Have you seen the episode of Big Bang Theory where Sheldon Cooper ran away to live on a train for a few weeks because he just couldn’t handle all the changes in his life, and Penny cutting her hair was the final straw for him? Imagine running away to live on a train for a few weeks because you hate change?!
“People rarely welcome change, we tend to be averse to change. We can be resistant to anything that threatens the status quo of the way we work, sometimes it seems that doing things differently does not actually equate to doing things better in the long run, so, with this in mind, introducing change has to be done carefully.” Nichola Peagam, Operations Manager @ JSS Search
This is no different in recruitment either. Consultants do not enjoy change. They like consistency to help them make as much money as possible. But, what if that change will actually allow for just that?
How dare I suggest such a thing right?! Wrong. Operational improvements are inherently designed to make the business more profitable, the consultants’ life easier and keep the business compliant.
So, how do you manage this process and get the rest of the business to accept it? I have been speaking to the recruitment industry's leading operational professionals to find out exactly how they do it.
It is impossible to implement a change without knowing your audience well. The new process, policy or procedure needs to be tailored to be as effective and efficient for the end user as possible. So, in order to achieve this, the sales team need to be involved in the process. Knowing what will help them do their job well will mean the changes will be better received.
“The trick to any successful implementation is to know your audience and act accordingly.” Olga Curtis, Operations Manager @ FutureHeads
“Include the end user from the get-go, their input is instrumental. After all, Ops employees aren't the ones doing the job. Take on board the consultants’ ideas, concerns and where possible turn them into positives.” Anonymous, Operations Manager, International Technology Recruitment Business
“The best way we have found is to get a focus group of consultants together who have opinions and like to be heard, engage these people and the rest will follow. We use a PM tool to not only track the live projects but all of our ideas; we can then start gathering information in the background before going full force into a project and it potentially not landing.” Maria Vavoulas, Account Director & Operational Excellence Lead @ Alexander Ash
What is one of the most important skills everyone in recruitment needs to have? Communication! This applies to internal matters as well. Communication is essential during the implementation of an operational change for a seamless process.
“Communication is key! It is important that employees understand what’s happening, why and what the end result will be… Most people will adapt, but communication helps the process a whole lot more. Your staff always like to be kept informed.” Nichola Peagam
“My best tip is to make sure your communication is clear from the start and sell the new policy as best you can by reminding them that we are all working towards the same end goal!” Anna Swahn, Operations Manager EMEA @ Human Capital
People don’t like to just be told what they need to do differently, the likelihood is, they probably won’t comply with the new change if they are only told they must! They need to understand the benefits this will have for them.
“You need to clearly explain why you are implementing the changes required and the benefit to the recruiters early on.” Anna Swahn
“People always like to see and know what the intended benefits will be, so talking to your staff is one of the most important things you can do.” Nichola Peagam
Consultants ask a lot of questions. At the end of the day, it is their job to do so, isn’t it? Whether this is when opening up a brief with a client or when figuring out whether a candidate is suitable for a role, it is always questions, questions and more questions! So, what makes you think it’ll be any different when an operational change is being implemented? It won’t.
“We obviously don't just make up new rules just for the fun of it, but I think sometimes the back office can forget that the recruiters do not see the process behind new policies. All the recruiters see is new hoops to jump through and a growing list of things to remember to do. They don't see the weeks or months of brainstorming, meetings and problem-solving leading up to the new policy.” Anna Swahn
“Know the answer to the consultants "why's" – there are always a lot of them, cover all bases!” Anonymous Operations Manager
Consultants will try to take short-cuts if they can, so, if you can answer all the questions, you will get their buy-in, making your months of preparation worthwhile!
In order to be able to answer the why’s and millions of other questions, you need to leave no loopholes and be extremely prepared. The process of creating that new policy or improving a process is a long and tiresome one, so preparation is key.
“My number one focus for change management is preparation. Take the time to map out exactly what needs to be done in order to successfully integrate a new process and anticipate every eventuality. Managing consultant’s engagement can be tricky, so anticipate the challenges you will face and make sure you are planning with them in mind.
It makes your life easier if you have a detailed plan and timeline and if you can implement a major new change, with minimal disruption and maximum return, the business will have faith in the changes you make moving forward and be far more engaged.” Natasha South, Operations Manager @ Camino Partners
And while doing this, regular updates for the business during and continued information after implementation are two of the many keys to success!
“Keep consultants firmly in the loop with progress, the less the shock factor the better.” Anonymous Operations Manager
“Always follow up and always close the loops. Give the business main headlines in addition to the full policy, so that they don’t feel they have to read too many pages on top of their normal jobs.” Olga Curtis
“Lead from the front” is something that comes out of my mouth every day – the best way to embed anything new is to do it yourself and demonstrate the benefits.” Maria Vavoulas
“Give training where required. Be a coach and mentor rather than a dictator, then the staff are more likely to adapt to and adopt the changes.” Olga Curtis
So, what does it take to successfully implement an operational change and get the business buy-in? Solid preparation, excellent communication, having all the answers, and the involvement of your target audience. At the end of the day, each new policy and procedure is designed to improve the business performance, so it is all about getting that message across to the rest of the company.
It is no easy task to get 5 or 500 consultants to accept a new policy, but great operations professionals will find a way to get everyone to comply. Everyone’s method is different, but the above are a few of the many hints and tips that will make everyone’s life that little bit easier.
If you are that great operations professional and want to implement your excellent ideas into a new business, or if you are looking for a fantastic operations professional to get the buy-in of your consultants then get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org or 0203 805 5221.