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How Marginal Gains will enable your Recruitment Business to Outperform the Market


Building and growing a profitable business is something that all recruitment leaders strive for, but for many, how to do that can often be quite elusive. Fortunately, to create real growth doesn’t often require mass sweeping changes in what you are already doing, but instead can be achieved by making small adjustments to some of the key components of your business.

Earlier this year, we discussed this in detail as over 100 members of The Recruitment Network gathered together for one of our Huddles at The Brewery in London. The theme for the day was Marginal Gains.

Team Sky

The concept of Marginal Gains was something that Dave Brailsford led the charge on for Team Sky. No British cyclist had ever won the Tour De France, but this was something that Brailsford wanted to change.

His simple concept which he referred to as ‘aggregation of marginal gains’ was to improve everything they did by 1%. These very small, almost unnoticeable changes accumulate together to make an enormous difference.

They started with optimising nutrition and tweaking the weekly training programs of the riders which is where you’d expect them to start, but they also looked as far as finding the best pillows and taking those with them and the most effective massage gel. By looking in these extra places where the other teams perhaps weren’t, they managed to achieve what no other British cyclist had before, and within three years they had won the Tour De France.

At this stage, I should, of course, put a caveat to this, as I am sure you would have heard about some of the negative press recently around the devastating DCMS report relating to performance-enhancing drugs.  While I think this is a huge shame and very sad for the sport, it doesn’t take away from the fact that the marginal gain concept as a concept works.

Let’s look a bit closer

So, the concept of marginal gains has worked for Team Sky, but how?

We often convince ourselves that if we cannot see or feel a difference in something when we make changes, that it is not worth doing, meaning that we put huge pressure on ourselves to make ground-breaking changes. This is the kind of behaviour that can stall progress and stop development.

The sum of many small changes, those 1% improvements, can, in fact, turn into those ground-breaking changes. It will not be an overnight revolution, but you will soon start to see and feel those changes take effect.

At the last Recruitment Network Huddle, we gave all our members a book called The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Almost every habit you have comes from lots of small decisions and changing these habits can transform our lives and performance in many things.

Just as these small changes can improve performance, they can also ruin it too; it works both ways. Small but negative changes can have a hugely detrimental impact on your performance or business, and the worst part is you may not notice at first.

So, how will this help me?

As a recruitment business owner, how does this apply to me? Well, just as Team Sky have used this to transform their performance, you can too. Analysing every aspect of your business, how it is performing and ways you can improve and make those tiny 1% changes to tweak your performance can have a huge impact.

At the Huddle events that our members attend, we use breakout sessions to encourage collaboration between our members and the industry experts in the room. One of the exercises we used at the Winter Huddle was called Tweak Performance™.

During this exercise, our members picked out a ball from a bag that had an area of their business written on it. In groups, they had to then come up with as many ideas as possible to make that 1% improvement, and in this short session alone we brainstormed over 201 ways to build a Recruitment Business and outperform the market.

The consistent evolution of practices will eventually make an impact on productivity, profitability, efficiency, brand, and the candidate/client experience, even if you don’t see the difference immediately.

Some of the areas you may want to start with making 1% improvements to are:

  • Customer/client/candidate experience
  • Systems & Technology
  • Candidate generation
  • Client generation
  • Consultant productivity
  • Marketing
  • Brand development
  • Employee attraction
  • Account penetration
  • Internal reporting
  • Employee engagement

Let’s look at some examples

To start with let’s look at Systems & Technology. Some of the improvements you could make here are:

  • Using your CRM to give a better customer experience, standardise procedures and improve the overall customer experience.
  • Use video to improve social media engagement, gain the interest of clients and candidates and record testimonials.
  • Using video calls for interviewing and client management

Another area you could look at is Candidate Generation. Some of the improvements you could make here are:

  • Improve referral generation - making it a process, possibly with incentives
  • Host or attend candidate events to raise the profile of your company
  • Increase the diversification of your candidates and source candidates from a wider pool
  • Improve your sourcing analysis, so you have a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t

Those are a few examples of some of the bigger changes you could make, but they don’t all have to be that big. As a busy recruitment business owner, we receive a huge amount of emails, many of which are useless. Have you thought of changing internal emails? Adopt a policy of speaking face to face, rather than sending an email. Just by making this small change, it could lead to so much more time and better communication internally.

By sending fewer emails, your consultants will have less to sift through, meaning they can reply to emails from clients and candidates more quickly, so they will be able to provide a better client/candidate experience, resulting in happier clients and candidates and more engaged employees. A win-win all around. One small change, added to other small changes, making a much larger impact. Happier clients mean they are more likely to recommend your agency, therefore driving more business your way.

Another example of how making a small change could make a huge impact is by making targets and incentives more visible, like putting them up on the wall - the progression can keep everyone in the business focused. Keeping the goal and tracking the progress through the month can help motivate consultants to reach the next milestone and get them pulling together as a team. Celebrating the achievements will keep morale up and drive the business forward at the same time.

To round up

Just by making some really small improvements in your business, this could collectively make a huge impact, just like Team Sky did to achieve their Tour De France win. Spend the time you need to analyse every aspect of your business, get everyone involved too and build a booming business that will outperform the market.

So, a question for you, what five small 1% improvements can you make to which parts of your business over the next 30 days that when added together will make a significant impact?

If you would like to know more about The Recruitment Network and how we can help your recruitment business to grow and outperform the market visit our website or give us a call on 0844 272 8990.

Tagged With: Recruiters, Business Growth, Recruitment Business, Marginal Gains

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