How to build culture in recruitment agencies

The recruitment industry has often suffered from an image problem. Whether right or wrong, the perception of many agencies – and those who work within them – is that the eye is on the sale and not on the service.

Changing the view from the outside usually starts from within. A positive workplace culture can attract great recruitment talent, enhance overall performance and build a better business.

Here are three agencies that show how a strong culture of service and recognition can attract the best talent.

A focus on flexibility

When Ainsley Johnstone and Natalie Firth returned to their recruitment roles after maternity leave, they struggled to find a balance between career and life.

“We wanted to be able to do both really well,” explains Johnstone, “but the ability to have true flexibility meant either taking a demotion or restructuring roles to have less accountability. We didn’t want that.”

The solution was to form their own recruitment agency where success would be measured by performance outcomes rather than hours. Think Talent was born in 2014 and today the company is on a growth trajectory as more people are drawn to the appeal of work-life balance.

Johnstone explains that many of Think Talent’s 21 employees have been with the company from day one.

“We have a family culture,” she says.

“We know what people want to achieve in their life and in their career. People can take a longer lunch break if they want to go to a yoga class. We have clear targets and we find that that provides more flexibility because everyone is equipped with the technology they need to work from the office or from home.”

While Think Talent has revenue-based targets, values and behaviour are also important measures of performance.

“We look at how people regard candidates and clients,” says Johnstone.

“There is less focus on the number of hours and new-business calls and more on how we treat people in our network, as we find that that brings in more work.”

Putting service first

The Recruitment Company has a culture that its CEO Geoff Miller describes as different to the average agency.

“Anecdotally, the typical culture is ‘sale first, service last’ and ‘do as I say not as I do’,” he says.

“It’s different from what I am trying to create here. I strongly believe that we are a service industry, not a sales industry. There are elements of sales, but if you keep driving the bottom line and don’t put people first, you’ll become more and more marginalised.”

The Recruitment Company has a team of 22 recruitment specialists and its culture is driven by core values and a clear purpose.

“Our purpose is to make people enjoy the recruitment experience again,” says Miller.

“Everyone in the business has a percentage of their salary attributed to that.”

 Miller says his agency’s great ambition to become the ‘untethered recruitment company’.

“This comes from our genuine belief that culture is everything,” he says. “The idea is to give employees a greater sense of empowerment. For example, every employee has a [company] credit card and access to every piece of information in the business at any time they like. They can also work from wherever anywhere in the world.”

Miller explains that a series of ‘anchors’, such as scheduled meetings, ensure that everyone is still connected to the business, no matter where they choose to work.

“It doesn’t mean less structure, if anything there is more structure to enable people to not come into the office, but I believe people are more productive if they feel empowered and trusted. It’s a two-way thing.”

Building a caring culture

When Victoria Butt was preparing to launch Parity Consulting in 2012, she says it was easy to come up with a company name.

“I called it Parity because I believe candidates are just as important as clients - we’re all about what is best for both.”

Parity Consulting employs 10 people - 70% of whom work part-time and 80% of whom are women.

“I’ve always believed that part-timers are an untapped resource,” says Butt. “I’ve also always valued women in business and although I’m equally happy to employ men, it so happens that more women work part time and I choose the best candidates for the job. “

Butt describes the Parity culture as “nurturing and collaborative”.

“Our youngest employee is 27 and our oldest is 53, so we have a range of generations and we all work well together.”

The company’s ‘Parity Plus’ initiative, which includes of a complimentary series of professional development events, also underscores its commitment to candidates and clients.

“We live and breathe the belief that candidates and clients deserve more,” says Butt.

“This is all part of our caring culture. Yes, people come to work to pay the bills but we hire based on values and we know that our people really care.”