Generating Consistent Per-head Billings
A major challenge faced by recruitment agencies looking to scale is how to ensure that revenue generation builds evenly across the business.
A risk for ambitious, cash-rich agencies is to add headcount without first evaluating the scope of opportunity for each planned desk. Often general business momentum will create the confidence that there is ‘lots of business out there’, without critical data to shore it up.
The outcome of this approach can lead to (potentially talented) recruiters getting off to a slow start as they feel their way around in a new market – perhaps eventually to learn that there wasn’t as much potential on offer as first thought.
Market mapping for new hires doesn’t need to be exhaustive, but some basic validation that each new hire will have enough opportunity to comfortably hit their assigned sales goal is advisable.
- Target customer lists (total number of companies, headcount size, revenue, number of locations etc.)
- Volume and frequency of job postings (across core platforms, based on keyword queries)
- Total target candidate numbers (derived from LinkedIn searches, plus job board CV libraries)
- Competitor activity (size, distribution, focus and job postings of competitor agencies)
Especially if new hires are being directed towards new markets or tangential sectors, it can also be useful for an experienced team member to ‘pilot’ their desk, winning a handful of clients and job orders, and even delivering a few successful placements before proceeding with the decision to add personnel.
Monitor Qualified Pipeline
Monitor Activity Data
Where dizzying frameworks of KPIs once dominated the recruitment sector, there’s a tendency for newer agencies to be less forceful in imposing daunting amounts of goals on their teams. Fewer recruiters are targeted on base activity such as outbound calls dialed, and many are managed with a lighter set of guiding metrics.
But having access to data and using it to set targets are two different things, and it’s vital for an agency trying to stabilise revenues to know exactly how recruiters are spending their time.
- diagnose where recruiters may have a problem, if they are struggling to consistently reach target
- benchmark against top performers, to see activity patterns that are working
If your agency only tracks a handful of basic KPIs (e.g. CVs sent, interviews booked) but has no way to dive deeper into how recruiters are spending their days (phone usage, email, LinkedIn messaging etc.), then it can be very hard to provide the help and support needed to correct their work and help them get back on track.
Ensure Training Is Thorough And Ongoing
There’s a huge range of quality in the world of recruitment training, with much of it just focusing on making sure recruiters have the basic skills to execute the core steps in the recruitment cycle.
Training programs can miss key areas that are fundamental to recruiter success, such as effective correspondence, relationship-building skills, developing true market knowledge, or the nuances of negotiation.
A further issue is caused by ‘onboarding-only’ training structures, where recruiters are loaded with information in their first few days of joining an agency, then never offered more. Six months later when they’re struggling to hit target, there can be a lot of important information in that early training entirely forgotten.
- does it teach all the skills needed to excel in the job, or just the basics?
- is it ongoing, or just a data-dump during onboarding?
- does it offer clear best practices for recruiters to follow at all steps of the process?
- do recruiters have access to ‘refresher’ materials to help them master key topics?
Most importantly, the desire to overcome stop-start revenue generation has to come from recruiters themselves.
A culture in which team members regularly blame bad luck, market conditions, difficult clients or other factors for missing goal can quickly turn into an environment where under-performance is expected.
Delivering Technology ROI
The right technology stack is essential to scaling any agency, with effective communication, collaboration and processes forming the backbone of the business.
- appointing an internal champion – even if you don’t have a dedicated IT manager, playing to the natural interest of a tech-savvy team member and tasking them with staying up to date on the capabilities of your tool set (and communicating them to the team) can produce great results.
- ensuring tech is covered in training – many training programs focus on recruitment skills at the expense of the tools recruiters use day to day. Your tech providers will usually have tutorials, walk-throughs and self-help resources – make sure these are included as you train new people in your business.
- challenge your suppliers – even if in-depth training is itemised as a billable add-on service, your technology suppliers will still want you to be getting the best out of their product. Arrange for your account manager to give you regular demonstrations of new capabilities and uses for your tools, and review your current usage to make suggested improvements.
Using Knowledge-sharing To Boost Growth
What Is Knowledge-sharing?
Your agency will contain expertise in every corner of the business – from tips and tricks known used daily by your top-billing recruiter to interesting market information your intern learned during a research project.
Why Promote Knowledge-sharing?
Creating an organisational focus on sharing information and learning across teams has numerous benefits for your agency.
It helps significantly in training, as recruiters ‘self teach’ from hands-on experience, learning live from each others’ successes and failures.
If a recruiter has 10% response rates to cold emails while someone across the office has 40%, it’s likely not an issue of ability, but of knowledge-sharing.
Actively working together to share best practices also encourages collaboration, bringing teams closer as they exchange ideas on how to improve.
Knowledge-sharing also drives performance, by placing a spotlight on excellence, and creating a desire to become a leader in the team, with positive contributions to make and examples of personal successes.
How To Foster A Knowledge-sharing Culture
- Structured sessions – workshops, brainstorming sessions and other training activities expressly focused on sharing ideas and experiences help confirm your agency’s intention to make knowledge-sharing a priority. Purpose-built platforms to support the exchange of ideas give recruiters opportunities to see how a more collaborative way of working can benefit them, and helps foster a spirit of common purpose among groups.
- Collaboration platforms – the use of intranets, chat and collaboration tools and internal email groups can all provide channels for team members to circulate their contributions. It’s important that senior leadership be active on these, proposing ideas and responding to input – recruiters are busy people and without the sponsorship of top management making a concerted effort to demonstrate the benefits of collaboration, your channels may soon be gathering dust.
- Aligned incentives – effective use of team incentives can help encourage all team members to open up to the idea of sharing their personal best practices with their colleagues, creating a collaborative environment pursuing group success. Ultimately, your agency only succeeds if your per-head billings reach and maintain a consistent level – having a handful of superstars and a growing roster of under-performers will inhibit growth. Reflecting the need for information and best practices to flow through the business in the form of incentives helps bring your goals and those of your team into better alignment.
Training & Onboarding Essentials
- On-site trainers can offer high levels of interaction and engagement, but lack ongoing support.
- Home-grown training resources can be highly customised to your agency, but difficult to upkeep and maintain.
- Off-the-shelf training courses can be a cheap and easy option, but miss key areas.
- Mix theory with practice
Training programs which just teach practical abilities have limited impact compared with those which build long-term skills. The age-old “teach a man to fish” analogy is appropriate here – recruiters who understand not just how to do something, but why to do it in a certain way, will develop a more powerful skill set. In the short term, they’ll solve problems faster and generate better results. In the long-term, they’ll be able to share their knowledge with others and continue their own learning curve.
- Build industry interest
Recruiters often struggle to convince clients that they are ‘true’ experts in their market sectors, with skepticism from clients that they have merely been assigned a niche by their agency. Very often this is backed up by agency training, which goes deep on recruitment skills but shallow meaningful market information. Recruiters who become genuine experts in the sectors they support will typically enjoy their work more, have higher-quality client and candidate conversations, and ultimately generate more revenue.
- Strengthen business basics
In the course of their work, recruiters are exposed to a whole range of factors outside the scope of ‘recruitment’ in itself – employment laws, taxation, stocks and shares, technologies, regulations… In dealing with both clients and candidates, top recruiters display a very well-rounded awareness of many business issues, and excellent commercial acumen. Making sure this basic background of business knowledge is included in your training can help emerging recruiters to gain much-needed confidence and be more commercially astute in their work.
The experience new hires have in their first few days with your agency sets the tone for the months ahead.
A good onboarding program can leave new employees feeling excited, energised and inspired, while a poor one can leave them second-guessing their decision to join you.
The core of successful onboarding is preparation. Designing the ideal experience, and working to make sure everything is in place to run smoothly for your new team members.
Designing KPIs That Work
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) set vital productivity expectations across your agency, and calibrating them correctly is essential for scalable success.
- 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
Set KPIs based on data
Explain rationale clearly
Set as few as possible
Adapt KPIs to roles
Get employee buy-in
Make them achievable
Monitor them consistently
Lead from the front
Keep consistent, but be open to change
Getting Incentives Right
Together with KPIs, incentives represent the other key dial with which you can shape employee behaviour most directly.
Defining desired behaviours first
- Is new client acquisition a focus, or account expansion and penetration?
- Is your team consolidating their work and building foundations for future growth (by building a detailed, annotated CRM and candidate database), or just scraping by on month-to-month billings?
- Do you need to focus on doing more deal volume, or improving average deal value?
Creating incentive tiers
- Basic – which behaviours need to be encouraged on an ongoing basis, to keep the wheels turning? (e.g. monthly sales goals).
- Strategic – what can you layer in to steer the agency in a certain direction, such as incentivising winning new customers, penetrating new markets, winning retained business or more contract work?
- Short-term – what instant-impact incentives can you use to generate activity spikes when needed, either pro or re-actively? For example capitalising on seasonal opportunities, building pipeline during a sub-par quarter, or accelerating out of a New Year slump?
Leveraging a full range of incentives
As an employer, you have access to a wide range of tools which can be used to encourage recruiter output.
As your incentive plan matures, it’s important to take advantage of the full set of options in order to shape culture, develop employees and maintain healthy cashflow.
- Shares and share options
- Remote working
- Company cars
- Expenses accounts
- Job title
- Client meetings
- Company offices
- Conference attendance
- Group & team goals
- Office goals
- Company goals
Make sure incentives are understood
After the effort and expense of planning incentive programs, take the time to ensure that your team knows exactly what’s available to them and how to achieve it!
Making incentive plans publicly visible on collaboration platforms or intranets can help visibility, as well as ensuring that onboarding processes cover incentives in depth.
Lastly, be sure to celebrate and communicate highlights from your team when incentives are attained – seeing that rewards are being achieved and enjoyed by colleagues can be more powerful than any amount of reminders that they are on offer.
Building A High-performance Culture
What Are ‘High-performance’ Cultures?
Your corporate culture dictates how people internally and externally perceive your agency, and how it performs.
It is the essence of the business – the collective result of your values, people, activity and goals.
A ‘high-performance’ culture is one in which there is a shared focus on performing tasks to the highest possible standard – on reaching and surpassing set goals and on continually improving, both on an individual and organisational level.
It is an environment in which teams work actively to eliminate mediocrity, and support each other collaboratively in an ongoing effort to raise performance standards.
VC-backed startups are often excellent examples of high-performance cultures – motivated teams who are committed to delivering their best work in order to achieve ambitious, high-pressure goals.
Why Are They Necessary?
- they require continual motivation – employees are not engaged or energized by their work itself, and need management to provide ongoing stimulus
- they do not self-develop – with no cultural focus on improvement, team members do little to no self-training and lack curiosity to learn
- they require continual monitoring and direction – teams may lose focus, momentum or fail to reach goals unless repeatedly prompted
- they accept mediocrity – failing to reach or exceed goals is commonplace
- they lack accountability – team members have no cultural commitment to each other to deliver their assigned goals
Team members are more likely to self teach, take ownership for their goals, work with minimal supervision and exceed targets.
How Are High-performance Cultures Built?
As with any cultural transformation, developing a high-performance environment involves bringing together multiple strands of business activity in a single, coherent thread.
Some of the core building blocks of high-performance cultures include:
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