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How do you build performance metrics for your recruitment business that really drive results?

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) set vital productivity expectations across your agency, and calibrating them correctly is essential for scalable success.
It’s also a delicate task:
– too many, and employees feel suffocated and confined to a ‘call centre’ environment
– too few, and recruiters lose focus and may struggle to deliver against revenue goals
– the wrong ones, and team energies are focused in the wrong direction
When it comes to building a KPI framework for your growing recruitment agency, a set of best practices can help keep you aligned and ensure you design a goal structure that creates optimal results.

Set KPIs based on data

Picking numbers based on gut instinct can be risky, and wherever possible it’s advisable to set KPIs based on data evidence of what is necessary as input to achieve the desired outcome.

CRM activity reports and benchmarking against top performers are the simplest ways to leverage existing information, but where this data isn’t freely available it’s often best to start with activity ratios and build targets from there.

Ensuring that KPIs are built from tangible evidence increases recruiter confidence in the viability of the goals they’re being set, and helps contribute towards buy-in and commitment to reach targets.

Explain rationale clearly

KPI adoption will have a higher chance of success if your team grasps why they need to be reaching their goals.

Instead of “instructions” from a manager, KPIs should be interpreted as guide rails for the employee’s own benefit, helping them to succeed in their role and develop both their income and career trajectory.

Managers who invest the time to discuss KPIs with their team – and have the confidence in their metrics to engage in an open dialogue – are often able to enhance employee performance in comparison with those who present targets as a top-down mandate to be hit and not discussed.

Set as few as possible

Try to avoid setting a goal for every available data point – it can lead to information overload, and recruiters losing sight of what’s truly important. Furthermore, it runs the risk of stifling autonomy and discouraging team members from thinking creatively to solve problems and accept ownership for their most critical goals.

Using fewer KPIs (and concentrating on the ones that really matter – typically revenue, interview volume and pipeline ) shows trust in employees to use their own skills and initiative to deliver these core requirements – something most recruiters respond well to.

If they struggle, you can work with them to add additional goals in where needed to boost key activity areas.

Adapt KPIs to roles

Naturally a new starter tasked with kicking down the door of a new market sector shouldn’t work to the same KPIs as an agency veteran with an established client book.

Both recruiters are in different situations, and while their end goal of generating revenue may be the same, they need to spend their time differently and focus on different tasks to arrive there.

While maintaining as much common ground as possible to keep your team united and collaborative, it’s important to personalise some metrics where certain team members have different desk dynamics from your ‘cookie cutter’ KPI set.

Get employee buy-in

Working with your team to mutually agree to KPIs can be a key step to improving attainment rates.

Employees not only appreciate the involvement in determining goals, but will often work harder to achieve these goals if they have personally confirmed that they are both necessary for success and realistic in scope.

Starting discussions around KPIs can feel like heading down a slippery slope where the whole nature of targets and activity goals gets called into question by team members, but if the conversation is managed with a careful dynamic the opportunity to evaluate goals can actually energise your team to achieve more then if simply instructed without engagement.

Make them achievable

A potential pitfall for eager agency managers is to set KPIs which are deliberately out of reach, privately prepared to settle for recruiters to reach less than 100%.

While there is a place for stretch goals in your agency, core KPIs is unlikely to be the best place for them.

Making base KPIs ambitious but achievable is vital to success. Driving a team towards unreachable standards week after week soon becomes unsustainable, affecting morale and causing all goals (including revenue) to be viewed with skepticism.

Monitor them consistently

If everyone in your agency hit their KPIs in full, you’d have very few headaches left as a business owner.

That means that once you’ve set them, take them seriously and monitor them closely!

Agencies who have a stop-start approach to upholding KPIs quickly find that they are rarely reached – if managers aren’t paying attention or worrying about reaching goals, why should recruiters?

Building your KPI framework around real-time digital analytics is usually the most direct route to achieving this, with information pulled directly from your CRM system. Whiteboards, spreadsheets and other workarounds can have their place, but are inevitably open to becoming out-of-date and lack the added benefit of pushing recruiters to use their databases effectively.

Encourage transparency

It’s very difficult to build a culture of accountability in any company without transparency.

This means enabling team members to see at least part of each other’s activity levels and KPI attainment (whether digitally or physically), and avoiding tracking performance purely at a management level via private reports.

Many agency owners are keen to protect team morale from unflattering data (hence the tendency to reserve report access for their eyes only), and whilst there is a lot to be said for being sensitive to the impact that unreached KPIs could have on individuals or teams, a long-term approach to building a culture of accountability means being comfortable putting names to goals in front of colleagues.

Lead from the front

It’s rarely possible for an agency owner to lead their business in activity metrics, but it’s critically important that managers don’t set higher standards for their team members than they would be able to achieve themselves.

As leadership roles evolve to include increasing time spent on non-recruitment matters such as strategy, training and management, it can help to use historic data (where available) to show your team you’re not asking them to do anything you haven’t been able to achieve personally.

If all else fails, roll up your sleeves and help show that the standard isn’t unattainable.

Keep consistent, but be open to change

Too much change is usually damaging when it comes to KPIs, creating the impression that leadership lacks direction and goals are being plucked from thin air.

While trying to resist the temptation to tinker with targets on a regular basis, it’s also important to be comfortable admitting that KPIs may need to be adjusted.

Sticking stubbornly to goals for their own sake can be highly counter-productive, so when evidence mounts that KPIs aren’t working, be ready to talk to the team and make some fixes.

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