Nine strategies to surge summer productivity in your recruitment business
Tsen Wharton, founder of OpusPro
Does productivity in your recruitment business drop off during the summer months?
The American Express OPEN Forum conducted extensive research over a number of summer periods in the US highlighting some stats from that might shock you:
●Workplace productivity drops by 19%
●Projects take longer by 13%
●Searching for another job increases by 120%
If you are a business owner, however, you are not paying 20% less in salaries during the summer, or getting 13% more fees on search assignments to compensate for the longer time.
Adding further weight to this annual summer dip phenomenon, financial markets experts have a saying that goes, “sell in May then go away”. In other words the financial markets are known to experience lower trading volumes and poor performance in the summer months, actually between the months of May - October. On the other hand, statistically tracked over the last 50 years, the vast majority of annual gains logged by the Dow Jones Industrial average has occurred between November - April.
Thank you to Darren
On Friday evening I invested an hour of what could have been TV or social time, to tune into a teleconference with one of my favourite business mentors, Darren Hardy. What Darren shared was a number of strategies for business people to take action on this summer that will “help you and your team have MORE summer fun (guilt-free), work LESS and still kick butt and INCREASE your results.”
So, I take no credit for these powerful tactics shared below, other than that I took a little action to compile my notes into a post specifically with recruitment businesses in mind.
Perhaps this isn’t a problem for you if the markets you serve and the team you have don’t slow down when the temperatures heat up. But if your business is like many other small businesses out there, you need your team to keep the momentum going all summer long. Just by keeping your production stable whilst many others in your space are reducing productivity over the summer, it will actually put you ahead of the competition going into the last quarter of the year.
I genuinely hope this serves to help some of you out there. This is about having your cake and eating it, having more summer fun time whilst still being productive.
Without further ado, here are nine helpful strategies to keep productivity high even when temperatures rise:
Nine strategies to turn the summer lull into the summer SURGE.
Strategy #1: Go on holiday
I know it sounds so obvious but in the often ‘workaholic’ culture of recruitment, many holiday days go un-used. The US has one of the highest numbers of unused vacation days in the world. A study commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association found that 169 million holiday days go unused each year.
Holiday time is essential for recruiters to operate at their peak performance however the need for recovery time off can often be viewed as weakness rather than a component of productivity.
Don’t be a work martyr. If you have guilt about taking time off whilst on holiday you won’t get the mental rest you need. If it hasn’t yet, the mind-set in your company needs shift towards seeing annual leave as being paid to rest so you CAN operate at your peak.
Rest and recovery is a critical part of your productivity regimen. It is not wise to steal time away from R&R. Recovery is essential to operate at the highest level of your best self.
Leaders need to set the tone and give team members the psychological relief that it’s 100% OK to be on holiday. If employees feel they need to be in the office, they might be physically there but likely operating at only a quarter of their best.
PLAN your PLAY. It’s important to schedule your summer fun to get the R&R that you need so that when you are back in the office you have the full tank that you need to operate at full speed.
Strategy #2: Flip the switch
This refers to the mental choice that when you are off, be FULLY off, and when you are on (as in at work) be fully ON. In other words when you are at the beach, be fully present to that. When you are in the office, be fully switched on to the work in hand, not day dreaming.
Strategy #3: Fully unplug
Use your out of office auto responder to direct emails appropriately and don’t check them whilst you are away. If you have colleagues then have them cover your assignments whilst you are away and let your clients know the cover point of contact.
A tactic that Darren shared was to state in your out of office message to please either defer to the holiday point of contact or be sure to email back on your return date as all emails over the holiday period will be deleted. You’ll be surprised how few messages will come in after you are back concerning issues that happened whilst you were gone. A lot of them will have worked themselves out/been taken care of whilst you were away.
Leaders, insist that your team practice this and allow them to post an autoresponder message asking for important emails to be re-sent at a later date. This will give your team the unplugged rest they need and ensure they don’t return to an inbox of some unnecessary emails that may have taken days to dig out of (which would have been a double whammy of productivity loss).
This is obviously a more aggressive approach to claiming back your freedom but if you are confident to do it then you will certainly reap the benefits on your return to work as you won’t have a barrage of past emails (many of which have now been resolved) to work through.
We can see the bigger picture emerging with this perspective.
Strategy #4: Make plans for you kids
All parents face the challenge of having their children at home for seven days a week over 5-7 weeks whilst they try to juggle the work side of things. This is especially challenging if you run your business from home. The key here is to explain you will be having on/off time otherwise you could face constant distractions.
Here are a few suggestions for what to do during school holidays outside of the main family trip away:
●Make the most of residential camps and local day long sports camps put on by school/clubs/council etc
●If you make deals with your kids for them to do X whilst you get busy on a 2-hour focus session, then be sure to live up to the deal promise. So when it comes to following through on the fun thing, be fully engaged with them. They will appreciate and respect that. And don’t try to multi-task during kids’ time with email on the phone for example (I have three kids and I’ve learned this over time, no one benefits, and what kind of example would I be setting for my kids?)
●If you would normally work from home whilst kids are at school, perhaps you can switch things round to have a child minder come to the house one day a week so you can work in out of the home.
Strategy #5: Your Number 1 tool is your calendar
The biggest mistake many recruiters can make is walking into the day with an empty calendar. We all know that when we’ve done that we end up being the whipping boy/girl to every email, text, office chat etc. We can easily fall victim to being reactive to the inbox rather than moving forwards aspects of the search assignment that deep down we know are in our control. In other words the seemingly busy day might have lots of activity without any productivity.
The key here is to do as Jim Rohn advocates and, "Never begin the day until it is finished on paper.”
So as a recruiter, if you had an hour by hour planner (paper or electronic) in front of you, how could you optimise your day? Yes you will have some emails from clients and candidates to react to but what tasks that are in your control can you schedule to complete in the morning in order to move your search closer to completion? You can then schedule a set period of time for email responses. The temptation to let emails dictate your day can be that much higher in the summer but you know it won’t result in your best day’s work. So attack this head on and invest a little time to plan the day ideally the night before, or at least first thing in the morning (before opening emails).
Strategy #6: Instead of 5-8s, do 4-10s
Yes you’ve got it, how about you arrange things to accommodate compressing more intensity into four days and then sink into a three day weekend to fully enjoy with your family and friends. Think of the intensity you work to in the final days and hours building up to a deadline (particularly the deadline of going away on holiday.) There is incredible power in this strategy of completing ten hours of scheduled, super focused and productive work for four days with the reward of a three day weekend.
This is one to test drive…
Strategy #7: Monday headstarts
The concept here is that once or twice a month, go to bed really early on a Sunday so you can get up super early on Monday morning (like 4am) and get a 5-hour jump start on the week. There’s something magic about that quiet time when the rest of your city or area are still asleep. Use this time to put in five hours of deeply concentrated time and get ahead of your goals for the week.
What could you do in 4-5 hours with no incoming distractions of emails or calls? You could do the research to compile that longlist, write up all your consultant notes for those shortlist submissions, or use the time to craft the blog post to engage your candidates (you know the one that keeps getting pushed to the back of the queue).
Cut the time you save at the end of Monday out from your work calendar and add it to the fun calendar, guilt free!
Strategy #8: Make work fun with competitions
Another tactic to prevent people falling into a lull when the sun is shining and clients are on holiday is to make work fun. Design competitions for your office because “nothing stimulates our human spirit like a little competition”.
In the summer attention spans tend to be shorter so make competitions short, maybe 1-2 week stints. As the business owner and/or leader you’ll want to focus the competition on core themes, initiatives or production metrics. Will you go straight for metrics like marketing calls to clients, re-engagement calls with candidates or look to address a new project like developing specific content to share with your clients or challenging each member to write a blog post for the most likes/comments? Whatever you choose be sure to add some fun twists and summer rewards that can be enjoyed together. Rewards might be for a team to go to an outdoor concert or a Friday afternoon team activity.
These short competitions can serve as a triple thread benefit to your business: 1) staff are more engaged; 2) greater production through the competition and; 3) benefit from some team bonding
This is all about finding ways to counteract the natural pulls of the summer season that can hold your recruitment business back from setting up a strong finish to the year.
Strategy #9 Growth groups
This is a great strategy to keep a whole team engaged. Create growth groups by assembling your team into groups who go on a learning journey together. Rather than a one-time event, these tend to be more effective when taking place over a sequenced period of time keeping everyone engaged and collaborating along the way. It’s best of course that the topic is reinforcing the focus and behaviour that you want the team to have to align with your goals for growth and productivity.
Interestingly Darren points to phenomenon called the law of familiarity that leaders can suffer from when trying to impart knowledge and training. Sometimes hearing things from an outside expert can be better received than by hearing it from the day to day leader.
So what opportunities for development or enhancement exist in your recruitment business? With some focused time and energy invested what could be proactively worked on to facilitate your goals this year and help you set up a strong finish to the year? Some ideas might include client or candidate content creation, refining and systemising your search process, streamlining some back office admin, fine tuning candidate sourcing skills….
So there you have nine strategies to help you and your team counter the summer lull phenomenon and pull ahead of the competition over the warmer months. I hope that sharing this has provided some direct ideas to take away and implement or inspired new thinking and strategies that will serve you this summer.
If you are looking for more ideas on how to surge ahead this summer then you might want join our free webinar this Thursday to find out How The Best Recruiters Get An Unfair Edge - If you want to learn the secrets of more effective searches to supercharge your recruitment business, then join industry expert Doug Beabout and I on this Free Webinar.
About the Author
Tsen Wharton is a former executive recruiter turned software entrepreneur who is passionate about helping recruiters serve their clients in a way that brings superior results for everyone. He is Founder of OpusPro - a software tool built by and for recruiters to optimise search assignment management and enhance collaboration with clients.
Wharton writes about insights, ideas and best practices, both directly from and out-with the recruitment industry, that can help recruiters get more of the results they want.