Lockdown has presented recruitment businesses with an opportunity to reassess their staff skills, knowledge and training.
I know many business owners who have realised that busyness often camouflages a lack of skills among staff.
James, who owns a healthcare agency told me “I discovered that many of my staff have no idea how to speak to a client if they don’t have a job or a candidate to discuss.”
Another example came from Mark, whose business recruits in the energy sector – “I had assumed that my recruiters understood the same as me when I spoke about ‘qualifying a candidate’.
Now it turns out they were just asking candidates if they met the criteria for a job”.
Even government policy has allowed employers to bring furloughed staff back for training.
It’s that important.
So, given how critical the right skills and processes are in this fast-changing and challenging market, why is it that so many Recruitment Leaders still take such a backward approach to training?
In a recent virtual board meeting, one director told me that he thought a training session with an external provider had been a success.
When I asked why, he said:
“Well, they all seemed to enjoy it.” He had no other criteria in mind, and had no idea what specifically his people had been taught.
Here’s how to make every penny invested in training count – for real, impactful change in your business.
1. Remember training is not entertainment.
Let me be absolutely clear. I am not saying that training cannot be entertaining. Variety, participation, discussion are all critical to a successful learning experience. But you should expect business outcomes from time spent in training, and that won’t happen unless you are clear about implementation.
Kirkpatrick defined 5 levels of evaluation of training (yes, way back in 1976). They are:
So, to give a simple example, before you invest in a training programme, you should be clear about the outcomes you want, and how you will assess the implementation of learning.
If I wanted more retained assignments, say, then what is the current and desired level of performance? What behaviours/skills/processes will get us there? How will I assess whether people are even trying to sell retainers? What should I expect to hear on the client call? What do my people have to know before they have that conversation with the client?
This would play out as:
Level 1 – Reaction/Satisfaction: Are my team committed to achieving more retainers and see it as relevant to their jobs?
Level 2 – Learning: Can they clearly identify when to sell a retained option, and when not to? Do they understand the payment model and terms?
Level 3 – Behaviour: Have participants pitched retainers on every job that meets the criteria since? Can they explain why they didn’t get one? Can they analyse and adjust their approach?
Level 4 – Results: How well have we achieved the targeted number of retainers? What has been the effect on fees and efficiencies?
Level 5 – ROI: What payback has been achieved on the management time and trainees time and any external spend required to make this change?
2. Know what is being taught
Any trainer, internal or external, should be able to explain what techniques they are teaching. They may have many favourite acronyms and personal techniques, and you need to know what they are.
There are so many advantages to everyone understanding the same language. This means that- in a form of in-house shorthand- colleagues can remind themselves and each other of their learning. With repetition, the process or technique becomes embedded, just “the way we do things round here”.
Very few recruitment business owners have such large businesses that they don’t need to get under the bonnet. So listen to your people (yes, record their calls for training purposes!).
Reinforce learning. If you didn’t attend the training, at the very least get someone to talk you through their workbook.
If it hasn’t sunk in or has been poorly understood, hold the trainer accountable. What matters is NOT how popular they are, but how well they can develop the skills of others.
Above all, if you want your training to be an investment rather than a cost, make sure you demonstrate the desired behaviours yourself, as opportunities allow.
3. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Remember the last time you went to a training seminar, conference or meeting? You probably left buzzing with ideas to implement and new approaches to share.
Then you got back to the office. You had a long list of meetings, calls to return, catch-ups.
So the great ideas got parked. By the time you revisit those notes, your memory is a little less clear. And the acronyms you wrote down don’t make any sense any more.
In most cases, you don’t make a lasting change.
If your change is going to have a business impact, it needs repetition.
Revisit it at team meetings.
Display the acronyms on your boards.
Review it at individual review meetings.
Celebrate successes that have been achieved using the new technique. Discuss challenges that people have experienced in implementing it.
But never assume that just telling people creates change.
There are many important lessons I have absorbed over my 35 years in recruitment- many of them by learning from my mistakes. These ones are right up there in the top 10.
As a recruitment leader, Nothing changes unless you change.
If you think I’ve said some of these things in blogs before, you’re right. See point 3. QED.