18 July 2011

How Davidson Recruitment ranked #6 on the 2011 BRW Best Places to Work list

Last month, the leading Australian business magazine, Business Review Weekly (BRW), announced the Top 50 places in their annual Best Places to Work list.

It was very pleasing to see that recruitment companies took out five of those 50 places. Making that achievement even more satisfying for our industry was the #6 ranking of SARA Legend, Queensland generalist recruiter, Davidson Recruitment, who were making their BRW list debut.

Other recruitment companies listed in the Top 50 were Bluefin Resources (23rd), Employment Office (27th), Wavelength International (30th) and Finite Recruitment (47th).

Founder and Joint MD of Davidson Recruitment, Rob Davidson, was generous enough to spare me some time from his busy schedule last week to answer a few of my questions about Davidson Recruitment's accomplishment.

Congratulations, Rob, on Davidson Recruitment placing sixth in the 2011 BRW Best Places to Work list. With all the ash cloud activity in the week of the List's announcement were you able to make it to Sydney for the announcement event?

Thanks Ross. Yes, it was touch and go Tuesday night but we managed to get on the first plane into Sydney on the Wednesday afternoon - the Gods were smiling on us.

What has been the reaction from staff, clients and candidates?

The reaction has been touching. Our staff were very excited and we have received a number of calls from clients and candidates congratulating us. People have been particularly impressed that we were the highest non-IT related company and are interested to learn more about our culture and leadership model.

Did your 6th place surprise you? Why or why not?

Yes it really did surprise us. We place a lot of emphasis on building a great place to work but to be honest, we did not realise just how much our staff appreciated it until we saw the results from the external independent audit BRW conducted. 96% of our team rated DR a great place to work.

The reality is that when you are in a management position, your day can tend to be consumed with solving problems and planning for the future. As the partners have all worked here for the last 20 years we don't really have a benchmark to compare the company against. It was wonderful to get the positive affirmation and to know that we have created something unique that makes a difference to our team.

What was the process Davidson Recruitment needed to undertake to qualify for the BRW Best Places to Work list?

At the suggestion of one of our newer team members we nominated for the awards. BRW then conducted an external, independent, confidential staff satisfaction survey. This was followed by a written application submitted by us.

Tell me a little about the six values that underpin the culture at DR. What are they, how did they come about and how do they shape the culture at DR?

1+1= DRn: This is about teamwork. We believe that none of us can achieve our full potential on our own. By generously trying to help each other to succeed, each of us will achieve more than we could have alone. If our whole team takes this approach our business will grow exponentially.

Campsite 4: Campsite 4 is the last campsite climbers reach before assaulting the summit of Mount Everest. 70% of people who die on Everest do so after leaving Campsite 4. We believe in going the extra mile for our clients, candidates and colleagues. But we cannot live and work in that zone all of the time - this will lead to burnout and is not fun.

Smile: The most fundamental right of humans is the right to be happy. An important role of our leaders is to ensure that their team is genuinely happy. Happiness, in this context is a blend between fun and a real engagement in the work we do.

Beyond Now: Every action has a long term focus. One of the main reasons we continue to be successful is that we never take a short term approach to anything we do.

Heart: The heart symbolises our care for each other, the future of our candidates and our continuing relationship with clients. As a team we like to think that we have courageous hearts.

Irresistible: We will not rest until we are the irresistible first choice for colleagues, candidates and clients. We list colleagues first because attracting and developing great recruiters is the foundation of our business.

What's the overall experience you are striving to create for staff at DR by the use of these six values?

Quite simply, one where people love coming to work and find it easy to succeed. We are also focused on personal growth and development for our team.

Do you use these six values when you recruit staff to work at DR? If so, how do you use them?

Yes we do. As you know we are devotees of Lou Adler's Performance Based Hiring methodology. This focuses heavily on cultural and environmental fit in the overall assessment. We dissect the candidate's answers after the interview to assess and rate their fit against each of these values.

What are the daily interactions you, as Joint Managing Director, undertake with your staff to build and reinforce the DR culture?

Together with my fellow partners, my brother Bruce and Peter Murphy, our role is a blend of coach, mentor, trainer, chief story teller and culture bearer. We are all hands on and understand that our key role is to build a great team. We live by the philosophy that it is not the leader's role to build the business; rather leaders build great teams and great teams build great businesses.

How has the DR culture changed over the past 20 years? Have there been any significant turning points?

Yes, the culture has changed over the past 20 years which is inevitable as you grow. The first significant hurdle is always when you grow to the point where you are no longer a small business. We needed to introduce more systems and accountability which was a major culture shock for all of us. We've definitely had some learnings on the way.

I often comment that we were operating more as a social experiment than as a business. This made DR a fun place to work but I am not sure this always helped our people to succeed. It was a bit like having a personal trainer at the gym who is a great guy but does not push you when you need it.

I think we have the balance right now - our focus is a high performance culture which is also a great place to work. Most importantly the heart of the organisation has not changed - we still care deeply about our people.

As a sector, Recruitment (5 places in the BRW Top 50) was second only to IT (20), in the BRW Best Places to Work list. Why do you think that is?

I wish I could say it was pure altruism and that recruiters are special people. In reality, I suspect it is usually a blend of altruism plus a response to market forces. There are very few barriers to entry in recruitment. If you don't look after your staff they can leave and set up on their own in a heartbeat. This focuses manager's attention on creating great environments where people want to stay.

What are your ambitions for DR in next year's BRW Best Places to Work list?

To be in the top 5.

And, finally, do you have any advice for other recruitment companies wanting to undertake the process for inclusion in the BRW Best Places to Work?

I would certainly encourage others to enter but first prepare yourself for some honest and sometimes challenging feedback from the survey process. If you don't genuinely want to hear about and act on improving the negative aspects of your culture it would be a mistake to enter.

Thanks very much for your time, Rob.

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