What it Actually Means to Have a Lean Workforce

What it Actually Means to Have a Lean Workforce

When you think about building high performing teams you’ll often find one thing in common: they are all running at a little bit over 100% ‘capacity’. Not under and not too far over. It’s a good thing ‘capacity’ is a straightforward concept. Oh no wait it’s actually a rather meaningless phrase that managers hide behind to shield their team from unwanted work.  

A high performing team should be judged on the performance per person rather than just the overall output i.e. if you bring in a new team member then output should increase proportionately. Seems simple right? So what about all those companies that grew super-fast but the output per person decreased significantly. You don’t usually get to hear about it because the PR machine is talking ‘growth’ or ‘expansion’.

The problem is, they could all be doing better. You get to hide behind success. Success gives you an excuse to stop self-reflecting, success adds justifications to everything you do, success makes companies complacent. And complacent companies get fat. Too many people and not enough productivity.  

The main reasons senior managers think ‘lean’ is immediate cash flow. If you can spend less and get more you are winning right? Correct. But there is a delicate balance to strike. Overworked employees will be more likely to leave, underworked employees will still be more likely to leave (through boredom, lack of progress etc.). When you think ‘lean’ think optimum efficiency. By that I mean a level of productivity and efficiency that you can maintain and scale.

When a company goes through rapid growth this balance is put at risk. Certain teams end up too fat and some too light. Too fat and your productivity or output per person decreases, too light and you risk losing people, which hurts productivity as you have to cover the gap and the train the newbie. Either way, productivity gets hit.  If you can grow fast without upsetting the balance then you really are winning and the growth will be much easier to achieve. 

Consider the team of 4 led by manager A. They each felt that they were a little too busy. Probably not enough excess work for a new full time person to take on but the manager hired another team member to keep morale high! Hurrah. Or so they thought. So now we have a team of 5. All working at about 90% ‘capacity’. One team member is getting increasingly bored and has grown frustrated at the lack of development opportunities. They leave. The manager doesn’t want to rock his carefully constructed boat so hires a similar replacement. A few weeks later another original team member is bored and frustrated. They leave. And are replaced. And so on and so forth for the rest of time.

Imagine the same team under a different manager. He Is Mr. Lean. 4 people working at over 100% capacity? Excellent! So efficient. However, after a couple of weeks he has the first resignation, before he is able to hire a replacement another goes. In his quest to keep things lean the remaining two people are integrated into another of his teams and the workload is shared. They are resented for increasing the workload of the other team - carnage ensues.

What if, in parallel universe, manager A had a crash course in management…The 4 team members feel like they have a bit too much work on. Manager A arranges a meeting to review the processes the team adhere to. They review these seeking to improve efficiency through automation and elimination of unnecessary steps. With a small investment in tech/systems this is a success and they are able to bring down the workload - not quite enough as the team still find themselves staying late once a week but it’s an improvement. Over the next few months the team is steady, challenged, busy but consistent. No leavers. No fallouts. They achieve a greater output per person than their parallel universe selves and didn’t need to hire anyone.

So before you hire. My question is. Do you actually need to?

Michael Walker (Walker Davies) & Larry Kotch (BrainBroker)

To find out more join us on Thursday 15th September for out talk "Building a Lean Workforce" where we will be joined by 3 expert panelists:

James Brown, European Director - Commercial, People and Technology

Nick Kennell - Principal Consultant

Ghilaine Chan - Consigliere | Plug-in COO | Business Juggler

--> Book your ticket here <--

Interview Better, Hire Better - Steve's Top Tips

Interview Better, Hire Better - Steve's Top Tips

Rarghhhhhhhhhh!!! I’m feeling particularly carnivorous for awful recruitment strategies today. As I’m trampling through the hiring undergrowth I hear all about the horror of the recruitment process, especially in the ever terrifying startup space. Yes, I get it, hiring and people power are not always the core skillset of a fledgling business, you’ve got bigger concerns. BUT, if you can secure series A funding, you can interview a Junior Developer properly. No excuses.

Unfortunately, startups are following a worrying trend of testing skills without following up on how this person works with the team and gets on with the numerous other tasks that will crop up. The worst thing you can do is throw an irrelevant algorithmic challenge at a potential hire and then walk out of the room smugly sipping your flat white. You need to get to know this person. They are going to be instrumental in building your dreams/team/fixing the central heating . . .  

Here are my top tips every potential startup interviewer should bear in mind; 

1.    Can they do the job? You should already know . . .The CV or email of recommendation should have cleared this up before the candidate steps in the room. The interview is a conversation to confirm this and work out if this personality can fit in with the rest of the team.

2.    This needs to be a conversation, not an interrogation . . . There’s no need for this to be any more stressful (or even hostile) than it needs to be. Collaboration is key. Let them ask a whole host of questions and air their concerns. This seems time consuming but it will save you so much time and money in the long run.

 3.    Take them for a test run . . .No I don’t mean let them run the office for a day, but let them have a go at or at least talk you through how they would tackle a task that they would ACTUALLY do in their daily grind! This serves two purposes; you get to see them in action and they get a feel for the actual job. It’s a win win. Just make sure to get their genuine feedback as well as assess their abilities.

4.    Social media- Obvious? It should be . . .They will check you out before their friend’s even finished their verbal recommendation. Manage and actively promote your brand from the get-go. This means jumping on Glassdoor, Twitter etc through the eyes of a candidate. How are you coming across not just as product or service, but as an employer?

5.    Want to REALLY know what they’re thinking? Just ask . . . Interviews are often littered with irrelevant questions. Ask the big ones, find out about their ambitions, deepest darkest desires and above all their worries. This might involve some self disclosure to get them to open up a bit . . for example “I really struggled for motivation when slogging through the night a couple of weeks back, what advice would you have given me?”

 6.    Time . .  .No time to recruit? I’m starting to feel carnivorous again! This is probably the worst and the most frequent of the excuses that I hear across the land. Like all important tasks that you may not want to, but have to do, schedule it in the diary and give it the time it deserves. That includes the interview time. Plan and prepare your interviews and warn the other interviewers that it’s on the horizon. Don’t disturb them halfway through their day and make them ask moronic questions that every candidate will have a stock answer for Interviewer; “what are your weaknesses?”, candidate; “ Honesty, perfectionism, too much of a team player”. WASTE OF TIME! RARGHHHHH

Kindosaur Regards,



Moving to an Internal Recruitment Model

Moving to an Internal Recruitment Model

Moving to an Internal Recruitment Model

HR teams and Hiring Managers want the same thing. World peace, George R.R. Martin to finish writing ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ and good quality hires made quickly. Where they differ is the cost. The one thing the Hiring Managers worry less about is the budget. They are asked to do a job and to do that they need top quality candidates to hire. 

I will outline a few of the potential reservations that Hiring Managers could (and probably will) have if you plan to insource your recruitment and give you a couple of tips to smooth out this process.

The need for speed.

We all know the downsides of working with agencies, you hear people complaining about them all the time. However, good recruitment consultants spend a lot of time talking to relevant candidates, keeping tabs on who is looking to move. That means they can act quickly. Threaten to take that away and you might have a protest on your hands. Not the chain yourself to a tree and shout kind of protest but maybe a disgruntled email or two with the light undertone of discontent.

Quality of candidates.

Hiring Managers are used to a certain quality of candidate from their recruiter. When you look to replace this model with an internal team their concern will be that the quality of candidate put forward will decrease. This would then make their job more difficult. It comes down to the standard resistance to change. They are used to what they have, it works for them. It's expensive so needs to change but without stopping them being able to hire top quality candidates without delay.

What you can do

Definitely avoid a hiring freeze; recruitment agency freeze or anything that involves drastically reducing the temperature. If you do that you create way more problems than you solve and will cost yourself a lot more money in the end. You will lose people as workloads increase because there are no new people. When you decide to defrost the budget and hire again you have to rebuild all the momentum you have lost and essentially start from scratch finding candidates - which takes a lot more time. 

Allow time for the transition. Insourcing is a project and it should be treated like one. That means setting a time specific plan whereby certain vacancies (the easer ones initially) are insourced - allowing time for talent pools to be built up for your harder to fill areas, these candidate pipelines don’t land overnight. You should continue to use recruitment agencies for your harder to fill roles and slowly bring all that activity back in-house as part of the programme. Your Hiring Managers should be informed of the plan, the timelines and should know how much budget they have remaining to work with. You can help them to prioritise accordingly. This is important for every manager but essential for target carrying managers i.e. Sales, who will be worried about the impact this can have on their numbers (and therefore their pocket money).

Get a couple of Hiring Managers involved in the insourcing project. There are always a couple of managers who have been around for ages that everyone trusts (or a couple of really loud ones). Bring them into the project as advisers, make them part of the process. Then they will support you when it comes time make the changes. This can make a massive difference and help minimise your change-is-scary headaches from other managers.

Finally, internal communications is super important. Get the managers comfortable that you will be putting the recruitment in the hands of well qualified industry experts. Let them know the screening will be even tighter than it was before and just as quick. Also, get a couple of hiring mangers involved in the interviews. 

So there's a few tips to help you on your insourcing mission. There are a lot more challenges to come so don't think this is the easy part!

4 Ways to Get More Out of Recruitment Agencies

4 Ways to Get More Out of Recruitment Agencies

4 Ways to Get More Out of Recruitment Agencies

If you have decided that part of your recruitment model involves working with the Wildlings, sorry, recruitment agencies then there are a few things you should do to get the most out of it.

1.)   Train Your Recruitment Consultants

They are going to represent you to candidates. Don’t just have one conversation with them and send them into the wilderness to go hunting. They aren’t ready. Remember when Simba ran off to the Elephant’s Graveyard and Mufasa had to go and save him? Well you’re Mufasa. Save yourself the time and effort of saving Simba. Teach Simba. Teach him all about your company, the history, where you are going (the vision), the financials, new products or services - everything Simba needs to know to sell the opportunity of working at your company to a candidate. Also, let them know how you want to be portrayed as an employer. Are you fun? Cutting Edge? Leaders in the field? Well they need to know what you want the message to be. 

2.)   Evaluation and (actual) Management of your PSL

Dust off the old PSL spreadsheet – it’s time that thing got an overhaul. Many companies have a spreadsheet created around the same time as Excel that only gets any airtime when they want to put a big red highlight over the latest recruiter to have annoyed them. It’s probably saved somewhere near the mummified remains of your original terms and conditions. I’d advise that you closely monitor the performance of your agencies. The simplest way is with a quarterly or bi-annual review of their conversion statistics. How many roles have they worked on, how many CV’s have they submitted, for how many 1st interviews, for how many 2nd interviews, for how many offers. Also worth keeping tabs on retention stats - but this is more a reflection of your company and interview skills than their service. Keep an eye on their performance, ditch the low performers, recognise the high performers and the quality of you candidates will go up while your time to hire goes down. 

3.)   Respect Their Time


“But I’m the client!”. Shhh, we are all ‘the client’ to someone. We’ve all got to make a livin’. Be respectful of the time and effort the recruitment consultants have put in. Try to be as punctual as possible with decisions and give them useful feedback on candidates (good or bad). Good candidates don’t stay on the market for long and it is often us taking too long to get back to agencies that causes problems (one of the rare times I will defend them).

4.)   Divide and Conquer

Too many recruiters spoil the broth. Limit the number of agencies working on a role to 2 or 3. Any more and candidates will be contacted loads of times about the same job and this can make you look a little desperate. Also, if there is too much competition on the role you will find that their efforts will go to a client with less agencies per role. You can end up with several agencies kind of working on it, it's better to have 2 or 3 trying really hard. Having a PSL for specific departments will help manage this.

So there’s a few quick wins for working with recruitment agencies. They get a bad rep (and rightly so for the most part) but if you take the time to properly manage them you can end up with a very skilled PSL to compliment your team. Or you could just talk to us and we will help you get rid of the need for them.

“Look Simba, everything the light touches is our Kingdom.”

Recruiting Inhouse Recruiters

Recruiting Inhouse Recruiters

Recruiting Inhouse Recruiters

If you looking to build an internal recruitment team you may well we wondering 'how do you recruit people who know exactly how it works?'. Fair question. They can probably predict the questions you are going to ask. They should have great CVs, great examples at interview and be thoroughly well prepared. So how to tell the good from the bad? 

Change it up. Ditch the standard competency based questions and make it more interactive. You want an industry expert who knows recruitment inside out and can work well with your current team. You don’t just want a good recruiter. That isn’t enough. Knowledge of the industry is crucial. You won’t get all the answers you need from a standard set of interview questions.

(Cliche Alert!!) Strategic Thinker:

You also want someone with a good strategic mind who won’t just be phone bashing all day with no real direction. Challenge them on their approach. See how they will go about sourcing candidates. Where? Why? How do you utilise social media in building talent pools? What networking events would you attend and why? How will you get candidates to come to you? Build a high level strategy together during the course of the interview. You will see if they know their stuff and also how well you work together.


So you now understand the way they will approach the job. Now you need to establish the drive/motivation still exists. Some people burnout in what is a challenging and demanding job and a lot of people look to move from recruitment agencies to working internally because of this. They aren't going to be the right hires. It is vital to check they still have the willingness to roll their sleeves up and crack on. Calls, meetings, social media, job boards, forums, events, keeping up with the new-kids-on-the-block social recruiting tools – all mean hard work and plenty of it.

Look at their previous roles and the volumes of hiring, how many roles would they look after at a time?. Ask what was achieved and how they went about this. Understand their motivations – don’t just accept the clichés (hardworking, driven, energetic, fast-paced), find out why they are motivated to work hard. 

Performance Evaluation: 

As my old boss used to say "always know your numbers". The best recruiters keep track of their performance. How many interviews do I get from every 3 CVs I send to a hiring manager? How can I improve this? Ask for examples that can reassure you that they will keep improving. 

As important is knowing which methods of finding candidates are giving the best returns. If you're putting a lot of time into a particular social media platform and getting limited returns, find out if there's something you can do better or ditch it. Test them on this based on previous jobs.

Industry Expertise:

Get a couple of hiring managers involved in the interview. Let them talk about the industry and the technical aspects. You can sit back and assess. They don’t need to have as in-depth knowledge as someone actually doing the job but should be able to talk credibly with a good understanding. After all, they need to be able to check the candidates are good enough for the managers to see. 

Recruiting for a recruiter can take a lot of effort and you will need to put it a big shift to get it right. But it is worth it. Quality hires, made quickly, at low cost. Yes please. Change up your interview routine. You’ll be able to make a more informed decision. 

Quick Tips to Build Your Employer Brand

Quick Tips to Build Your Employer Brand

Build Your Employer Brand and Lower Recruitment Costs

If I offered you higher quality candidates at a lower cost you’d take it right? What if I offered you the same thing but it took a little bit of effort on your part? Still game? Read on and I’ll outline a couple of quick wins to help you get the ball rolling.

We're going fishing:

And your company is the bait. More specifically your company’s ‘Employer Brand’. This is what you offer to current and potential employees. The tastier the bait, the more fish you will catch*. So we need to build the brand, make it easy for candidates to see this and then make it simple for them to show their interest. Nom nom nom.

Social Media:

A lot of companies have a really clear corporate brand. They know who they are, why people should be interested in their products or services and have a solid communication strategy to potential clients or customers. The best candidates will be interested in companies who have a strong corporate and employer brand (i.e. the whole package).

The problem is that many companies lack strategy on building the employer part of their brand. Social Media is a great tool for this. Treat it the same way you treat your corporate marketing. You don't just post repeatedly about your products or services (hopefully) but create interesting/engaging/thought provoking content to share. Exactly the same applies for candidates. Don't contstantly post 'We Are Hiring for XXX' style posts. Won an award? Got a video from an event? If not you create some interesting material yourself – like an article on the day in the life of a Sales Manager or an Interview with the CEO, basically anything that will be interesting and memorable to potential candidates.

Work out a content plan for sharing these types of posts. Look at automation software like Hootsuite or Buffer. You can preload content to go out at specific times to save you having to remember. If you have a marketing department, get them involved. It works much better as part of the whole strategy. 

Careers Page – make is easy to use and fun to be on:

Make it simple and easy to navigate. Job seekers don’t spend a whole lot of time researching anymore. Recruitment agencies and the one-click apply job boards have seen to that. Make sure it is easy for the potential candidates to find the sections relevant to them. This can be easily done with filters sector, department and location.

Your careers page is another chance to interact with potential candidates. You should aim to reinforce the message you have started to spread on social media about how great you are. A picture is worth a thousand words and a video is worth about seven million characters (approximately).

*No aquatic creatures were harmed in the creation of this article

Alternatives to Recruitment Agencies (Yay!)

Alternatives to Recruitment Agencies (Yay!)

Alternatives to Recruitment Agencies (Yay!)

This is the follow up to the 'Why Everyone Hates Recruiters' post.

Now that we have all agreed that using recruitment agencies is not the way forward I will show some different models you can use to get the best candidates for your business. I'd like to keep this jargon free but the industry has some pretty silly names for things so sorry about that!

1) Internal: With an internal recruitment team you can take back control of your messaging, all the candidates are yours and the cost per hire will be much less. You might need to use agencies for particularly senior or specialist roles but hopefully not too often. Don't underestimate the cost for this though. You have salaries, systems, advertising, memberships and more to factor in. But if you are hiring enough - this might be the way to go. 

2) RPO: A traditional RPO is the full outsourcing of your recruitment function for the whole company or a particular business unit. Payment can be structured in several ways but most simply as a monthly management fee with a reduced placement fee. You can save on all the set up costs mentioned above but this isn't a super cheap model either. Once your volume of hiring picks up you can move over to the internal model.

4) Vendor Management:  A Vendor Manager is a company that sits between you and the recruitment agencies. There are generally two types of Vendor arrangement. Master Vendor or Neutral Vendor. Neutral means that the vendor manager outsources your vacancies to recruitment agencies immediately. Master Vendor means they will get there own team to have a go first, usually at a reduced rate. If you're going to do it, pick someone you think will do well and make it a 'Master Vendor' arrangement. It's better for your bank balance.  

There are various models that can be applied, not just the old school give it all to the recruitment agencies approach. Working out which way to go can be tough. Think about how much hiring you will need to do, what your budget is, how quickly you need to get it done and how much time you have to manage the process. Oh and I forgot to mention, at Walker Davies we have come up with a different (better) way of doing things...I've not listed it above as that would feel somewhat self-serving but give us a shout to find out more. 


Why Everyone Hates Recruiters

Why Everyone Hates Recruiters

Why Everyone Hates Recruiters

“Recruitment is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence.” (Dr. McCoy, 2009), or was it Space? I forget. A horrible industry determined to Hoover (or Dyson) the joy out of growing a company. Spare a thought for the industry professionals, the well informed, well read, up to date recruitment professionals who have had their profession turned into a dirty word. “Recruitment” [cue shuddering]. They do exist, in surprisingly large numbers but are still out voiced by the mediocre mercenaries (not the cool Han Solo kind of mercenary). Poor service levels, a lack of industry knowledge, terrible candidate management but still demanding 20-25% of base salary. What's not to love? EVERYTHING!

New companies thrive when solving a problem, be it a new technological innovation, service or product. Here is an industry (recruitment) intent, on causing rather than solving problems. Better solutions exist than to solely rely on agencies time and time again incurring high fee after high fee. You just don’t get to hear about them. They are drowned out by recruiter’s constantly ringing you up and saying ‘gizza job’ – so I can over charge you and add little value (they don't say the last part out loud). Inevitably many companies see this as the only solution for growing their workforce. I will attempt to highlight some of the problems with a fully agency driven recruitment approach and then in my next post I’ll show a few potential solutions that will be more cost effective and efficient.                                                

1)    Cost: This is a simple one, it costs a lot. Paying a big fee for each hire is the least cost effective way to go about hiring. You’re looking at anywhere up to 25% of the base salary (i.e. around £10K for a £40,000/year candidate). £10K for a few phone calls! I should change jobs, oh no wait, I don't want to accidentally create a horcrux when I split my soul in two. 

2)    You lose control of your brand: You can’t control the message recruitment agencies are putting out in the market about your company. You need consistent messaging to develop a strong reputation in the market and start to drive candidates to you. This is much harder to control with multiple agencies being your main marketeers to the candidate marketplace.

3)    Time: They can access candidates quickly. There you have it, a compliment for recruiters. They usually work in a particular industry recruiting into one job function (HR, Sales, IT etc.) and by harassing candidates all day every day they build up decent knowledge of who is and isn't open to opportunities. However, usually the CV to interview conversions rates suck, which means much more time screening CVs. They fail to qualify candidates well enough so interviews prove to be a waste of time when mr or mrs candidate has overcooked their experience. All the means a lot of time wasted by you and your managers. And this doth not a happy hiring manager make.

4)    Quality: Have you ever thought that for an 'expert' whose entire job is to find good candidates that you get presented with an inordinate amount of terrible CVs? Where did all the good ones go? Well either there are no good ones, or they have gone to the client who is paying 1% more. When you do get a good candidate you can bet that candidate's CV is also sitting in the inbox of several other clients who then have to fight it out. 

5) Stealing your staff: They call you, you invite them for a meeting, you get on well, agree terms, hands are shook and a mutual understanding is formed. And then they steal your ****ing Sales Manager. 

There are more issues but let's not dwell. In my next post I will few different solutions that can help you access high quality candidates at a lower cost.