SARA profile: How this recruitment agency grew its team in tough times

Sydney-based recruitment agency Ivory Group hired and trained new staff during COVID-19 lockdowns, despite huge uncertainty in the market.

Now a SEEK Annual Recruitment Awards (SARAs) winner, Ivory Group was awarded Medium Recruitment Agency of the Year for 2021.

CEO Junji Kamoshida talks about how the business came through the other side of the pandemic stronger than ever before.

What does it mean for Ivory Group to win this award?

We're thrilled and over the moon, and it's filled us with a true sense of wanting to push the benchmark higher and to improve and excel even further.

This was our third time as a finalist. In many aspects, not winning the award the other two times made us really search for how we could improve our business.

Winning it this time is validation of the hard work we've put in, and to be up alongside the very best in the industry is an honour.

What do you see as the strengths of Ivory Group, or what makes you unique?

Our biggest strength without question is our team. We have a very clear mandate of what our mission is and what we're trying to accomplish. Our people are very much aligned towards our goal to build teams and change lives.

There's a consistency in the service that we provide, and that's to our clients, our candidates and our suppliers.

Our people carry a lot of pride in the work they do and push the benchmark to strive to create winning outcomes. They’re human-centric people first and foremost, so although we're conducting business, it's all about relationships and providing top outcomes and service to anyone that we interact with.

We've got a unified team that’s collectively working towards a collective goal.

What are the initiatives that Ivory Group has delivered in workplace culture, innovation, candidate engagement or commercial growth and achievement that help support the success of the recruitment industry?

Last year we introduced a recruit now, pay later solution known as Ivory Pay, as cashflow assistance to clients. We're able to provide clients who otherwise are not able to use a recruitment service the opportunity to use it, and we believe we are one of the first in the market to bring this out.

We also pushed the benchmark by incorporating reviews from candidates and clients for our service as a way of monitoring our performance, so we can provide a top-class service.

We’ve advocated for the industry and helped change perceptions about recruiters, including the negative connotations that sometimes come with the industry. In each interaction, we’ve been able to evolve opinions around what we do and the outcomes we can generate for people.

We've focused on providing the most employee-centric culture possible. The recruitment industry has one of the highest turnover and lowest staff retention rates of any industry, and we've successfully outperformed the industry’s retention rates by having a very employee-centric culture.

We've also designed an in-house, five-star trainee model, where we bring a lot of new people into the industry and train them. We're seeing high levels of employee engagement and we've been able to fast-track a lot of trainees in a short period of time.

What challenges did Ivory Group face in the last year, and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge was not just managing the financial impacts of COVID, but also managing the opportunities. That was extremely challenging, because we knew that the COVID downturn wasn’t going to be long-term, and there would be opportunity on the other side.

So we did what was probably a courageous thing: while a lot of the industry was letting go of people, we were prepared to grow the business and employ new people. We invested in the grassroots of the organisation and hired a bunch of trainee recruitment consultants with no prior experience. We used the lockdown periods as opportunities to condense our induction and trainee models, and we trained up people to get prepared for the other side. Now that we’re on the other side of the lockdowns and we're in a busy market, these trainees are performing up with the very best in the business.

During the lockdown periods, we also analysed our strengths and weaknesses as a company and worked on strategies to improve any weaknesses. We've been able to overcome a number of challenges by trying to fix things that need improvement, while managing opportunity and risk at the same time.

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