Featured on Recruitment Juice I 28th June 2018
I’m very lucky in that I get to travel the world with my job and meet some of the most amazing people along the way. The Recruitment Industry is full of passionate, innovative, interesting superstars… in my opinion!
So, I thought I’d dedicate this post to a couple of businesses that I’ve met recently who are taking real risks… hence, the title. For those of you that haven’t read Aldous Huxley’s classic, the novel is set in the future and depicts the 26th century, when the world has become a united state, without conflict, war, or poverty. Utopia right?
Written in an age of increasing automation (1932), the alarming vision that Huxley portrayed was a call to comprehend that a civilisation in which all individuals are controlled for the benefit of everyone, would result in a complete loss of individuality and freedom… and there’s some large recruitment companies that should take heed of this!
So in 2018, this Utopia seems a long way off, but there a few companies that are embracing this element of individuality and freedom. It first grabbed my attention 4 years ago, when Richard Branson announced that a Virgin company wouldn’t have set holidays any more… as long as the individual was hitting their targets, and it wouldn’t detract from the success of the company, they could have as many days holiday each year as they wished.
So, hearing that they were doing things a little differently, I interviewed Jeremy Thornton from Oasis HR in the UK and spoke with Christian Keogh & Justine Le Bars from Sharp & Carter in Melbourne.
OASIS HR – LONDON
When I worked with you many years ago, you were very much of the stance of hiring graduates and growing your own. What is your model now?
We have moved away from a graduate hiring model to an experienced hire model where individuals have no KPI’s etc. They set and measure their own objectives, so really suited to individuals looking to move away from some of our more ridged competitors. Individuals have total freedom to choose their own hours and decide where they work. Transitioning the business to flexible working required a total shift in culture and attitude of everyone across the business.
So what was the hardest change to deal with?
The hardest people to adapt and change were the Directors, having always worked in a traditional style. When we launched the new style of working, we knew revenue would initially drop, as everyone needed to adapt. A few did not manage it and as a result decided to leave.
So how long did the transition take?
After 4 months of revenues declining, we thankfully experienced the expected change and have seen a 30% to 40% increase in revenues per head.
Now that you’ve got the confidence that it works, what other initiatives has this spawned?
We also launched a six month paid sabbatical for individuals who have been with the business for three years or more. For the one member of staff who has taken one, the impact has been amazing. They returned rejuvenated and have over performed since.
What has been the overall result for the business?
It was a massive risk to us as a business making these changes, however the result is we now have a truly desirable EVP and having exceptional individuals join us who are culturally aligned.
What did you learn along the way?
My key learning is that there is no halfway house, you are either a truly flexible mature self-managed business or not. To experience the benefits you have to fully commit and have faith in your team and fully trust them.
So, no KPIs from the management team, work whichever hours you wish, where you wish – in the office or not and a 6 month paid sabbatical after 3 years. I don’t know any other company that brave!
An article on FT.com wrote that Aron Ain, chief executive of the Kronos management software group decided to introduce open vacations at the beginning of 2016, after struggling to recruit workers. But he did not do it willy-nilly, as he explains in the Harvard Business Review. He decided to return any savings to employees, by boosting maternity leave and other benefits. He used a consultant to figure out pitfalls, such as people being afraid to ask for too much time off. He also tried to sidestep such problems by insisting employee leave was tracked to make sure managers were handling leave requests fairly.
The result: employees took off an average 2.6 more days last year than in 2015. Voluntary turnover dropped. Workers said they were happier and Mr Ain thinks it is no coincidence that 2016 was Kronos’s best financial year ever.
So on to Australia and how recruitment consultancy, Sharp & Carter, have also taken some of these risks and are approaching the traditional business model a little differently.
SHARP & CARTER – AUSTRALIA
How would you describe the way that the company empowers its staff?
Sharp & Carter:
With many high performing staff who are self motivated, there is less emphasis on driving performance through unrealistic targets. We try to empower people by giving them flexibility and the choice to work the way that works best for them and to grow them at the same time. We have an amazing 12 months Graduate Program that has given amazing results and constant initiative to support and grow our employees, professionally & personally (we are about to start the ‘Ritualize Program’ for each employee in the business.)
What has been the year on year revenue and staffing growth stats, since the company started?
Sharp & Carter:
The revenue at Sharp & Carter has increased ten fold since July 2013 and our staff numbers have increased six fold and keeps on growing year on year. However we do not recruit for the sake of it, the growth of Sharp & Carter has been a question of opportunity and will remain that way. When we meet someone that we have a good connection with and we feel would fit our culture then we are happy to open a position/a division around this person, which is quite a different approach versus other businesses.
Are there any restrictions/rules regarding a Director being able to buy into the company to be able to run their own division?
Sharp & Carter:
All of our directors are high performers, they are very driven and want to take Sharp & Carter to the next level, but most importantly we partner with people that live and breathe our values and that are the right cultural fit. People that care for other people, equally inside and outside the business. There is also an underlying trust in our staff given that they live by the values of Sharp and Carter.
So, hopefully this has given you food for thought, that there are other ways that companies are being successful… you don’t have to follow the tried and tested methods, but you do have to commit.
Photo by Slava Bowman on Unsplash