Why Opus Is Transforming How We Recruit for Our Business

Our Head of HR Alex Meah has taken our talent function on quite the journey in the last year. She has analysed our existing behaviour and highlighted key areas in which we were failing, therefore evolving them to ensure our Internal Recruitment processes were forward-thinking and optimal for the business. Have a read of our journey so far, and the key findings Alex has noted when doing this. She hopes other recruitment companies can also learn and grow as we have...

It is interesting to explore why recruitment companies don’t tend to be very good at recruiting for themselves. At Opus we have been on a journey to make sure that we bring the very best talent into our business.

We take great pride in developing our people organically, and many of our current leaders have risen through the ranks. However, as we have expanded our global footprint over the past ten years, at great speed, and into new locations like Amsterdam, New York, Hong Kong and Sydney, it was always inevitable that our internal hiring strategy would need review.

Super-talented individuals in our industry always have a myriad of choices available. We believe that we have a compelling brand and a strong vision for how we seek to serve our clients, but the recruitment industry is known for its high turnover of staff. We truly want to try to buck this trend. It hurts when anyone decides to leave, but when you realise that they possibly shouldn’t have been there in the first place, you have to take the hit firmly on the chin. That could not represent where we were at the end of 2018 more.

When I became responsible for overseeing our talent function at that time, I realised that we needed to transform how we recruit for ourselves.

We have a market-leading onboarding and training scheme, but as per industry experience, engagement started to drop off after the more structured support of the first few months. Were we screening for the right qualities? Was there a consistently first-rate candidate experience across all hiring streams? Was the business sufficiently engaged? What qualities were current employees valuing in their new colleagues?

I’d like to share five of our key findings:

Recruitment companies aren’t always great at their own internal recruitment.

We did not have our set-up right; our previous internal recruitment structure allowed us to make nearly 60% of our hires in 2018. As a high-level stat, this looks positive, however, the churn of staff hired by our Internal Recruiters was higher than our other hiring streams. We realised that something wasn’t quite working as it should be. We questioned whether our candidate experience (and eventual quality) might have suffered if our Internal Recruiters were paid commission on the number of hires, as is standard in our industry. We gave ourselves room for blame and mistrust in this approach; our hiring managers had the perception that candidates were being put in front of them even if they weren’t the best fit for their business; whether this was true or not, the relationships suffered. Trust is everything for a service function like ours.

We tightened our external agency PSL and now talk to them more.

As recruiters, we know how important it is to have a symbiotic relationship with a select few agency partners. We were too focused on pushing volume via our Internal Recruitment team as it felt like the most cost-effective solution. We had started to neglect external partners, meaning that we were missing valuable talent in the market, even though the hires we had made via agencies had, on balance, been more experienced, had been more productive in their early days, and were more likely to stay with us (from 2018 stats). Somehow we had cut our nose off to spite our face. We have now rectified this and (rightly) see external recruiters as our ambassadors in the market.

We reinvigorated our referral scheme - good people know good people.

We have an awesome company culture, but we have always felt that our numbers of employee referrals could be higher; over a quarter of the hires we made last year came via referrals, and what’s more, the retention of those referred candidates was higher overall. We’ve recognised that the extra degree of comfort someone gets from ‘knowing someone at Opus’ on their first day is valuable and contributes to an individual’s commitment to us in the early days of their employment. Our Referral Scheme was overhauled and reinvigorated to represent our fresh focus on this as a valuable hiring activity and is now more attractive to our employees too. Win, win.

We are investing in engaging (and developing) a talent pool that cares about us.

We are proud of all the awards that we have won, but a piece of metal or glass won’t prompt someone to dream about working with us. Recruitment and social media are intimately bound together, and we want to engage our talent pool with authentic stories about what we believe in. In the same way that we have begun to see our agencies as an extension of our Talent team, we are truly valuing the brand partnerships we have and dedicate real time to cultivating and maintaining those relationships.

We realise that to bring up a workforce takes a village.

Our biggest learning is that internal recruitment has to be a partnership. In our industry, the approach to internal recruitment is often one borne solely of the cost-effectiveness of the service, characterised by an overemphasis on hitting headcount targets. We have been guilty of driving our Internal Recruiters like we do our sales teams. As a result, Internal Recruiters inadvertently ignore (and alienate) their internal customers as a result of that setup and how they’ve been driven and targeted. On top of this, our Internal Recruiters have to be thinking as much about losing people as hiring them. There is no point increasing the headcount in a team for a month, for them to all leave again.

As a Talent team, we are passionate about finding the right people with the basic qualities and drive to do the sales job we are offering. Those ‘right people’ must also be coachable, represent our organisational values, and they have to get on with the team they are going to be a part of. The team they are joining must be receptive, supportive and their new Manager must be well trained to develop, motivate and lead others. If the Internal Recruiters, the Training team, the Hiring managers aren’t all thinking of the whole journey from the start, we will never get things right. And so, we, as Talent, are working hard with senior colleagues to develop trust and move forward in a spirit of common purpose. Getting it right matters to all of us.

Recruitment is a journey, and we are working hard to get it right. None of what I have said here is revolutionary; it really did just take us taking a step back from the here and now to establish what wasn’t working for us, and work out why it didn’t fit with where we were headed. That was the revolution. As the person in charge of our Internal Recruitment and the wider Talent team, I will always strive to serve my colleagues as best as I can - the ideas in this blog are the culmination of many hours of listening, and digging, and listening some more.

In light of this fantastic evolution and journey, we are now hiring a super Talent Acquisition Manager to help us drive this new journey forward. Click here to see the job details and apply.

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