Ethical differentiation and how to go about it

Differentiating from the competition in an ethically sound way is something the Recruitment and Consulting Services Association (RCSA) actively supports. RCSA Ethics, Compliance & Risk Manager, Martin Barnett, provides insight into why and how you can go about ethical differentiation as a business.

Spot the difference? It is almost certain that your clients, candidates, competitors and employees will. What differences are we referring to? The differences that set you and your business apart from that of your competitors.

Whether you're new to the industry or a long-term veteran, an agency that operates in a specific industry or one that is more diverse, each of you has a distinctive quality to offer. How you demonstrate these qualities is equally unique. Statistics show, for example, that candidate care is a primary concern within the industry, so what is being done to rectify this? How many agencies and consultants can attest to having a 100% candidate satisfaction rate? Can you verify this, and if so how? And how do you distinguish yourself and your business performance on this metric from that of others within the industry? How do you make your commitment to candidate care your competitive advantage.

To put it in perspective, if you are a recruiter, then a candidate today may well become a future client and that individual will remember his or her own journey along their career path and the role you played in getting them there. If they have received a less than satisfactory experience in dealing with a particular consultant or agency, the likelihood of them using that consultant or agency again is, at best, going to be very slim. The message here is clear enough.

General Principle 1 in the RCSA Code for Professional Conduct (Code) states that members must act in a manner that is becoming of a member and, to that end, observe a high standard of ethics, probity and professional conduct, which requires not simply compliance with the law; but extends to honesty, equity, integrity, social and corporate responsibility in all dealings, and holds up to disclosure and to public scrutiny. On becoming an RCSA member, you are issued with a certificate of membership, which is testament that you commit to adhering to, and abiding by it.

Not all businesses are able to compete on cost and nor should they; however, all businesses and individuals are able to display integrity and continually improve on quality and service. Focussing on these attributes will allow you to deliver a continuous improvement cycle that will almost certainly assist you and your business in maintaining a competitive edge over your competitors; much as it might also assist with retaining clients, candidates and employees, all of which are vital to the long-term sustainability of your business and reputation. Can you spot the difference?

While SEEK partners with trusted contributors to bring you the latest insight and advice, the views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

A version of this article first appeared in the RCSA Journal in June 2014.

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Martin Barnett


Ethics, Compliance and Risk Manager

Martin Barnett is a governance, risk and compliance professional and strategic management consultant. He has gained considerable international experience within highly-regulated environments, including government, law, professional services,...

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