Being Positively Courageous.

With this Autumn Huddles theme being positively courageous I thought it would be best to look at some traits that make us courageous, and what sets those who are courageous apart from the rest.

1 – Embrace vulnerability – if you live a fear-based life you’re less likely to have little or no confidence if you feel afraid of others seeing who you are, open up and be more vulnerable.

2 – Admit you have fears – Admitting your fears and identifying what you’re truly afraid of gives you the information you need to overcome them.

3 – Face your fears – Exposing yourself to what you fear is the best way to overcome it, scared of spiders? Go and handle one and see how you feel after.

4 – Think positively – Sure difficult times will come, but it’s best to overcome these by thinking positively.

5 – Reduce your stress – Easier said than done I’m sure, but sometimes you experience fear due to being exhausted, sleep, good food and exercise certainly help reduce stress.

6 – Demonstrate courage – Take time to help people who are in uncomfortable situations, instead of ignoring people in distress, help.

7 – Know failure but press forward – If you fail, learn from it, keep moving forward.

8 – Cope with risk and uncertainty – Conquer fears by learning to deal with life’s uncertainties. If you fear to lose your clients, or employees, figure out what it’ll take to keep them.

9 – Continue to learn – Grow, learn and improve. Take all opportunities to learn new skills. Read books, consume podcasts and videos, the more you know the more you can grow.

10 – Accept your challenges – Stay the course, even the greatest plans can fail, the best option is to have a plan b, c, d and e to make sure you can get through the challenges that can come.

We shouldn’t let fear drive decisions, we shouldn’t let fear have control, the answer is to be positively courageous!

To what extent is human failure – at any level – behind the successes (or failures) we see in the world of recruitment

‘I’ve lost 8 colleagues – every one through human failure’

When someone (Mandy Hickson sharing her story at the Recruitment Network Huddle) tells you 8 colleagues have lost their lives during the course of her fighter pilot career and every loss was a result of human failure rather than system or mechanical failure, it gets you thinking about the equivalent root cause of business failure/success (NB I am certainly not comparing the significance of lost lives to failing/succeeding at business. What’s interesting is potential impact of systems and technology on recruitment agency success or failure) To what extent is human failure – at any level – behind the successes (or failures) we see in the world of recruitment and how influential, particularly as AI evolves, is the choice and use of systems and technology we adopt? Is the proportionate human vs systems impact shifting?

It’s clear to me that it’s our ability, as business leaders, to make the right decision and effectively implement those decisions that will always have a disproportionate impact on the success or failure of our own ‘mission’.  The systems, those that exist already and those that are emerging, can make us smarter, more effective and efficient, enable better candidate and client experiences, but recruitment’s still a people and relationship business and will remain so albeit with a human/tech blend behind the service proposition

How we source, engage and work with candidates is a case in point. At The Recruitment Network’s recent quarterly Huddle at the Jumeriah Carlton Tower, 160 recruitment business leaders gathered to debate, challenge and share best practice with a focus on the candidate – how to find them, engage them and deliver consistently excellent candidate experiences

Disruptive Sourcing and Candidate engagement

2 of the industry’s leading ‘sourcerers’ – Hung Lee and Mark Lundgren – joined the event and shared their observations. We polled the audience and 54% shared that not finding enough candidates was their biggest business challenge. In a recent survey of 700 recruiters interviewed, nearly 500 – in house recruiters, hiring managers and recruitment agencies – said they were candidate short.

Hung and Mark had plenty to say about how to overcome the sourcing challenges. What was clear from their research and surveys carried out (by LinkedIn and Randstad among others) was that we agree there are not enough candidates, yet we are all fishing from the same pool, LinkedIn, where it’s difficult to differentiate. We’re all doing more or less the same thing. It’s shared data and everyone is using it.  If you are fishing in the same pond as everyone else, you’d better be doing something special. There is too much competition and it’s too busy so candidates are not looking on LinkedIn as much.

So there’s an overreliance on LinkedIn, what’s the solution and what can recruiters be doing differently?  The solution Hung and Mark presented to The Recruitment Network membership was to better use the one unique thing that we all have: our internal data. This is data and intelligence that arguably on-one else has.

The first 15 years of this millennium was the ‘wild west’ of data: not much control, with people nicking, sharing and buying data. Anybody could capture and use your data with no legal barriers. That’s changed – it’s no longer owned by businesses but is the property of the user (hence why Facebook are currently looking to protect that data). Data is about to become very expensive (and precious – you’ll have heard of the data is the new oil concept – so we need to think about what we currently have and what we do with it.

Hung and Mark argued for a different mindset and that CRMs are not used in the right way. Currently CRM’s are used as an operational tool to capture the data, as records to access when we have a job to fill, rather than an opportunity to create communities.  But changing anyone’s mindset and habits is hard. Why is that? Well for starters, recruiters are time poor, so don’t really typically speak to candidates unless we have a job for them. Recruiters work long hours and often work evenings and weekends already so it’s about bosses recognising the reality of the evolving candidate market and enabling an environment where recruiters can and want to – buy in to this is critical – work to evolve the unused database.

Can systems and technology make a difference? Of course they can:

  • CRMs are evolving
  • Products like Candidate ID monitors and tracks social activity to rank candidates on how likely they are to look for a job
  • Chatbots capture candidate interaction and notify the recruiter that interest has been shown

Despite the systems and tech evolution, we still need to evolve the classic 360 model. The strategy of hiring more 360 consultants to make more money doesn’t create the levels of candidate engagement or community we need. 360 recruiters do too much (which is why we are not using all of the data we have) you’re a BDM, a salesperson, a researcher, candidate manager, deal closer etc. That’s a lot of work as it’s a full cycle job and consultants can be a jack of all trades, master of none.

So what else is stopping us using our unique data to create better more relevant communities? The view from the membership was that:

  • No-one is actually looking at the data with the daily pressures
  • Sales people are externally facing but data analysis an internally facing role
  • It’s labour intensive (which is where tech can help)
  • It’s a slower ROI
  • Lack of confidence regarding what the content candidates really want
  • The database is significant and diverse – creating the shape and structure to use it effectively

Hung and Mark pushed TRN members to embrace an Ecosystem Model – find a niche and create a community whereas a recruiter you can be at the very heart of it. Nurture the relationships within the ecosystem to keep the candidate pipeline active. Think about how we structure the company and have conversations earlier with our candidate base. Jobs are episodic. Highly skilled people want information about careers, personal development and to better themselves. That’s what we all want – to improve own knowledge and better ourselves, our teams and our business. (which as Hung pointed out is exactly what we have created at The Recruitment Network)

Sometimes the candidate engagement should be as simple as asking them, checking in every 6 months – ‘you were applying for a job last year and reach out’ – talking about career rather than a job.  Become the agency that candidates come to when they have had a bad day because they trust you and you ‘get them’. Candidates are sceptical of recruitment consultants often believing they, the candidates, are a product to be sold. The intent needs to seem different, with candidates getting perceived long-term value or interest. Asking them questions, possibly linking the responses to a survey. Having different persona types on the database so you can split candidates out as they will all want different things, then writing content for each persona. For example, with in house developers, asking and writing about the struggles they face becomes content enabling the targeting of other developer candidates. Be open and ask candidates which community they would like to be a part of (e.g. construction but in the leadership pool).

Segmentation is important. It requires work but it is getting easier due to new tech options. Even without new technologies, there are other Mark Lundgrens – people who ‘geek’ out on data and enjoy identifying different persona, creating communities and bespoke approaches. There are recruitment businesses who are taking the sales pitch out of the mix by working hard to build the trusted relationship. This skill and expertise will become core and critical to sourcing.

That’s a mindset and strategy which all comes from the leadership. To what extent do we collectively buy into this concept of personas and community building. It starts with the mindset, then we need a team that is enabled – confident, trained and with time to do it – and the technology. TRN members were presented with their gift for the day ‘80 Sourcing Hacks’ – described a ‘brilliant’ by Hung Lee – shared a plethora of emerging tools and tactics.


So not only using LinkedIn as it can be used, but also understand the blend and combination of tools (ie  Meetup + Google + Amazing Hiring) that can transform how effective we are at hiring. As ever with Hung, you realise the tools and numerous and evolving all the time and you really need to know your stuff and equip your consultants and resourcers with the confidence and know to embrace it. (Start with following Hung Lee’s Recruiting Brainfood – brilliant)


Katrina Collier, author and guru on candidate engagement and candidate experience expert Nicola Sullivan joined the Huddle and shared their experience of engaging candidates and standing out rather than getting lost in the crowd. They shared the research and psychology of candidate management as well as a raft of techniques to make the most of the tech and systems we all use on a daily basis.


The lessons shared confirmed Jung and Mark’s principle that while there are some great systems to embrace which can enhance the candidate journey, it’s the buy-in to the right philosophy which is so often missing. If our consultants haven’t recognised that building trust, inspiring confidence, being seen as a career partner and a community influencer is where the art of recruitment is at, they won’t embrace it.  That comes from the leaders in the business and we need to invest in the training, create the environment, educate the team to understand what best practice looks like. 45% of what we do is habit and the common sourcing and candidate engagement practice – habits of the last 5 years – are not going to work moving forward.


Katrina stressed that engaging candidates required re-defining our online presence and personal brand, evolving our techniques for interacting with candidates (let’s move on from ‘urgent vacancy’, changing the language we use in our communications (‘you’ not ‘I’ etc). The psychology of the candidate engagement also needs to be understood – the fears they have, the research they will do, the support they want, the reputational damage they can cause if frustrated.   Every action has a consequence and Katrina shared how to build an online presence – from your profile picture to your Google search results via Instagram. Share your passions, your testimonials, your expertise and how you treat people


TRN Member Highfield Professional Solutions is a great example of a recruitment agency success story who has worked hard to  get the ‘people’ bit of running a great recruitment agency right – great people, skilled and really engaged in the business – and then making sure they use tech right to create efficiency. They have successfully embraced and invested in appropriate systems and technologies to maximise productivity and effectiveness. Equally important, and co founder Liam Thomas shared his big 3 non-negotiable principles for building his business – everyone has to embrace learning – and he’s convinced this has played a significant part in successfully building the business (they now employ 40+  and are enjoying 68% GP growth last year). That learning includes embracing best practice sourcing.


Members walked away with really practical strategies and tactics to implement in the business. It was a powerful day involving TRN members being challenged and stimulated and accessing ideas all recruitment business leaders should be on top of, but also some critical life lessons from  inspirations such as Miles-Hilton Barber, who’ve experienced more than most of will ever do, and had some crazy adventures is possible. So in Miles words, Dream it. Believe it. Do it.


Let us know if you’d like to get involved with The Recruitment Network – the summer retreat is in July – contact us via ed@therecruitmentnetwork.com

Tax Yourself & Invest in Your Business

It’s a personal habit of mine to spend some quality and regular time listening to podcasts and webinars, picking up new ideas and refreshing old thinking.  I am a big fan of personal development and believe you can never stop learning.

Every now and then, you hear little nuggets that just stick in the back of your mind and prevent you from sleeping – I often find myself in the middle of the night leaning over to the side of my bed, grabbing my notebook and pen, and jotting a nugget or two down (it is what I refer to as “positive parking”!) so I can a.) get back to sleep again and b.) remember the nugget in the morning.

I certainly suggest doing some positive parking of your thoughts whenever you can…

Equip Your Middle Management Team to Become True Leaders

The Recruitment Trailblazers programme takes them on a journey to build them up into an individual that has both the confidence and ability to understand what is expected, knows what is involved and takes responsibility for improving personal and team performance.

Last night, I was googling some ideas around content marketing and stumbled across Gary Vaynerchuk (the Belarusian / American entrepreneur and digital marketing guru) whom I have listened to in the past but have never really pursued in earnest until now.

Before I knew it, I was on trundling along on Gary Vee’s bus into a never-ending world of videos covering every stop from building value in your marketing proposition, to building value in your personal wealth – he clearly has a lot to say about a lot of things and to be honest, a lot of it made a huge amount of sense.

The intrigue around the stop entitled to “Key To Financial Freedom” was just too strong, and so I just had to drop in to see what this was all about (I’m convinced that hard work, passion and dedication are the keys, but let’s see what I have been missing out on all these years)!

I was soon parachuted into a lively, 10 minute conversation / interview / love-in between Vaynerchuck and another thought leader that to be very honest, until now, I have never really followed or paid huge attention to (again, I think this may now change), Tony Robbins the renowned American author and life coach.

They were midway discussing investments in bear markets and their thoughts and ideas around that.  To be fair, whilst not what I was originally after, it was an interesting 10 minutes and with their candid and very unique styles, was entertaining enough to definitely make it a worthwhile use of my time and get the creative juices flowing.

However, Tony Robbins dropped in one of those nuggets which really got me thinking, not so much about investments, but about business and more importantly around how we free up time to focus on what really matters in business.

They were discussing the challenges low-income employees and business owners have around being able to afford and allocate cash into investments and in particular bear markets.  When they are just earning the minimum amount to survive, how could they possibly give us some of their much-needed earnings and invest them, especially when markets are on the decline?

Tony (is it appropriate to be on first name terms with him at such an early stage to our relationship?) used a phrase “tax yourself” which really struck a chord.

He suggested that if the Government suddenly stuck a brand new tax on you or your business, you would spend a while shouting and screaming about it, complain to a whole bunch of people, and then ultimately have to just get on and manage… and often we do just that.  We manage and we manage fine.

With that in mind, Tony (new best friend) suggests that if you want to create financial freedom and invest, then you should basically tax yourself each month in the same way and reallocate that money into the markets.

I’m sure the Government would never do that to us, but if we move away from the financials and replace the monetary tax with “time”, then conceptually it is exactly the same.

If someone, in essence, taxed you 10% of your time (sounds like many a meeting I have sat through over my years) you may well shout, scream, complain but you would still keep moving forward and you would still get on with what needed to be done.

The habit would change and you would manage.

Now imagine that 10% time tax wasn’t taken away from you, but instead given back to you to now invest in the one thing that would have the biggest ROI in your business.  What would you do with that time?

For some, this may be obvious and not even a nugget and I am sure they will let me know!).  But I can’t help feeling that we all have 10% time/focus in our days that we could, from now on, tax ourselves on and reallocate to something more worthwhile.  I have already worked on mine since and the taxation has started to kick in.

… and, hey, you never know, this must just be that key to financial freedom they were on about!

Get a taste of the full Recruitment Network member experience in an afternoon.

Guest experts, like-minded peers, and insights to help you build a plan of action to make 2019 your best year yet.

The Culture in the Recruitment Industry is Broken – 6 Tips to Fix It

[heading]The recruitment industry undoubtedly has a reputational problem.[/heading]

For instance, if you Google the phrase, ‘Recruiters are’, these are the highest-ranking suggestions (as of October 2018):

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Although these results must be taken with a pinch of salt, there’s certainly something to be said about the reputation recruiters have. Whilst many businesses believe that their company culture offers something unique and exciting, this is quite often not the case.

Ultimately, the culture of your company should feed into everything that you’re trying to achieve and therefore, it is vital for the reputation of the industry.

At The Recruitment Network, we’ve been running weekly Twitter polls (#TheRecPoll), asking for opinions on the latest industry topics.

Recently we asked why recruiters think they have a bad reputation and found that 52% voted ‘not giving feedback’ is to blame.

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With this as one of the main causes of recruiters’ bad reputation, it raises the question of whether recruitment companies’ cultures are fit for purpose.

The term ‘company culture’ is frequently misinterpreted as being the items you provide for your staff or the office space you have.

You’ll most likely have seen Google appear if you researched company culture, with its quirky office spaces and commitment to learning becoming synonymous with the term.

However, culture needs to run deeper than this. Whilst a comfortable office environment is certainly important, culture needs to begin with a values-led approach.




Check out our top tips below for how to fix your culture:



1). Conduct a discussion with your employees about the values they want

If you’ve already got some values, you’ll need to assess how effective these are. Can your employees name them? Do they know what they need to be doing to show these values? Are they a part of your hiring process? If the answer is no to any of these questions, then your values aren’t as effective as they could be.

If you haven’t made any, then you’ll need to create some and involve your staff in the process.

The best way to do this is by having discussions and creating values that come from the people who work for the business. For instance, this can come from a meeting or an anonymous survey, but ultimately, you should have between 5 and 10 strong values that should be demonstrated by your staff in their day to day work.

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2). Be honest about the business & its direction

Another way to improve your culture is to make the connection between the work that your staff do and the wider goals of the business clear. By keeping your staff up to date with the goals of the business, you can make them feel that their work is more meaningful and important.

You can easily do this by integrating updates into your meetings with the whole team, or on an individual basis. Alternatively, you can display these goals within the office and update them frequently.

If your team are doing well and are helping to advance the business towards its wider goals, make it known!

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3). Integrate values into everything you do

Once your values have been decided, outline the behaviours that show these in your employees’ everyday work and use examples when explaining them to your staff. If you’ve included your staff (which you should do) in this discussion, then they will be able to tell you what this behaviour looks like.

If something isn’t working well, you can then use the values to challenge it. These values should also be adopted by management and used to hold them accountable also. If all of your employees are on board, it becomes much easier to challenge and reward the work that your staff are


Below is a visual example which shows one of our values and its associated behaviours:


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4). Reward people for showing these values

Consider whether there are small ways you can reward your employees. For instance, is there a way you can create an anonymous system where your staff can congratulate someone who has demonstrated one of the values?

Do you have a scheme where you congratulate your employees for their work and how involved are they with your values?

Even a small monetary investment in a monthly incentive can generate a lot of engagement and is a worthwhile consideration.

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5). Shout about them

Once you have these values decided and you’re actively involved in promoting and encouraging them, make sure you’re shouting about them.

Take this opportunity to showcase on social media and in your job adverts the values that your company has. Show how your company uses these as part of working life and if you have successes based on these – shout about them on your social media as well as in your office.

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6). Make it a part of your hiring process

If you’ve got a clearly defined culture, then you need to integrate it into your hiring process. Finding the right cultural fit for your business is just as important as finding someone who is skilled enough to do the job.

Some skills can be taught, but a cultural fit is something you need to find in the person.

One way to successfully do this is to outline your values and expectations on your job adverts and include your employees as part of the interviewing process. The chances are that candidates will also be looking at your website and social profiles, so ensure that they’re visible here too.

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Want to find out more about The Recruitment Network?


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Leaders Feel Isolated Too. 8 Tips for Tackling Loneliness at the Top

Whether you run your recruitment agency by yourself or you have several employees, a feeling of isolation can quickly take over. With research from TotalJobs (2018) finding that three in five employees feel lonely at work, it’s certainly a common issue.

As responsibility increases in the workplace, so too can the feeling of isolation, as more business-critical decisions depend upon your time and you find yourself working away from your team more frequently.

In addition to this feeling of loneliness, it becomes easier to find yourself isolated from the wider recruitment industry itself. As your time becomes more precious and you’re concerned with the internal day to day management of your business, you might not be aware of the feeling of isolation immediately.

Loneliness in the workplace can lead to employees either quitting their jobs or taking many more days off. As a result, ‘surviving in silence’ can have an overwhelmingly negative impact on your business.

This problem becomes exacerbated if you are leading a business independently, or you run a small recruitment agency, where you’re far more likely to find yourself more separated from the industry.

If you’re feeling isolated and attempting to grow your business without industry guidance, it can become even more problematic. Without peer to peer advice or a mentor, it’s difficult to know that the decisions you’re taking are right for your business.

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1. Attend Events or Host your Own:

An easy way to improve your connection to the industry and combat the feeling of isolation is to attend industry events. Whilst a lot of these can be costly as well as time-consuming, try to find events which are fairly local to you or consider joining webinars that are relevant to your business.

Also, the more events that you attend, the better your industry knowledge will be and the more you can contribute to online discussions. It’s important that you don’t attend events for the sake of it. To get the most out of them, make notes, make new connections and share your experiences on social media.

If you’re struggling to find a relevant event near you, consider whether you could host something yourself. Whether this is a local meeting for like-minded professionals or a roundtable event on a specific subject, it’s a good way to develop your connections and business opportunities.

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2. Stay Up to Date with the Latest Industry News:

Another way to improve how connected you are to the recruitment industry is by following the latest industry news. Once you’re more involved with this, you’ll be able to discuss these issues more widely on your social media platforms as well as get some blog topic ideas. Some good resources for this include:

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3. Post in Industry Forums:

If you’re looking for some tangible industry advice, it’s worth posting in an industry forum. Whilst LinkedIn can be a good way to connect to people, posting on an international forum can help you to receive more varied advice, as LinkedIn largely depends upon your existing network. However, the more effort that you put into networking on social media, the more likely you’ll be able to ask questions and receive feedback.

TRN World features an industry forum where recruitment leaders can receive advice as well as network with peers:


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4. Utilise Social Media:

Staying connected to the industry is much easier if you interact with peers online. One way of doing this is to focus on your LinkedIn/Twitter profile and follow industry-leaders, comment, and share interesting articles & information. If you’re not comfortable with writing a blog, it’s easy to share someone else’s and offer your thoughts on it. The more you engage with your industry peers, the better connected you will be. However, make sure that you get the right balance for this, as too much time on this can be distracting you from your original objective.

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5. Join a Network:

By joining an industry network, you can instantly gain access to like-minded peers. Not only will this help to solve your feeling of isolation in your business, but it also provides unrivalled opportunities for you to seek quality business advice. As a result, you’re far more likely to grow and develop meaningful connections if you belong to a network. Ranging from events to online support, a network can be a great way to receive expert advice and build meaningful industry connections.


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6. Find a Mentor:

If you’ve joined a network such as TRN, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to find an industry mentor who can help you with your biggest business challenges. From getting advice from peers to receiving tangible business advice from experts in running recruitment businesses, a mentor is one way you can easily improve how isolated you feel within your business.

If you’re a female business leader and would like a mentor, have a look at the TRN Mentoring programme which aims to promote females in the recruitment industry (plus, you don’t have to be a member of the club to join).


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7. Take Time Out of the Office:

If you run a recruitment agency that has at least a few employees, then it’s a good idea to suggest taking time out of the office. Find out from your staff what type of events they would like to do outside of work and schedule one in for a suitable time. Whilst this doesn’t have to cost much money, it should always come from your team. This can help you to take some time away from your work as well as give an opportunity for your team to build friendships outside of the office.

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8. Change your Business Development Meetings 

If you’re used to conducting business development meetings online, over the phone or in your office, try switching this and conducting them somewhere outside of an office environment. This is a great way for you to build an even stronger relationship with clients as well as giving you some time away from your usual surroundings.

Providing that you conduct these at a reasonable time and don’t spend too much time travelling between the meeting and your office, conducting your business meeting outside of the office can be really effective.

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How to Ensure Good Mental Health for your Employees

With most of us spending an average of over 90,000 hours at work in our lifetime it is no wonder that a poor work environment can affect our mental health. Work-related mental ill-health is estimated to be costing businesses up to £26 billion every year, so we need to make sure we take care of our employees’ mental health.

Recent research from charity Mind found that 42% of the people surveyed admitted that they had considered resigning and 14% had actually resigned due to workplace stress. These staggering statistics show that there is clearly more than needs to be done in many workplaces around the country, but it isn’t because employers don’t care. In the same survey 56% of employers said that they would like to do more to improve staff well being but don’t feel they have the right training or guidance.

So here are a few areas you can get started on:

1. Promote Wellbeing

Open & Honest Conversations

Ensuring that you have open and honest conversations with your employees is fundamental to empowering them to speak up if they have a problem.

Listen & Act

It’s no good having these open and honest conversations if nothing comes from them. If an employee has raised an issue they need to be listened to, otherwise they will be very reluctant to come forward again.

Work-Life Balance

This term is thrown around a lot, but a good work life balance is essential for your employees to be on top form. If they feel trapped by the workplace and feel they don’t get the time they need to spend with their family or have the downtime they need, they will start to resent the workplace, and this can cause mental health to deteriorate.

2. Tackle the Causes

Take Stock

Knowing the state of their mental health will highlight any areas that need improving and will allow you to act early, rather than wait for the issue to grow.

Training for Managers

There are many training courses that are available around the country. Charity, Mind, offer a variety of training courses from e-learning to courses held at your own office. Plus, remember that it is the managers in your business who spend the most time with their teams and will be the first to spot the signs should a problem arise.

Keep Triggers under Control

There are many triggers that you can keep an eye on that are often the main culprits of causing mental health problems in the workplace. These are:

  • Long hours, no breaks
  • Unrealistic deadlines or expectations
  • Overly pressurised working environment
  • Poor internal communication
  • Lone working
  • Poor physical working environment
  • Difficult interpersonal relationships
  • Poor managerial support
  • Inability to use annual leave

Time for the Open Conversations

It is all too easy to get busy and neglect the one to one time that some employees need. They may not want to bother their manager out of the blue but given the opportunity, on a one to one basis, they may feel more able and comfortable to come forward with their feelings and any issues they may have.

3. Supporting Employees with Mental Health Problems

Keep in Touch

Even if someone is absent from work due to their mental health make sure you keep in touch with them, not in a ‘keeping tabs’ way but in a caring ‘hope they’re ok’ kind of way.

They Know Best

Focus on the person and not the problem. Talk to them and ask how you can help. They are an expert on their own mental health and are best placed to know what it is that will help. Equally, if they cannot pinpoint the issue straight away, it may help them to talk through their feelings with someone to try to make it clearer.

Outside of Work

Remember that work isn’t the be all and end all. Your employees have a life outside of work and it may be something in their personal life which is causing their mental health to suffer. They may not feel comfortable to tell work colleagues or a manager but providing the support network in case they do want to talk could be just what they need to help them through a difficult time.


People can recover from mental health problems. Just because they have had a problem in the past doesn’t mean they will always struggle with their mental health. Having said that, everyone is different, and people can go on to manage their mental health issues alongside a successful career.

From boosting productivity, efficiency and innovation to reducing sickness, presenteeism and staff turnover, the benefits of mentally healthy staff are endless. Supporting and taking care of your employees’ mental health is definitely something that should be on the radar of any recruitment business owner. We have covered a few ways which you, as the business leader, can help and encourage a work culture and environment that promotes good mental health, but if you require any further guidance or advice please visit the sources below:

Mental Health Foundation
Health and Safety Executive

6 Ways to Improve your Lowest Performers Based on How Google Operates

Low Performance Problems:

Poor performers exist in almost every business and can cause problems within your team unless dealt with. However, dealing with these can be difficult because isolating the lowest performers and targeting them isn’t the best option and can make them feel much worse within your team. When this is combined with not understanding the reasons for their poor performance, as a business, you will never truly solve the problem.

If you haven’t tracked or monitored your employees by performance before, you should identify your top 15%, middle 70%, and lowest 15%. By looking at everyone who works in your business, you’ll be seeing the bigger picture and can address whether people at the top have slipped to the middle; it’s not just your lowest performers who you should be focused on.

Business Problems:

  • A decrease in team morale/office attitude
  • A negative impact on your business’s profits
  • An increased work burden on other members of staff
  • Wasted money on initial training/new training as a result if they leave
  • Potentially losing your more efficient staff members

Reasons for low performers: 

There are four main reasons why a low performer might be struggling in their current job. These are:

Situational –

The circumstances of the person have caused them to be underperforming and they might not necessarily be a bad worker. You’d need to find this out from them; improving your communication channels is one option of doing this.

Quick tips to improve the situational problem:

  • Create an open-door policy and let your workers know you are always available to talk to
  • Try and arrange some form of incentives for the team
  • Encourage outside of work communication and events are happening or enable the possibility. This can be as simple as arranging a team evening.
  • Where you can, provide the opportunity for team collaboration
  • Have one to one meetings with each member of staff every month, but try not to make these too formal

Lack of Skill

– The person is not skilled enough to do their job properly. You’ll first need to measure their performance and then understand whether this is a lack of skill or a situational problem. To do this, you should look at the measures which you track and compare them to someone in a similar position as well as against your highest performers. When doing this, it’s important to look at the bigger picture – has this person always been a low performer, or is it a phase? Compare this to your other data; has everyone been underperforming this month?

How to improve the lack of skill problem:

  • Increase training but don’t limit it to just the lowest performers. Even your highest performers could probably benefit from training. This will also prevent you from isolating the lowest performer
  • Evaluate whether it is the right role for them. Talk to them in a one to one meeting and ask them what they want from you and tailor the training to their needs.
  • It is cheaper to train them than to hire a new person, providing they are a good fit for the company and want to learn.
  • If your company has enough employees, you could offer a mentoring programme for everyone and let them sign up if they want to.
  • Create an opt-in training session or discuss whether they would like one to one training as part of your meeting
  • Once you have agreed on the best process, set measurable goals and targets. Combine this with regular feedback sessions and monitor their progress.

Lack of aptitude for the role –

The person doesn’t have the natural ability to perform the role. If this is the case, then you’ll need to understand their reasons for being in the job. A lack of aptitude cannot be solved by increasing training and development and is different from a lack of skills. For example, you might have realised they are not a natural salesperson and might be more successful in another area or department.

Tips for solving the lack of aptitude problem:

  • Talk to the person and see what their career goals are & whether they would rather work in another area/department if you can do this
  • Consider whether you could get them to focus on their other strengths within the job – is there a different way they can play to their strengths?
  • Use an aptitude test before hiring someone new in the future

Lack of motivation / Poor attitude –

The person is fed up with the work and puts in little effort.

To solve this issue, you’ll need to evaluate management as well as the person; poor management can easily cause a lack of motivation and a bad attitude.

Some tips on how to deal with the poor attitude problem:

  • You need to find the reason for their negative attitude. In your regular one to one meeting with the person, you’ll be more likely to get a truthful response.
  • To get the bigger picture, you’ll need to evaluate all of your employees’ satisfaction which you can do through an employee engagement survey. Does more than one person have this attitude towards their work? If so, then it is probably something to do with the way your company operates.
  • Create some incentives for the individual and the team.
  • If their bad attitude is still there, you might need to ask whether they are in the right job. Have they been in the same role for a long time? Do they have the opportunity for training or career progression?

6 Lessons from Ex-people Director at Google, Laszlo Bock:

With Google receiving over 2 million applications per year, it’s safe to say that they’ve achieved an incredibly high standard for their employees. In his book ‘Work Rules!’, Laszlo Bock, the ex-People Director of Google, explains how the lowest performers ‘represent the biggest opportunity to improve performance in your company’.

Google is known for its creation of innovative office spaces and frequently ranks as a top employer, drawing in masses of applicants every year due to its global reputation alone.

Google office space

Here are six things you can start to do to boost your lowest performers based on some of his experiences at Google:


  1. Feedback. Set realistic targets and get into the habit of giving regular positive and constructive feedback on a one to one basis. Make sure you have employee engagement surveys as well as anonymous feedback on your own management skills. If your company has more than one manager, compare data between them and check which teams are performing well – does this link to the different styles in how they are managed? Once you have this, you can start to implement small changes that can improve your workplace.
  2. Take it as an opportunity for them to learn and not to be scrutinized. Laszlo Bock sees the lowest performers as the best opportunities because it’s normally cheaper to train them to be good rather than go through the rehiring process. Whilst some will require a change in attitude or situation to improve, a lot simply need a boost in confidence, training and/or management style. Whilst it is an opportunity for them to improve, it’s also an opportunity for you to improve.
  3. Create a plan. To improve, you’ll need to make a personal improvement plan for the employee. This can be for the next 30, 60 or 90 days depending on their needs and should have targets which are achievable and measurable (SMART). As part of this, find out what the employee wants from you and put together a training plan which targets this. However, don’t only target your lowest performers; it’s probably something all of your staff could benefit from. Make sure the employee is aware of everything that you want from them and be clear on what they want from you.
  4. Improve yourself too. When Laszlo Bock reviewed all of his managers, he decided to get feedback on himself too. This showed that he ranked worse than a lot of his managers for his own communication and he decided to improve at the same time as the others. By setting targets, changing his communication channels and getting regular feedback, he saw his approval rating dramatically increase. What he realized was that a manager’s attitude was incredibly important to the morale of the team and the performance of their employees. Unless you regularly receive feedback and evaluate your management style, you’ll never know how much of an impact you’re having on your staff.
  5. Improve your communication channels. This is a simple way to improve your lowest performers. Look at the way you communicate with your staff members. Is it the most effective method? Have you got a system where you can regularly receive feedback, and do you regularly talk with your staff as a team and on an individual basis? If you don’t do this, you’ll need to improve your communication channels. This can be as simple as having a monthly one to one meeting where you track their personal work targets but try not to make it too formal. Have an open-door policy and acknowledge your members of staff every morning.
  6. Don’t undervalue and reward the wrong people. Another thing Laszlo Bock found companies are guilty of is undervaluing the best people and rewarding those who deserve it the least. Whilst it can be easy to reward the best performers based on their targets, you need to consider the people who contribute to the company in other ways. There’s bound to be people who do a lot of work which isn’t measured on targets or perhaps they contribute a lot to the team & company culture or dedicate a lot of extra time. It’s important to recognize their work and have incentives, training, progression and financial rewards for everyone, not just the people who hit targets.

We recently featured his book ‘Work Rules!’ in our 8 Books Every Recruiter Should Read blog post.

If you’re interested in hearing more, he gave an extended talk at Google about the lessons from his book:

8 Books Every Recruitment Leader Should Read

Talk like TED – Carmine Gallo

3.91 out of 5 on Goodreads
What’s it about?
Based on the analysis of hundreds of hours of TED talks, Carmine Gallo explores what you need to do to sell your ideas persuasively. Designed to help conquer a fear of public speaking/presenting, Gallo uses TED talks as an example of how to present your ideas to a team of people.
Gallo gives a step by step method to make it possible for anyone to deliver a presentation that is engaging. Whilst the book is not endorsed by TED, it’s a bestseller because of its practical advice to help you overcome a fear of presenting.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey

4.07 out of 5 on Goodreads
What’s it about?
Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits has sold over 25 million copies worldwide, becoming a classic self-help book for both professional and personal problems. Centered around the 7 Habit Philosophy, Covey teaches the reader to master their own independence as well as the interdependence on a team. Listed as one of the most influential business books of all time, Covey’s book is a great place to start for both business leaders and new recruiters just starting in the industry.

The 4 Hour Work week – Timothy Ferriss

3.86 out of 5 on Goodreads
What’s it about?
Timothy Ferriss explains how to be the new type of rich where there is no need to wait until you’re old. This book is the blueprint for anyone looking to change their work life balance for the better and applies to both new workers and business leaders. If you want to learn how to reduce your stressful and large amount of work hours, but still keep or improve your money, then this book is for you!

How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie

4.16 out of 5 on Goodreads
What’s it about?
Although it was released in 1936, this book has been massively successful because of its message, selling over 15 million copies. Carnegie’s book is filled with advice for how you can move up the ladder of success in both your personal and professional life. Carnegie has 6 ways to make people like you, 12 ways to win people and 9 ways to change people without creating resentment. The skills in this book are valuable lessons for anyone who deals with a lot of people on a regular basis. Whilst it’s always ending up on lists such as this, it still has a good message and is worth a read.

Good to Great – Jim Collins

4.06 out of 5 on Goodreads
What’s it about?
This book is more suited for managers and business leaders or those aspiring to be one soon. Jim Collins focuses on the businesses which have successfully managed to become great. Based on five years of research before writing Good to Great, Collins finds ten companies which support his suggestions. In this book he uncovers the underlying variables that enable any type of organization to make the leap from Good to Great.

Who: The A Method for Hiring – Geoff Smart

3.95 out of 5 on Goodreads
What’s it about?
This is a great book for both recruiters and recruitment business leaders which aims to tackle the problem of bad hiring. Geoff Smart and Randy Street provide a simple, practical, and effective solution which you can use in your business. Although it’s based on American companies, its message is applicable to you and your business as it attempts to solve the reason why only 50% of managers make a successful hiring choice. Based on more than 1,300 hours of interviews with 20 billionaires and 300 CEOs, ‘Who’ presents the method you can use to conquer this startling problem and improve your success rate.

The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses – Eric Ries

4.05 out of 5 on Goodreads
What’s it about?
Although it’s more focused on the process of starting up a new company, The Lean Startup is useful if you’re looking for a new approach to starting a business, or you’ve recently created one. Looking at why most startups fail, but also how companies are built, and new products are launched, Eric Ries shows you how to create a ‘lean’ company that is able to move and adapt quickly. This is a good read if you’re an aspiring business leader looking for advice on how to manage a company in a difficult and fast-paced environment.

Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead – Lazslo Bock

4.17 out of 5 on Goodreads
What’s it about?
Why do 2 million people apply for a job at Google every year?
Written by the former Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google, Lazslo Bock gives a unique insight into the highly successful company and how you can benefit from how it operates. This book is useful is you’re a business leader or an employee as it has lessons on how to build a company that is a great place to work as well as reawakening the joy of working where you do. This is particularly useful for anyone in recruitment as it has lots of lessons both your company and the companies you work with can benefit from, and why so many people desperately want to work for Google.

Are you an Imposter in the Workplace?

Imposter Syndrome was first described back in the late 70s by Pauline Clance & Suzanne Imes and was originally researched as something which affected professional females. However, more recent research has found it to affect both males and females, with some studies finding women more susceptible to it in certain industries such as IT.

Moreover, it has shown that it currently seems to be significantly affecting Millennials in the workplace with one third suffering from it.

What is it?

It can quite easily be summed up as a condition where an individual is unable to acknowledge any form of praise and instead, constantly feels anxiety surrounding their sense of belonging in the workplace. People with Imposter Syndrome normally struggle to accept any form of praise or acknowledgement that they are doing a good job, instead putting it down to luck or chance.

This is often felt by intelligent and successful people, with figures such as Melinda Gates experiencing it and speaking publicly about this issue which appears more prominently for women in the technology industry.
Imposter Syndrome and its effects frequently appear in a cyclical form, perpetuating further feelings of being an imposter.

It will often follow these steps:

  1. A task is given to the worker
  2. They feel anxious with this work and over-prepare
  3. The task is completed and there is initial relief
  4. They deny their contribution and separate it from the completion of the job (often attributing it to others around them or luck)
  5. A new achievement related task is given to them and the cycle begins again

Why are Millennials feeling it more than most?

Millennials are part of a different job market and overall experience than others were used to ten or twenty years ago. With the gig economy, Millennials experience far less stable job opportunities and therefore, a lot more pressure to succeed financially. Moreover, recent research has found that millennials frequently change jobs, with a Deloitte survey revealing that 43% of Millennials plan on leaving their job within two years of joining.

Whilst many assume this is for financial reasons, the survey reported that more than anything else, Millennials were searching for a cultural fit. With Millennials feeling Imposter Syndrome more than other groups in the workplace, it’s clear why that search for a cultural belonging is more important than ever.
Imposter Syndrome can therefore hit them harder than most, giving them more opportunities to not feel adequate in their job as they adapt to more changes as well as less stable opportunities.

Furthermore, in a world which is more focused with image and social media, undoubtedly, the pressure placed on the younger generations is larger than ever before. This is certainly feeding into the Imposter Syndrome cycle.

Are you or your candidates experiencing Imposter Syndrome?

If your candidates are experiencing Imposter Syndrome, or perhaps you are, what are the signs to look out for?
Although it is not a defined condition, it is something which is consistently researched and felt by people in the workplace and therefore does have signs to look out for, such as:

  • The person feeling like a fraud with a fear of being “discovered”
  • Attributing success to luck or other circumstances
  • Belief that anyone can do their job and the skills aren’t unique to them
  • Claiming that the help they had was the reason for success
  • The use of minimising language such as: ‘Might’, ‘Kind of…’, ‘I was just…’, ‘I feel like I could…’

Whilst there are those not skilled or experienced enough for their jobs, Imposter Syndrome is very different. The people who experience this are quite frequently skilled enough for their work but are overwhelmed by this feeling of inadequacy. They frequently are able to complete a task given to them, but despite praise, feel it is not down to their individual contribution.

What can you do to counter it?

If you or your candidates are experiencing Imposter Syndrome, there are a few things which can help.

Firstly, it’s a good idea to become a mentor and engage in online discussions, as you’ll be surprised at how much you know – this should provide a boost of confidence.

It’s also a good idea to try and move any questions you have away from yourself and instead, ask about the knowledge/ideas behind it. Rather than questions whether you are suitable for the job, ask questions about the task itself and the knowledge behind it, as it’s okay to ask questions.

Track your accomplishments and keep note of significant things you have been able to do, as this will most likely surprise you when you look back at it.

Fake it ‘til you make it. Whilst this doesn’t mean fake your skills and entry to gain a job, it does mean that you should fake a separate confidence for tasks that you do. Confidently take them on and ask plenty of questions about it. When you pull it off, it should confirm to you that you are capable.

Recognise that those around you are not you. It’s okay to feel like an imposter, but those around you are most likely not able to do the task you have and that’s why it was given to you.

Adapting your strategy

As a result, Imposter Syndrome will certainly have had an impact on your recruitment efforts at some point. With a lot of Millennials feeling Imposter Syndrome as well as looking to change jobs more frequently, navigating this feeling is more important than ever. Firstly, appealing to a cultural fit appears to be the main priority for Millennial job seekers and is something you can quickly add more of to your strategy. Another easy thing to add to your strategy is to place emphasis on the past achievements/qualifications of the candidates as many who experience Imposter Syndrome have a sense that they are not suitable based on their own achievements.

Check Out this TED Talk on Imposter Syndrome:

A significant example of someone highly successful feeling like an Imposter is Mike Cannon-Brookes. In 2017 he gave a TED Talk on experiencing this, despite him running the highly successful software company Atlassian and his net worth being in the region of five billion dollars.

Check it out below:

Why do I Tri so Hard…?

What is it that drives some people to push themselves beyond their pre-supposed limits and others stay firmly rooted in their comfort zones?

Why, in business, do some people coast and enjoy mediocrity whilst others stress, strive and struggle to always go one step further?

Why did I spend a big chunk of my Sunday, a day usually retained for rest and recovery after a big week at work, taking my mind, body and spirit to a place that

I’m not entirely sure they were designed to go?

This is a question I asked myself at 2pm yesterday whilst sitting peacefully in my car on my way home feeling like I had just been run over by a locomotive with nothing to show for my endeavours than a finishers’ t-shirt, a shiny medal and a body ready for the scrapheap!

I’m no athlete by any stretch of the imagination. I’m no better nor any more special than anyone else, but I had just managed to complete something I thought was pretty special – a full Ironman 70.3 in somewhat challenging conditions (imagine cycling and running into a hairdryer for 5.5 hours to give you some sense).

If you’re not sure what an Ironman 70.3 is, then the quick definition is something which is ever so slightly ridiculous! A triathlon encompassing a 1.9km swim, then out on to a bike for a 90km ride all finishing up with a half marathon – all back to back with no time to even go to the toilet in between each section, let alone prepare yourself mentally and physically for the next part.

It is a fairly absurd thing to do when you think about it, but yet something I am now pretty addicted to. I feel like I am in my prime and can handle it, but there is not getting away from the fact that a part of that sentiment is a vain attempt to warn off the looming mid-life period of my being on this planet (the whole one-piece lycra mankini I was wearing clearly proves that!).

There is no doubt that with the conditions we endured yesterday, this was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my life. I’ve raced before, in longer events, but yesterday was a challenge.

In some parts the pain was excruciating, and I had countless and very convincing internal conversations with myself as to why I should give up… but I never stopped. I just kept going, as thousands do each year when they embark on Marathons, long distance walks and Rides to Paris.

But why?

Of course, the feeling you get when you successfully complete a race, parcelled in all the congratulations and hugs you receive for friends, family and other racers is something that you will always cherish and sends a very warm glow through every part of your body. But when you’re out alone in the water, riding on the road or pacing through the seemingly endless run, with just your thoughts, something is going on…

Being a business leader, you can often spend a lot of time alone, trying to keep yourself and your staff motivated even when the conditions become a little challenging. Trying to overcome any bit of adversity even when you sometimes feel like giving up. Trying to push the business to the next level in the face of competitive pressures from every angle.

Some of course do give up and move on to something else. That is only natural and nothing to be ashamed of. We are all humans after all.
But many business leaders, whatever is thrown at them, push on through. They dig deep inside of themselves to find whatever it is they need to move forward. That one thing to make them go again… because they are after something.

Something more important than a cash reward, a finishers’ t-shirt or a shiny medal. Something far more positive than just trying to beat everyone else. Something far more meaningful than kudos on social media or a public stroking of their ego.

They want to achieve a purpose that makes a difference… a very real and measurable difference.

Sure, we all like the kudos and the trophies (that’s why I put a picture of me up on this post with my medal!), but they are in the majority superficial. That is not what we think about when we run, bike or swim when our bodies say enough!
That is not what we think about when we reflect with pride on our businesses and what we do for our customers and colleagues.

Since my first son passed away a number of years ago, something that really stops you in your tracks and makes you look at things in a very different perspective, I made the commitment to myself and to my son TJ, that I would embrace the mind (now slightly exhausted!), the body (now slightly broken!) and the attitude (now slightly wired!) I have been given whilst on this planet and use it to make a very real and significant difference.

Yesterday, I had a purpose and I was making a difference, so I didn’t stop.

Today, in my business, I have a purpose and am making a difference, so I will not stop.

As a business leader, however you are feeling, however challenged you might be, however tired and exhausted you are, stop and reflect on why you do what you do and go searching for that purpose because that is what will keep you going and get you to the finishing line.

Go again, and make a difference….!

Employee Engagement in Recruitment

I have always been a big fan of the fable that sometimes get used to explain employee engagement:

A Pig and a Chicken are walking down the road.
The Chicken says: “Hey Pig, I was thinking we should open a restaurant!”
Pig replies: “Hm, maybe, what would we call it?”
The Chicken responds: “How about ‘ham-n-eggs’?”
The Pig thinks for a moment and says: “No thanks. I’d be committed, but you’d only be involved.”

In such a competitive playing field as the recruitment industry is, employers need to not only understand the core elements behind what drives employee engagement across their businesses but also ensure they have a very clearly defined plan in place to deliver on those elements otherwise they end up with lots of employees that are just involved and not fully committed to the business’ success – two very different things.

Employee engagement in the recruitment sector links together two very simple but important questions: how likely is it that your consultants and employees will continue to turn up to work and when they do come to work, how committed will they be to do to do more than they asked in order to overachieve against their strategic objectives?

One thing we do know, whilst money is always going to be a core motivator for many people in recruitment, it only plays a small part of creating real engagement and recruitment leaders need to delve deeper into this if they want to spend less time trying to outcompete their competitors in salary wars.

Engagement can typically be broken down into three critical drivers:


  • With colleagues – do your people have a best friend at work and do they enjoy working with the people in their teams, or is there someone in your business that is having a negative impact on the team culture?
  • With leadership – are your leadership team inspiring, engaging, effective and consistent in how they deal with people in the business?
  • With Purpose – do your consultants feel aligned to the company vision and Purpose motive and inspired to on that journey with you?


  • Well defined roles and outputs – do your employees (front and back office) know exactly what is expected of them, not only from a KPI / activity perspective but more importantly from a client, candidate and business output perspective?
  • Clear strategic direction and purpose – do each of your employees have a clearly defined personal roadmap of where there career is going and does the management team know what this looks like?
  • Measurements of success – do your employees know exactly how they are tracking continuously against the company expectations?


  • To themselves – are they developing, learning, evolving personally?
  • To their peers – are they supporting other people across the business and making a positive difference to their peers and the wider team?
  • To their employer – are they clearly adding measurable value to the business and enabling the company to achieve its strategic vision and purpose?

In essence, if employees feel connected to the business and the people within that business, are clear about what they need to do and where they are going and feel they are making a valuable contribution to themselves, their peers and the business then you will find real engagement.

Virtually Present?

Today’s blog article has been written by Perry Timms, Founder and Chief Energy Officer at People and Transformational HR. Armed with 30+ years experience in people, learning, technology, organisational change and transformation, Perry’s mission is to connect people and bring about a design revolution for a better future of work. In October 2017 he wrote his first book, Transformational HR, which was published by Kogan Page. He is determined to change the world of work; one conversation at a time.

I’m drawn to working virtually – I really get a kick out of being nomadic and not fixed in one place. But then that’s easy for me as I’m a free-spirited consultant. Yet when I was a salaried employee, I also liked to be in a variety of settings to do my work – so I was very much virtually present. I expected virtual working to be the norm by now, but it remains stubbornly elusive to many and a way of working for a few. Is this likely to continue? Are we over-playing the likelihood that we’ll not have to be present in a physical sense for much of the work we’ll be doing in the coming 5-10 years?

The questions asked of me to write this blog post are:

  • How do you make virtual employees work effectively and profitably?
  • What are the opportunities and pitfalls of building a virtual team – is it a dream or reality?

I’ll begin with the assertion that where we work is increasingly subject to fewer and fewer restrictions, and more and more variety.

So this is a good thing surely?

No more commuting, no more missed family time due to getting home late and more tranquility (in either a home-based work set up or some pleasant social space like a coffee shop or a co-working office).

Provided, of course, it involves (mostly) a computing device to email, video call, social network thread and shared drive kind of working. It’s clearly different if you’re in manufacturing, the service industry, retail, health and social care, flying a plane etc. If that’s the case, virtual working may be a little more tricky to do on a regular basis. Until the robots; but that’s a whole different story.

What we’re hearing about, is pioneering organisations like Buffer with an entirely distributed workforce, of no fixed abode and entirely virtual working. Couple this with the value of coworking spaces like WeWork and it appears that “no fixed abode” is becoming more normalised. Indeed, successful companies like Automattic (who build the WordPress site) have made this way of working work over a number of years now so it’s sustainable.

Then of course, there’s the “gig” economy. Which is mostly virtual working where the algorithm is the scheduler, their connecting means and the feedback generator – virtualising the manager role. Often working alone, this is virtual working in its newest form – platform jobs.

This appears to be the way we’re all headed then surely? Not so fast. There’s more to this than simply plugging in elsewhere.

What about those gatherings where people come together for a good reason? Like a team meeting, a project board, a scrum standup, or an innovation jam? What about the feeling by leaders that if you’re not visible, how can you can be scrutinised, supervised or managed?

In such situations, virtual working needs some careful engineering and design, else we’ll create a whole new range of issues.

I don’t think you can make anyone do virtual working well by decree – you can declare it and remove the physical space, but are people getting it right? That takes some effort and recalibration of how you work, learn, lead and support each other.

My tips on how to do this are:

  1. Invite people to consider how they could work more remotely and virtually and whether they’d like to experience more of this.
  2. Have them look at their workflow now and imagine it in a more virtual situation and then share and compare with their colleagues.
  3. Encourage some experiments after people have worked out some baseline data about how efficient they are now to compare to a period of sustained virtual working.
  4. Create an open discussion on the things to pay attention to in the advent of more virtual working and that these are regularly discussed either in person or on some connected technology platforms like Yammer, Slack, Workplace (Facebook at Work) etc.
  5. Make any decision to virtualise a collective one so that people understand what it means to them and they can help shape how you do this.
  6. Test potential new hires/candidates for roles in your company on this “virtual” question – would they be more or less encouraged to apply to work with you if you’re a part or entirely virtual workplace?
  7. Keep virtual working as a thing you all talk about as a team – what’s working well and what needs more attention.
  8. Ensure physical coming together can happen. How you optimise the time you’re physically together is down to teams working this out and not just relying on the quarterly “strategic update” sessions.
  9. Use socialised technologies to create the feel of togetherness even if you’re not physically able to be together.

Virtual working is often touted as being more effective and efficient. In my experience that’s the case, and there’s some evidence I’ve come across (for example, American Express did a study of their working 4 years ago). I speak to a lot of people who have the chance to work from home or remotely (even occasionally) reporting feeling more balanced in how they spend their energy. There’s no one absolute study. For most people, it feels that way and the energy they would have spent travelling to work, they can put into working or balanced into family life.

I’ve worked with, and advised companies on, remote and virtual working. I’ve become so much of a fan that I shudder when organisations who can work this way shy away from it because of paranoid, distrusting leadership or colleagues. To me, if you CAN work virtually but it’s prevented by management decree, that’s not a good organisation to work for.

Of course, there are pitfalls as well as opportunities with virtual working and virtual teams. People can feel isolated. You can miss out on being allocated some choice work because you’re not visible. Others can forget to include you in key decisions because you’re not sat around the same table. Moreover, this is without any risks of using home-based devices to connect to corporate networks such as distractions and temptations.

So, it occurs to me that it’s not the technology that’s stopping this from happening more. The main barriers as I see them are:

  • Trust – a lack of it (and not just limited to manager/employee distrust – colleague distrust perhaps even more so)
  • Attitude – people don’t believe they can or should work remotely or virtually
  • Habits – either your habits, other people’s habits or even the organisation’s habits (culture, rituals, processes)

These are the pitfalls that if you don’t pay attention to, they could cause your virtual team working to stutter and fail to live up to need or expectation.

So, to achieve those productivity gains, there’s a need to still be connected to each other – and that can clearly be done through messaging on apps and social networks, video calling, live streaming, and more. One further way to bring people together (maybe sooner than we think), is virtual reality worlds. We may virtually turn up at meetings in a space where our avatar represents us and allows us to interact with each other virtually.

With all this said, a more virtual world and a more virtual life may sound a little farfetched or even a sad way to be. Yet the distances between us and our people can be closed nicely through use of connecting technology; wasted time commuting can be put to good use with working, learning and being more creative and we can SURELY do with a little less hassle in our days to keep our minds clear and healthy.


Is virtual working and being part of a virtual team something we should all plan for and get used to?


I think so, and small-scale experiments to inform a more virtual way of working with our co-workers will help us get better at this.

For we may not see our colleagues every day, but we need to maintain the feeling that we’re all in it together. Virtual working may become a virtual reality before we know how to truly make it work.

My advice is to practice and make virtual a virtue.

Perry Timms – June 2018