what profiles are likely to work best, you will renew their enthusiasm to attack the assignment with new vigour and also increase the likelihood of you both getting a result.

Keep talking

As an in-house recruiter, you can find yourselves in difficult situations and under intense pressure. You are at the whim of the wider strategic decisions taken by your company which inevitably affect recruitment: restructures, redundancies, new store openings, new business wins. All of these will affect your job flow in a positive or negative way leaving you to adapt accordingly. When recruiting directly, you will need to inform your own candidates of any change in order to protect the candidate experience and the employer brand. When using agencies, you will need to inform them of cancelled vacancies, delayed processes and changes of brief. This can be really difficult, particularly when you know an agency has been working hard for you over often a significant period of time. You also have to manage the expectations (realistic or otherwise) of your hiring managers and will need to educate them about the challenges and opportunities presented by the current recruitment market. Being able to influence internally is one of the challenges faced by in-house recruiters and one which is often under-estimated by those on the agency side. As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved and by communicating issues you are facing internally, your agencies will at least understand the context of decisions and be able to communicate these to candidates in an appropriate way. One thing a good consultant responds to is open communication – even if it means that they won’t make their fee, being informed will help them deal with pressure on their side. This is also an interesting test of an agency’s commitment to your business. If they have a tantrum when faced with a cancelled brief or rejected candidate and never call you again, this tells you all you need to know.

To err is human, to forgive divine

However strong the relationship and however well the agency has performed so far, you can bet your bottom dollar that at some point, a mistake will be made. Recruitment is a sensitive business and this, combined with the pressure many consultants work under and the time restraints imposed, mean that errors do occur. Chances are it will be unconsciously done or a simple case of human error and of course, it depends on what the consequences are, however it is rash for a simple mistake to wipe out the positive history you have together. This works both ways and the agency should be equally magnanimous if the mistake is made on your side.

Push the right buttons

Knowing how recruitment agencies work, how consultants are managed and what therefore motivates them will help you get the best from them. They will have a range of vacancies to work on and the truth is that they will focus on those vacancies that give them the best return – this may mean ease of fill or revenue. That said, when there is a positive relationship with a client, most consultants will genuinely want to help you. However, when negotiating terms and conditions, it is naïve to think that you will get the best result if the role is non-exclusive and at rock bottom fee rates, irrespective of how strong the relationship. It’s about making a commitment on both sides and, by ensuring that the agency has an incentive to prioritise your vacancy, you will get the result you want. When cost is an issue as is so often the case, give a period of exclusivity. Commit to interview dates in advance or facilitate a meeting with the hiring manager so the briefing is thorough. Remember, when working on a contingency basis, the agency will only get paid if they get a result.

A gentle stroke…

Real recruitment industry professionals want to be successful. This isn’t just about making as much revenue as possible (yes, let’s be completely frank – we need to make money, just like everyone else!) but it is also about feeling that we have supported our clients. That, because we did our jobs well, your job and that of your hiring manager will be just a little easier. Most of us are genuinely passionate about our clients’ businesses – we learn a lot about you and spend a lot of time selling your business to the wider community so we actually get a real sense of satisfaction from placing someone with you. Getting acknowledgment of a job well done is also an effective way of rewarding loyalty amongst your supplier base.

Honesty is the best policy

If you are really not happy, then let your agency know. So often, relationships break down because of a misunderstanding or an assumption made on either side. Most people would agree that the worst thing is not knowing – if we know what we have done wrong or what you aren’t sure about, we can try to fix the problem. Recruitment people are very think skinned – we can take it!

Tie the knot

Working on a retained or project basis is another effective way to get results. By paying a proportion of the fee up front, you are paying the agency for the work they are doing along the process – particularly important if you need them to add greater value by conducting detailed screening interviews or if a full search methodology is required. The total fee paid is the same, however by agreeing to work in this way, both sides are demonstrating their commitment to filling the role. The pressure is very much on the agency to deliver. Furthermore, I always found the biggest benefit of this approach was only having to talk to one consultant about a particular vacancy – no multiple briefing, update or feedback calls required!

I would be interested to know about the best agency relationships you have and what makes them work?

I wonder what the longest lasting client/agency relationship is in the industry?

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Previous Blogs from Sophie Mackenzie on in-house recruitment:

How to win the heart of an in-house recruiter

Leaving the dark side – How agency experience benefits the in-house recruiter

How to build your influence in an in-house recruitment role

 maslow

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.

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

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

Retail has been under the spotlight in recent months and there has been a lot of criticism levelled at the industry for being too slow to adapt to changes in technology and Social Media and the impact this has had on shopping behaviour. The focus has so far been on the customer – arguably this is where all the attention should be. However, what I find interesting is the lack of attention being paid to how Retailers can use Social media to engage their people. How many times do you hear about the ‘disinterested shop assistant’ when people complain about bricks and mortar shopping?

It is widely acknowledged that many organisations are using Facebook as a vehicle for driving graduate recruitment campaigns and LinkedIn often forms the backbone of a great deal of mid-senior management recruitment. What tends to be missing is how Retailers are using Social Media to engage with their own people. There is a general reluctance to officially endorse the use of Social media for fear of what can happen when employees have access to this platform (HMV have experienced this recently).

In the modern workplace the increase in the part time labour mix has led to more, not less staff, and more varied shift patterns. As a result, communicating with this work-force has grown more complicated than ever before. How does a Director communicate directly with his/her store teams? How does an Area Manager ensure the ‘message’ is landing with EVERY member of staff?

I am not a big user of Twitter, we recruiters have clogged up LinkedIn enough without doing the same to every other platform! However, what I do use if for is keeping abreast of news and developments as they happen. It would seem that Tesco have also realised that, if used responsibly, it has the capability to deliver a message to large numbers of people in a highly efficient manner. I have been following a few of their ‘Store Directors’ recently, a Store Director, for those that are unfamiliar, is the level above General Store Manager. Typically they will manage anywhere from 10-20 stores with eye watering turnovers. It is a big job with accountability for between 5,000 – 10,000 staff. Given these numbers it must be incredibly difficult to verbally thank your people and highlight best practice. The individuals I have been following, and I believe this is common practice in the business, are prolific in following up store visits and meetings with a tweet about what they have seen and experienced (It’s amazing what you can do with a fish counter on Valentines day!).

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The tweets range from a simple ‘well done’ to photos of great displays and more often than not, something personal. This public acknowledgement of a job well done must be incredibly satisfying and, while I don’t imagine every Tesco employee is using Twitter, I would hazard a guess that the tech savvy staff are sharing this in the stores. There are Store Director ‘Retweets’ of store staff, and vice versa, and conversations follow. It doesn’t feel like a broadcast, a criticism often levelled at corporate users. If Tesco, a business famed for its slick pre-agreed processes, is prepared to take its Social Media gloves off, why doesn’t the rest of Retail?

Of course there isn’t just the benefit of motivating your people through a very public thank-you; what this also creates is an opportunity for the front line staff to communicate upwards. Many retailers fail to tap in to the true value of their people because they are not engaged. I suspect that Tesco will reap huge dividends from the fact that store based staff can communicate an idea to their directors. Most employees are not motivated by cash, or indeed the fear of losing their job; what really engages and motivates an employee is having an influence on their working environment, being recognised and having the opportunity to bring their own ideas to the table.

In the future, I wonder if Social Media will be used by Retailers to generate strategy and tactics (CEOs are often mystified by the current pace of change) rather than just as a medium to market their products.

I would be interested to hear from other retailers that are using Social Media to talk to their people and how it has benefitted them. It would be great if you could share your ideas here.

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

Darth

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

Over the past 5 years, Retail has had a torrid time navigating through one of the longest and hardest economic downturns. Rising costs of living, low pay awards and a bleak economic outlook have led to consumer spending being put under a huge amount of pressure.  Sadly, as we have all seen, a number of retailers have been unable to survive due to a whole host of reasons whether that be structural changes in their market sector or indeed the growth of online. As I discussed in my recent blog about the future of retail, there is a bright future but businesses need to continue to evolve.

One debate I have had recently was around the impact this has on the retailer’s resourcing needs. Over the last few years, cost cutting has been central to most retailers’ tactics as they fight to survive and prosper  in such challenging conditions.  The question is, how long can you just continue to cut controllable costs, what happens when you reach the end of this road and what impact does this have on the skills you need in your business?

WH Smith are a great example. Kate Swann has, without doubt, done a phenomenal job. The results released in in January were typical of those over the last few years – i.e. sales are declining but profits are up.  But, like most retailers over the last few years this has impacted the look and feel of the stores, and has come at a price. A lack of investment and aggressive cuts will ultimately have a negative impact on both the quality of your estate and the resource you have to manage the business. At some point, once you have driven your costs down as low as they can feasibly go, the strategy will need to refocus on really driving sales growth.  Look at the appointment of Matt Davies at Halfords – having been through a sustained period of cost cutting, clearly part of the attraction was his track record at Pets at Home in driving sales growth.

From a leadership point of view this requires a different skill set and arguably, a different profile of individual.  As we look towards recovery and with little cost cutting opportunities left, many businesses will be seeking those individuals with a track record and strength in driving top line sales. The only way to prosper for most businesses is by driving these top line sales.

As I discussed in my blog last week – the market in retail recruitment continues to be very challenging and setting yourself apart from those around you is critical if you are to be successful in your job search. Part of this must be around how you present yourself both on CV and at interview. 

So how can you ensure your CV remains on trend with these changing market conditions?

Assuming you have a well written CV, then you have a great starting point however you do need to consider what your current CV says about you. Do you come across as a sales driver or a cost cutter?  What does your executive summary say about you and your style? Look at the key statements – is the language you use positive, does it indicate the ability to spot commercial opportunities and realise genuine sales growth?

Your executive summary is important to describe and characterise you in the right way however this must be supported by your achievements. Go through your bullet points – do they show your strengths in the right area, is it balanced? Are your opening bullet points cost focused or opportunity focused? Have you described how you have utilised Social Media to drive footfall? Have you highlighted your ability to recognise and motivate talent in your team that is focused on growth? Have you led development initiatives that encourage commerciality? Many middle to senior managers will have been promoted and cut their teeth in times of austerity, how have you developed their capability to move their business units forward? Do you mention KPIs concerned with waste, loss, payroll reductions…or do you highlight footfall increases, £ per Sq Ft increases, Top line L4L sales, new product development, design initiatives etc.

Don’t rip your CV up and start again…just ensure it is in line with the market trend.

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

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