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What our Managing Director Steve Preston has learned since establishing Heat Recruitment

by Daniella Klein

What have I learned in over 15 years of trading? 

As many of you know, I founded Heat Recruitment 15 years ago, and in that time, I’ve seen and learned a thing or two. I previously shared my learnings on my tenth anniversary in recruitment and in the intervening years, fortunately for me, I’ve learned a bit more.

Increased technology and Artificial Intelligence, a couple of office changes, a pandemic, legislative changes to IR35 and GDPR, flexible working, Brexit, a new economic climate, more robust business models and the need to think outside of the box have marked the last five years and has forced all of us to embrace flexibility and agility in ways none of us could have predicted.

One of the most interesting shifts in the last five years has been a changing attitude in employee expectations. Where before it was a given that employees expected monetary rewards, there has been a movement towards employees placing a greater importance on attractive company cultures, brands, and better work-life balance. Creating these new concepts of employee compensation packages through a more holistic working environment or attitude has not only attracted a higher calibre of employee, but helped improve productivity and reduced the effects of stress at work.

We’re all constantly learning in the fast-paced world of recruitment, and with so much change and development it’s important to take in as much as you can.

My ten new takeaways for business leaders:

  1. Five years ago, my advice included the need to remember that time is precious, and this is more important than ever. As I said before, no one, no matter how rich they are, can buy time so make the most of it. Plan to get the best out of every day!
  2. Following on from the above – make time for yourself. Being in the rat race can be fun but try not to get trapped and become a slave to the business. Work to live, don’t live to work.
  3. Manage your stress levels. Learn to vent and reduce the pressure on yourself; this will also reduce the pressure on those around you. Showing that you’re human and that even you can get frustrated will help your team cope with the fluctuations and pressures of business in healthy ways.
  4. Trust in your talent. You’ve hired good people so let them perform to the best of their abilities.
  5. Remove the roadblocks from your career. Everywhere in life and work roadblocks will appear, it is your job to remove these blocks and create a more efficient work environment for your team, and a clearer path for yourself.
  6. Go off-piste. Daring to boldly go where others haven’t, or doing something that you would not normally do is not a bad thing! More often than not, it can shake loose the answers to the problems you’re experiencing.
  7. Use experts where experts are needed. It’s all well and good saying ‘Oh I can do that’, and then never getting around to doing it. Getting an expert in will cost slightly more but will move things on in a timely manner and to a higher standard than you would achieve on your own.
  8. Fail quickly and recover quickly. It’s ok to fail or make mistakes but try not to dwell on them, and if you get knocked down it’s about how quickly you get back up.
  9. Engage your team and business in the journey. The phrase ‘It’s about the journey and not the destination’, is very poignant. Involving people in the development of your business will help not only your company grow but also give your team invaluable insight – so get people onboard!

What I’ve learned from having a couple of office moves under my belt, is that your employees can and should be trusted with responsibility to ensure the smooth adaptation to big changes. Break down your company’s biggest developments into manageable chunks and distribute their management amongst your employees. This not only facilitates complete transparency on the development of the company but ensures tasks are completed in a timely fashion by people who will learn invaluable lessons and feel linked to the company’s progression.

  1. Unify your company values and your company culture. This starts with having a clear vision of what you’re trying to achieve yourself, with your team and with your business. Having this embedded in your company culture will make sure you’re all working towards a shared goal.

 

Leaps and bounds: How I’ve coped with ever-improving technology

Over the last five years technology has revolutionised the recruitment industry. It’s been tough keeping up! But through constant research of the tech developments going on throughout the industry, and across other industries and sectors, we have curated a market-leading suite of recruitment technologies that allow consultants to focus on the job at hand and provide the best customer service possible.  We have also worked hard to align our digital marketing strategy to feed directly into the sales function to create real synergy between the two areas.

I think one of the most interesting, and possibly even more beneficial, aspects of ever-improving tech aside from the tech itself, is the environment of constant learning and upskilling it creates in your workforce. I have made it a point to provide high levels of in-house training at regular intervals under the guidance of our Learning & Development Director. Not only do my team expect to learn new things regularly, they are able to pick up new skills quickly and efficiently through this culture of constant learning.

Processing the pandemic: Five things I’ve learned:

It’s no exaggeration to say that I can divide the last five years into: a) what I had learned before the pandemic, and b) what I learned during and after the pandemic. Here are five things I’ve learned during the lockdown that will shape the way I think about business forever:

  1. Business Interruption Insurance does not do exactly what it says it does!
  2. We do not need to do as many internal meetings as we previously were doing as a business; we can save ourselves a lot of time with more efficient communication and summaries.
  3. Stay calm, relax and let the dust settle. After a major crisis you get to see things much more clearly.
  4. You can’t fault good old-fashioned hard work to get you through a tough situation.
  5. Trust in those around you. People are stronger both mentally and physically than you may at first think. The hard work of my employees has been one of the most empowering parts of the pandemic, and I can face further uncertainty with a degree of certainty.

 

A crisis like that allows you to take a step back and, in some ways, break the business down in order to re-build it and come back stronger, more streamlined and more efficient.  We have taken the attitude that unless a process benefits the candidate, client or consultant user experience then we can either reduce or eradicate it.

Of course, if I was to do it all over again I’d have bought shares in Zoom, been more sceptical about the warped perceptions of the media, and not been so tentative about trusting my instincts. It’s human to question yourself but implementing flexible working and engaging the furlough scheme was the right move for the company and remaining positive that the world would get through this helped.

 

Advice for coping with future situations that disrupt business operations

The future is bright, if uncertain. Uncertainty is something all business leaders need to get familiar and comfortable with. We now know that things can change and could change again.

The pandemic altered the way we think about work and recruitment in ways that can’t be undone. Working from home with greater flexibility and an emphasis on portable technology, and video conferencing rather than in-person meetings have proven to save companies time and money whilst maintaining productivity, why would people go back to the way things were before?

My advice to combat further change in the future would be to invest in your communication with your staff and the wider business community. We are all in it together, and others are probably experiencing similar issues and concerns.  Stay optimistic, even when business is looking bleak, as keeping positive with high energy levels will help. Pessimism doesn’t really encourage people to try and be productive, but optimism gives you something to fight for.

Always plan for a rainy day. In the UK we love to talk about the weather, so we naturally accept that after sunshine comes rain, but the good thing is that after rain eventually comes sunshine again! Businesses are bound to re-evaluate their business models and look at where they can shore up their flexibility to accommodate and succeed in further or future upheaval. This is going to change the way businesses operate for the better for a long time to come.

The past five years have taught me a lot about change and the world of work, and I look forward to what the next five years have in store!