How to retain top recruiters
As an industry, recruitment can have a high staff turnover. Sometimes people come into the industry from other backgrounds and find the pressure of meeting sales targets is too much. Then there are the successful recruiters who are going to be potentially poached by other agencies or leave because of internal factors.

“It’s really important to know who you want to keep. To do that, you need to understand as an agency what you’re about, what’s important, what your values are and what you look for in people,” says Angela Cameron, managing director of Auckland-based Consult Recruitment.

“Once you’ve identified who your people are, then you’ve got to work really hard to retain them because it’s so competitive.”

What recruiters want

“You need to understand what’s happening in their world,” Cameron says. “For example, we’ve got a couple of awesome recruiters who’ve gone on parental leave in the last year or so. For them, it’s all been about flexibility. We’ve got another recruiter that wanted to do some travel so we’ve given her some time off so she can do that.”

The firm also places a strong emphasis on training. “We don’t want anyone to leave our business thinking we didn’t give them the best shot possible,” she says.

Erin McLoughlin, head of HR APAC at Hays, says the firm starts with gaining a good understanding of why people joined Hays and why they choose to stay, and then building retention initiatives around that.

Another important factor is that success should be celebrated. “Because of the fact that it is a sales-based environment and it’s a target-based environment, you want to have a culture where when people do really well you’re celebrating success,” she says.

McLoughlin says managers also need to take a longer-term view of recruiters’ careers if they want to retain them.

“It is looking at things from a more holistic perspective – performance over a period of time – and also recognising when people might need a change or need to do something different and put their attention into a different specialism,” she says.

Recruiters also want to see there are career opportunities for them – to work in different specialisms, to work globally, to manage people or be an account manager, for instance.

Leading by example

Hays’ annual staff engagement survey reveals career opportunities are one of the key reasons people stay at the firm, which McLoughlin says has longer than average tenure for the industry.

The other big factor is the culture, the people and the team they work with.

Jodi Walton, a director of Adelaide-based Harrison McMillan, says top recruiters want to be respected. “They want to be listened to. They want the opportunity to succeed. They want to be provided feedback. They want their good deeds to not go unnoticed,” she says.

One of the difficulties of finding the right staff for a recruitment agency is that the roles can involve both sales and service delivery, so Walton has split them. “The roles are very defined. People that are very good at recruiting recruit and people that are very good at selling sell,” she says.

Another difficulty is that successful recruiters do not necessarily make good managers, particularly if they’re strong on the sales side but less so in service delivery. For this reason, Walton says that when she was a manager at a large agency she tried to lead by example for her team.

“I was out there in the trenches with them, making sure that they knew that I was there for them, to provide support and guidance, and I was going into bat for them with internal managers if they had any issues with candidates or clients,” she says. “I was very present and available.”

Fostering flexibility

Walton allows her staff a lot of freedom in how they work – they have flexibility in start time and finishing time and can structure their days however they want.

Her firm’s employee value proposition also includes a wellness program with personal training groups and a gym program, and flexible work options.

However, she has also set deliverables for which her team is responsible.

“At the end of each week, each month, each quarter, there’s set deliverables that they need to achieve and they’re accountable for that,” she says.

Walton says it’s also important to hold fortnightly one-on-one meetings with recruiters to talk about whether they’re hitting their targets and if not why not. “We need to know what they’re thinking, what they’re feeling, any ideas that they might have for improvement,” she says.

The company also has a policy of not having emails on phones to allow staff to concentrate in working blocks and if there is an urgent matter to go and see someone or phone them.