07 February 2012

The 10 Biggest Culture Killers in Recruitment Companies

This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared in recruitment extra (March 2005 issue).

The culture of a company is created, enhanced and also destroyed primarily by the quality of communication (both verbal and non-verbal) that occurs every day in the office.

High quality communication is direct, face-to-face, customer oriented, and present or future focused.  

Low quality communication is remote, circular, past-based and dominated by gossip. Unfortunately most companies seem to think that a positive culture is produced by fancy sounding slogans hung on walls and a few free beers and chips on a Friday night.

How often do employers ‘walk the talk’ on this issue? Often it’s a case of ‘do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do’.

Do CEOs and Managers want to kill the culture in a recruitment company? Of course not! Nobody would set out to do that intentionally. However without thinking about it leaders in recruitment companies unintentionally kill off the company culture every day.  

Cast your eye over the following Top 10 Culture Killers, below, and see if you can recognise your company - I hope not.    

1. Email used as a substitute for a conversation
Ever received a telling off from a manager by email? Motivating isn’t it? It doesn’t work. Email should only be used to distribute information to a wide number of people or to make simple requests of people (eg are you available at 5pm to talk about the XYZ job?). There’s a reason Mother Nature gave us a mouth and the ability to talk long before Man invented email! 

2. Top billing consultants get treated differently to other consultants
The company mantra is something like ‘everybody gets treated equally around here’ or ‘respect for all’ or something equally likely to have come from the HR Policies for Dummies book, except they forgot to add the asterix next to it which denotes ‘Unless you bill shedloads of money, in which case do what you like’ 

If your stated company values get compromised at the altar of high billings then don’t blame us when a competitor comes knocking. Those who live by the dollar die by the dollar. 

3. The recruitment standards we bang on about to our clients are never followed internally
Don’t we love to lecture our clients about this? You know, the wise advice about complete job descriptions, measurable KRA’s, clear letters of offer sent promptly after verbal acceptance, two reference checks etc etc.  

It’s like the old jokes about bankers being hopeless with their own money and debt collection companies never paying their own bills unless you threaten to send ‘the boys’ around - recruitment companies rarely follow best practice recruitment processes. Great advertisement for our own industry aren’t we? 

4. You only get feedback when things aren’t going well
You work 11 hour days, land some juicy assignments, bill great fees, refer a colleague into another part of your client’s business and what do you hear from your manager or CEO? The sound of one hand clapping.  

You have a couple of lean weeks of visits or you ask for a day off at short notice and from your manager’s response it’s clear that you’re about as popular as Andrew Wilkie at an RSL club. 

5. Initiatives get announced with great fanfare and then you never hear about them again
You know the scene: The company puts on some drinks or coffee and muffins, everybody from the whole company (or office) gets together in the boardroom to hear the gospel straight from the top.  

There’s a new vision, a new mission statement, 360 degree feedback being introduced or the dreaded ‘we’re setting up focus groups to hear from you how we can make this company great’.  

Yeah, right! 

You know that as soon as the CEO has finished that course he’s on or book he’s read, the just announced ‘new initiative’ will be about as relevant as last year’s Australia’s’ Got Talent winner.  

6. No-one takes meeting times seriously
You set the alarm, catch the early train, get to the office, turn your computer on to quickly flick through your emails, grab your paper and pen to be in the boardroom in time for the 8am meeting and what happens?  

The next person wanders in a few minutes after 8 looking like something the cat dragged in, the next person thought the meeting started at 8.15 and was expecting to be early and at 8.10 the phone rings – the boss forgot he had a client meeting out of the city at 9am so has decided to cancel the meeting.  

You can be sure the one time you are late to a meeting (by 2 minutes) the boss is, miraculously, early and when you walk in the door he chips you (half seriously) about working ‘half days’. 

7. No communication from company leaders about how things are going
Are we just money hungry job fillers? I think not. We like to know what the organisation we work for is striving to achieve (eg be the best recruiter of hospitality staff in NSW) and how we are going against that vision.  

One of Greg Savage’s most significant contributions to the success of Recruitment Solutions, when I worked there, was the consistency with which he stood up in front of individual offices and the company as a whole to let everybody know (not just the consultants) how things were going against what the company was committed to achieving. 

8. You don’t get a regular formal performance appraisal or if you do it’s rushed and clearly little preparation or thought has been put into it
Don’t you love how we are always instructing our own clients to provide consistent performance feedback to the candidates they have hired through us (to avoid the dreaded ’credit’ of course!) and then we turn around and take a very ‘slap-dash’ approach to our own internal performance appraisal process!  

We really don’t expect a lot – just tell us what’s working about our performance (so we know to keep doing it), what’s not working about our performance (so we can stop doing it or do less of it) and how we can be more effective (so we can start doing it).  

Simple, really and it doesn’t take that much time to do properly if you have consistently been observing our performance throughout the review period rather than relying upon third party hearsay or your own opinions, unsupported by any facts. 

9. No regular scoreboard of results
Keen to watch Nadal play Djokovic without the umpire telling you the score until the end of each set? Pretty frustrating, huh? Yet many recruitment companies fail to inform their staff about what the key results are (eg total jobs filled, number of client paid ads sold, number of exclusive jobs etc) and critically, how things are going against target or against a comparison period (eg last year, last quarter, last month etc).  

Top athletes get bored with no scoreboard, average athletes don’t. If you want us to act like a top athlete then treat us like one. 

10. No-one says thanks
You work back late three nights in a row to deliver a short list for the company’s top client, you shift your schedule to replace the CEO at a client function at short notice, you work on the weekend to put together a PSA proposal and all for what?    

You’re not looking for a free weekend on the company at the Hyatt, but it would really make a difference if your boss or CEO dropped by your desk for just 5 lousy minutes to acknowledge what you’ve done, look you in the eye, and say ‘thanks’!    

I could go on - but I won’t. 

So, if I am describing your company culture, what can you do about it?  

The critical first step is to make a commitment to yourself that you will hold yourself to a higher standard than what surrounds you, in other words refuse to be a victim.

Not gossiping, being at meetings on time, talking to people rather than emailing them, saying ‘thanks’ to people, are just a few steps you can take to start turning your company culture around.  

'Who am I to do this?' you might ask. 'Shouldn’t it come from the top?'

Well yes - it should, but if you're not the person at the top, then there’s no reason to act like you're not! 

"No matter how frustrated you may feel, there is always a way out. In every situation that arises, we choose to be powerful or powerless. It may not always feel like it, but it is a choice. And there are consequences for these choices in terms of the results we get, and the subsequent increase or decrease in our power and influence” - Blaine Lee    

Go on ... step out, experience yourself making a difference. I cannot guarantee you will turn the company culture around, but I can guarantee you will experience the satisfaction of raising the bar in the field of your own performance and contribution.

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