How do Recruitment agencies work?

ciel blog - How do Recruitment agencies work

Agencies have two worlds to deal with – companies are looking to hire the best talent and at the same time, jobseekers are looking for the best opportunity. They earn their fees from the companies and hence their loyalty and priority lie with the employer organizations, referred as clients globally. They make their best efforts to understand what the client is looking for and do their best to meet those demands. Sometimes they encounter unrealistic demands and get pushed around until they are able to influence the client otherwise.

Recruitment agencies want a steady supply of talent to carry out their business of searching the best in the market. Moreover, they want candidates to open up, share information freely and express their mind completely to them. This is normally a tall ask, especially when a candidate is not actively seeking a job change.

How do they deal with this complex situation?

Agencies are not designed to receive Jobseekers well.

Candidates have their own reference points and accordingly set their eyes on certain kind of jobs and salaries. Some candidates want to get away from their current jobs badly; and some look for their first job. All of them reach a recruiter and seek their help in finding their dream break.

It is not very easy to reach a recruiting company because they do not have a desk who is tasked with the responsibility of attending to jobseekers. They have either an email id or a webpage to accept applications from jobseekers. Recruiting agencies do not have a working system to find a job for a candidate.

A mere handful of recruiters care to receive an incoming call from a candidate, listen to the desires and thoughts of a jobseeker and suggest an opportunity in case they have one or two of their job orders match with the skills and experience of the candidate.

Rarely a recruiter spends time with a jobseeker without the sight of an imminent opportunity of placing the candidate and earning revenue for the agency. Just in case a candidate is lucky to reach such a recruiter, he or she could have a realistic chance of being assessed for a real position or a speculative position in one of the employer organizations.

They focus on filling their open job order.

The job of a recruiter is like that of a salesperson who has to relentlessly pursue a set of activities each day and has to achieve the assigned target for the week, month and the quarter. Here, performance history doesn’t bear much value unless you have achieved your numbers last month and last quarter.

A recruiter brings in the revenue for the company only if the candidate reports on duty and sticks on to the job for a while. More often than not, the job orders on the table of a recruiter are not exclusive. Moreover, employer organizations evolve and morph their specifications as they keep meeting candidates during the recruiting process. A candidate who seems to be a perfect-fit based on initial specification of the client, gets rejected in the final interview with the client. Similarly, we see cases where someone rejected by the agency reaches the employer through someone else and gets the job offer. This shows, there are variables such as market forces, candidate’s mind and the line of thinking of the client. These are outside the control of the recruiter and hence, the work environment is all about speed, accuracy and outcomes.

Agency recruiters focus on filling the orders they receive. If something doesn’t seem to get filled due to some reason, they move on to the next assignment with the hope of filling it up.

They love transparency.

Agencies are in the constant search of companies who want to focus on their core business and value an expert who can find talent for them. Some companies use a mixed approach to hiring – they have an in-house team and at the same time, they use recruiting agencies. In-house team recruits relatively easy positions, drive administrative tasks such as internal referrals, co-ordination among recruiting agencies, candidates, interviewers within the company and other third-party providers such as background verifiers, assessment companies and so on.

Agencies are happy when an RPO (Recruitment Process Outsourcing) project is awarded to them because it offers them access to the interviewers within the company and they are able to clearly understand the job profile, candidate profiles and the style of assessment adopted by the interviewers. They get to see the outcomes of their efforts transparently. Similarly, when they get the briefing on a position directly from the line manager and the feedback on an interview directly from the interviewer, the process becomes transparent for the agency. They can course-correct easily and deliver high degree of efficiency. Transparency is at the heart of this complex engagement!



Choose the Right HR Partner

Employer choosing the right worker

Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character, said John Wooden, the legendary basketball player and coach.

Organizations have to win consistently and hence, they need the talent who demonstrate the same character each day at work. It is not easy to find people with the same character. HR Teams leverage external agencies and their own teams to source talent; they use a set of assessment tools to pick the right matches. Who can do this the best?

Know your context and choose your path!

Specialised roles needed for a short period of time have to be filled by a Temp agency. Its recruiter hires such roles periodically and hence is in the best position to fill the position quickly and most economically. Compliance, payroll and other HR transactions of such an employee are taken care by the Temp agency while the company can just focus on getting its tasks done by this temp employee in the best possible manner.

Organizations sometimes need to on-board a bunch of people across a range of skills spread across a geography to staff new roles as the organization diversifies or expands. This is a situation where a RPO (Recruitment Process Outsourcing) Provider can fulfil the organization’s needs the best.

What about campus hiring? Companies need to invest time of their senior management team if they have to carry out selection at each campus. Typically a large number of applicants attend the campus selection and a handful are offered. The selection rates are low and hence the ROI (returns on investment) for campus selection is low. Hence, it works well to outsource the pre-final stages of selection to an HR agency.

Replacement hiring in an organization must be outsourced to an RPO player when a there is a large need. The engagement can be driven by key performance indicators (KPIs) around cycle time, hiring cost and conversion ratios. While it is possible to do the same with In-house teams, practically speaking, it doesn’t happen. Hence it is always better to outsource hiring to an external partner.

Small and medium organizations do not have too many roles to fill and are often under the pressure of time. Moreover, they need to be sure that they have cast the net wide open to attract the best and nothing else. Who other than an external HR partner deliver this level of service in the most effective manner?

Companies looking to fill their strategic roles need to work with specialist recruiters on an exclusive basis because of the confidentiality and criticality involved in the hiring process. Candidates must experience uniformity in the way the opportunity and the employee value proposition are communicated.

What must not be outsourced?

Finding talent is an ongoing process and getting the talent with the desirable traits on-board is not easy. One needs a solid strategy to ensure that the right methods are in use to attract talent, screen them and get them on-board. Getting the talent management plans right is the foundational step that a company takes to keep its future in safe hands. One cannot outsource crystal-ball-gazing into the future, defining the plans and keeping a track of the progress against the plans.

Chief of People Office takes ownership of this strategic step in the organization’s functioning and creates the maximum impact on the business results. Choosing the right partner is the next critical step that the office takes so that the execution of the plan is right.

Who is the Right Partner?

Your partner needs to bring subject matter expertise, the experience of having delivered on similar assignments, the intent to partner with you on your terms, a track record of having established such partnerships and the capability of their team members to deliver consistently. The kind of questions the recruiter asks and the topics he or she raises in the discussion tells you about the strategic alignment that you can experience in future. It is important for you to see a level of trust and confidence in the recruiting firm.

Moreover, the recruiting company should have a leadership team which is passionate about client partnerships and builds a culture of long-term association with its clients. This is a critical parameter to evaluate agencies because your HR partner is for the long term and delivers results effectively only when you work with them at least for a year.


Ranting on Social Media

ciel blog - social_media_rants

Social media is no more a fad that organizations can wish it away. Stakeholders of an organization are going to use it and express their opinions and feelings. Going by the nature of this media, it is natural that an opinion or update will go viral. More often than not, rumours, sensational news and shocking updates spread faster than the appreciation, recognition and positive results. Our business environment is getting increasingly interconnected at a global stage and sees the impact of this vial spread sooner than ever before. How can an organization deal with this phenomenon effectively?

Need an Agile Leadership Team at the Top

An organisation in India will be worried if one of its customers in Australia experiences poor service, one of its employees complains of her boss in the USA, students from a university campus in Nagpur post on Facebook about the high-handedness of the company’s officers in the campus recruitment drive. And at the same time, the organisation has to capture all positive moments of truth, showcase them to build a positive sentiment around its brand and spread a favourable word of mouth among its stakeholders. Organizations have acted against employees ranting about the workplace – its culture, boss, pay, benefits, HR policies, work hours and so on. What can one do when someone outside your organization rants about you?

One can certainly reply back and use other pressure tactics if possible; can go to the court as the last resort. Is this approach enough and appropriate? Let’s take these one by one.

What if they are your employees?

Organizations have social media policies. Over the last few years, the media has evolved at such a fast pace that some of these policies sound archaic and impracticable. For example, access to social media is blocked on company network; employees are advised not to access their social media profiles during the work hours and so on. Employees use their smart phones for their day to day work. How can these policies be implemented?

Social media policies are passé. The only way to deal with employee dissatisfaction is to explain them the power of social media and how they should leverage it rather than telling them a set of do’s and don’ts.

The leadership team must recognize that there could be situations which an employee doesn’t like and hence, he or she should be able to discuss that easily with someone and see it addressed easily. In case, the employee is not happy with the action, he or she should be able to reach the top leaders for another discussion. When the organization establishes such listening mechanisms and makes them working effectively, the probability of a disgruntled employee ranting about the workplace is negligible. If at all it happens, the organization can deal with it easier.

Organizations have to make sure that the employees and ex-employees understand what information is confidential and how they must deal with it. We live in a democratic country and value freedom of speech. However, this value has to be balanced well with the responsibility of protecting company information and update which when leaked to the public could potentially hurt its success. For example, an employee could have a concern about the way contracts are awarded, performance appraisals are held, bonuses are decided, teams are managed or something as mundane as cafeteria food, company bus or the company coffee machine. All of these are private and confidential issues if known to the external world could hurt the company’s business prospects. Hence, they must know how to deal with these. They won’t take it to social media and blow the whistle in public if they see systems within the company are operational to address their concerns as and when they arise.

What if they are external stakeholders?

You have a very little to control or influence on the external world unless you spend heavily on reputation management, image building and public relations. How many organizations can afford it? Listening and responding with speed is the major issue in most cases. This sounds very primitive and foundational, however the fact is that many organizations do not have an effective mechanism of listening to their customers, ex-employees, vendors, media, competitors, society and sometimes, even the government.  This lacunae makes them vulnerable to social ranting. Given the advances in technology, It is easy to set up listening mechanisms such as email ids, phone numbers, chat windows and social media pages; however, the challenge remains in administering them. Hence, companies have to invest efforts and time in making those channels operational and delight their stakeholders.


Young Fathers need support from their Employers

ciel blog - young father

Mother gets the world of attention when a baby is born and assumes a new world of responsibilities. Employer organizations are statutorily required to offer 26 weeks’ of paid maternity leave. What about the young father who is increasingly bearing a fair share of responsibility in rearing the child? As families are increasingly getting nuclear and staying in cities away from places where their elders live, they face many practical challenges. How do we solve them?

Challenges galore

Life becomes exciting with the arrival of a new-born. Wishes pour in, shopping picks up, a myriad of new tasks come up on the to-do list, unlimited number of new and unforeseen situations crop up. Thanks to the statutory provision of maternity leave, the young mother is able to switch off from work completely and focus on rearing the baby. However, the young father has to still multi-task dealing with work, keeping family’s finances organized to cater to the new developments in the family, sharing joy and spreading it among the near and dear ones. To top it all, he has to play an important role in all the logistic support needed for the expanded family and steering the days and weeks in a balanced manner.

Very few organizations in India recognize the need of offering a paid leave to the young father to help him fulfil his responsibilities towards the new-born. Neither do we have a statutory provision for it. Some employers are benign to offer 1 to 8 weeks of paternity leave. Central Government as well as most State Governments allow 2 weeks of paid leave in the first 6 months of the child birth. A few large companies are able to offer more attractive terms.

Norms in other countries

Barring a handful of developed nations, most countries offer government support towards paternity. In some cases, private sector doesn’t provide it while the Govt sector does provide. In some cases, for high-wage employees, the allowance paid for the leave period has an upper cap to limit the cost to the government exchequer. Sometimes, a few days are fully paid while the remaining days of the leave period are partially compensated. Some countries call it a birth leave and allow either the mother or the father to avail it in full or split between them. In most countries, it is a 2 weeks of paid leave to support a young father. Govt of India must look at revamping its social support for young parents rather than limiting to maternity leaves and putting the financial load on the employers.

This support from the Government makes it easy on the employer to grant the benefit because the financial burden is borne by the Government. However, it remains a challenge for the employer firm to deal with someone’s absence from work for a long period. Mature organizations can plan their work keeping the leave in mind, however small organizations do see this as an interruption and find it annoying. However, granting a paid leave is not enough!

Help the young father grow up and start parenting

One aspect of the revamp is in the realm of granting the leave and compensating it; the other aspect is to help the person fulfil the responsibilities of being a father apart from being a husband, a son, a brother, co-worker, boss, sub-ordinate, friend and so on.

One has to acquire new knowledge, learn new skills and most importantly, apply them handling the baby, building a new facet of relationship with the new-born, his wife and the society at large. The stress of handling new responsibilities at home, fulfilling social obligations and delivering the results at work at the same time, could be an awful lot. Unless the person is ready to deal with all of this, it could easily overwhelm one. As the baby starts growing up, the parents have to keep adapting on a regular basis. They need to stay positive, be flexible to shift priorities and make sacrifices.

In today’s world, an employer and the ecosystem at the workplace play an important role in a person’s life. Forward thinking organizations can organize a directory of support mechanisms such as mentorship programmes, counselling sessions and healthcare providers. The young father can access them as and when required.

This is a critical part of one’s life stage that can be supported well by the employer and do a world of good for its employer brand.


Social bonding at work

ciel blog - social bonding at work

Someone said, “Alone we are smart, together we are brilliant.” Organizations are successful when they deliver outstanding results as a collective. The employees need to have a common understanding of the purpose of the organization, its values and beliefs. While they go about doing their day to day work, make decisions, prioritise their actions, solve customer issues, win new deals, improve efficiencies, save costs, put their annual plans in place and so on, they need to keep these in mind. When the employees are all aligned in their thoughts and beliefs, they bond very well with one another, respect mutually and become a brilliant unit indeed!

There is no doubt that a cohesive workforce rallies around common causes strongly. Leveraged well, such a workforce can be a competitive advantage for the organization. Employees need to feel happy about themselves and being in the company of their colleagues. How do employees bond well? Is happiness a personal subject or employers create social settings actively for their folks to have a good time together?

Get the foundation right

Many leaders and founders are so passionate about the business, its purpose and goals that they are eternally in a hurry to see the outcome. They inadvertently miss putting the building blocks in place and as a result, the structure starts wobbling after it crosses the initial exuberance of coming together and getting the revenue streams in place. The climb onto the next step on the ladder becomes tough.

The cornerstones of an enterprise are the values, beliefs and its mission. They need to be understood by each and every person in the enterprise. Leaders have to talk about these not only at the time of on-boarding but also time to time, at critical junctures of decision making. While they discuss about a challenge or an opportunity, they need to share their thoughts openly so that all other people involved in the process are able to get a view of these foundational aspects.

When leaders are able to percolate the values down the ranks, the organization recruits right and engages with their customers, partners and employees in the right way. More often than not, the employees make the right decisions along their way.

Promote social well-being

Top leaders of an enterprise need to consistently demonstrate that they are committed to the well-being of their employees and social bonding at work. Many workplaces practise high degree of discipline and undivided attention from their employees when they are operating a machine or materials. Yet the leaders can easily show their commitment to employee well-being by the way they relate to them, connect with them, interact with their families and provide opportunities for them to interact with others, take care of their daily needs.

For example, the soldiers in the Army, migrant labourers, travelling salesmen, seamen and people on project work have to live away from their kith and kin, deal with many stressful situations at work. Their organizations have to find the wherewithal to fulfil the social needs and ambitions of their employees.

Leaders need to believe, their organization’s goals can be better achieved when the employees are committed and aligned with their thinking. The workplace has to be such that they can come together to build their own bonds and find joy and happiness without harming anyone else. Sometimes, we have to provide environments beyond work for the employees such as annual day, family day and so on where they can celebrate their success, enjoy time beyond work and recommit to the goals ahead.

All fingers are not the same

Each employee may not have the same level of propensity to build social bonds. Some of them want to be very active socially, connect with many others, either collaborate or fight, express their opinions, engage in community work and so on while some others could be very private, prefer to maintain discretion and privacy, engage in a limited activities with a small circle of individuals. Human beings are like the fingers in a palm, unique in many ways and different from the others. So, we shouldn’t expect every employee to be active equally on social bonding and at the same time, we must not conclude that such an employee lacks commitment and loyalty.

With the advent of emails and messaging and chat applications, employees sitting 50 feet away from each other are communicating with each other by emails and chats. Conversations on chats and emails could be quick and non-intrusive but they lack the power of in-person face to face conversation where emotions can be are easily conveyed along with the verbal communication. Sometimes managers encourage their team members to drop in an email and let conflicts simmer for some time. While this could be tactical at times, employees get into the habit of staying away from in-person discussions and meetings.

Organizations have to find ways of playing up the social well-being and aligning their workforce better, thus turning out superior results.


Take help from Experts

Specialists are sought after all over the world, may it be in the domain of hi-tech or something very mundane like cooking, gardening and plumbing. At the same time, they are not commonplace; and it costs money. When is a good time to call for a specialist?

Organisations want to get the best talent on board because that’s a competitive advantage hard to replicate by the competition. Do they ask the internal HR team to recruit or get the experts to hire for them?

Get the hiring plan on the table!

Many leaders do not have a good visibility of their hiring needs broken down by the week, by the skill levels and criticality of the role to be hired. Secondly, every organisation being a living being, keeps evolving and is different from another by the life-stage it is in. For example, the context of merger with another organisation is very different from that of an organic plan of diversification. Speed of hiring, confidentiality of the hiring process and the approach of the top management towards talent acquisition determine if an internal team would do the job or external specialists are to be called in.

If the plans are clear and the organisation’s context is clear, it is easier to decide the next course of action.

Can you get the Specilaists in-house?

Someone suggested, specialists can be in-house and the talent requirements be fulfilled by this team. This is like a restaurant growing its own crops to serve good food to its guests. Could this get any more unrealistic!

Candidates want an impartial view of the opportunity; they want to build relationships with recruiters who can suggest them multiple opportunities in future. It becomes tough to strike an honest and open-ended conversation when the recruiter is dedicated for just one company.

When the specialist of the infirmary of an organisation recommends a certain course of treatment, the employee wants to take a second opinion unless it’s a minor ailment. Similarly the advice given by an in-house recruiter is taken with a pinch of salt by the prospective candidates. Real intent and drive of the prospective talent becomes very opaque for the employer organisation.

Cost per hire is never easy to calculate because of multiple hidden costs. Line managers define the requirements, review CVs, hold interviews in multiple stages, in-house recruiters often co-ordinate between the candidates and the line managers, directly with the candidates throughout the recruiting process until the joining is done. All these costs are significant; the way to optimise these is to increase conversion of CV submissions to joining.

Normally inhouse recruiters are judged against the interviews they organise. Nobody looks at the cost incurred in the process. The ideal situation is to get an external specialist to generate all possible options, screen candidates well and present the best choices. The metric of conversion ratio is useful for an RPO (Recruitment Process Outsourcing) assignment as well as for contingency hiring.

Arguments here favour outsourcing hiring. When do you build your own team of specialists in-house?

Strategy cannot be outsourced

We cannot ask someone outside our organisation to define our context and arrive at the required hiring needs. None other than the top managers can determine which role is critical for the company and which one is confidential. Just in case a company has a consulting partner for business strategy, the top deck plays an important role in defining what’s critical.

Secondly the in-house specialist needs to keep a watch over the machinery which runs the hiring process and delivers all moments of truth to the stakeholders in recruiting. Process Quality is critical for building a sustainable employer brand. Rome was not built overnight. So, the long term outcomes are to be architected in advance, the challenges on the way are to be tracked and overcome on an ongoing basis. The senior folks in talent acquisition have to play these elements of hiring strategy.

Sometimes organizations encounter exceptional demand-supply gaps. Long term views need to be taken about job design, compensation and employee attraction methods. Again, this is a case that needs to be owned up by the company and can be co-created with inputs from the hiring partners.

Leaders have to leverage specialists at the right time and generate the desired business results!

How do we nurture Diversity in the organization?

ciel blog - diversity

Many organizations and their leaders pride in the fact that they value diversity, inclusion, equal opportunity and so on. It is beyond argument that a diverse workforce has a greater chance to think holistically and hence, innovate; be a greater draw for talent than someone who doesn’t have a stated policy around this. But the moot question is if diversity is a mere buzzword in the organization and a mandated value or it is really being practised and the stakeholders in the organization are able to experience diversity a part of their life at work. So, the bottomline is to live it each day. How do the top leaders do it?

Get the rank and file to see its value!

A value can never be mandated to follow unless it comes from within. The leaders or managers in the organization who are responsible for recruitment of new employees and directing them towards achieving the business results, have to truly believe that a diverse workforce gives them a long-lasting edge in the marketplace. This belief has to be developed and reinforced by a focused approach of leadership development.

Unless the leaders learn to appreciate multiplicity of opinions, work in a collaborative manner with various stakeholders of the business, work on projects outside their own area of work and change roles from time to time, they do not live the spirit of diversity. Over a period of time, people appreciate the contribution made by others in the business; they learn to relate with the thinking of the others and become less critical of viewpoints which are not amenable to their own. A diverse workforce can bring about holistic solutions to real life situations.

Recruit Right!

Managers who appreciate diversity tend to be picky about the people they hire. They tend to assess a candidate if he or she can adapt well to the culture of working together, appreciate others’ viewpoints and work with the others by the power of influencing rather than by the power of authority. Sometimes, the diversity ratios by education, gender, race, faith etc seem lopsided in a firm and they want to make amends by targeted diversity hiring. Recruiters know, it is not easy to find people who thrive and flourish in multi-cultural environments; at the same time, hiring a certain kind of people in bursts to correct the ratios is not easy simply because of the demand-supply situation. Recruiting right is a critical step towards nurturing diversity in the organization.

Lead by Example

Leaders have to walk the talk. It starts right from the top – diversity has to be visible right there in terms of the mix of leadership talent and the manner in which they recruit people for their own teams, listen to the perspectives of a variety of stakeholders, deal with emotionally challenging tasks, demonstrate maturity in handling criticisms and groom the upcoming leaders. Organizational culture gets defined right there.

Organizations face a variety of challenges due to the dynamism of the business environment we live in. True leaders demonstrate steadfast commitment to listening to diverse views, welcoming perspectives from the others and believing in the fact that diversity strengthens their armour for the long-term. They combine the power of diversity in their team with the other strengths to deliver superior results.