From Shortlist Industry Journal, Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Recruitment leaders’ business plans for 2021 involve preparing for the worst while operating for the best, with more modest goals and far greater focus on contingencies, a leadership consultant says.

“This year, we don’t know what’s coming, so we need a business planning structure that’s very flexible,” says Navigator Consulting MD Tony Hall.

With “constant scares” from further COVID outbreaks and lockdowns at “a moment’s notice” remaining likely, leaders need to plan with this in mind, he says.

“We need to plan for the worst, but absolutely operate to the best, and make the most of the situation – which many firms have done.”

Planning should primarily be focused on nurturing client and candidate relationships, improving consultants’ motivation and performance, and lifting the operating performance of the business as a whole, Hall adds.

Following last year’s challenges, he says companies are now in “a more efficient shape”, and are using that revised base “to drive a high-performing recruitment business without the high overheads associated with the previous boom market”.

And while their goals may not be as “lofty”, most leaders are “quietly optimistic” about the year ahead, Hall says. “[Although] everyone needed a really good break; I’m hearing that from everybody.”

They are also are much more prepared now than they were in 2020 for “any challenging market conditions”.

Preparing for contingencies
In 2021, contingency planning needs to centre around adjusting staffing levels, with a strong performance management infrastructure for staff, and a very clear plan for remote working, Hall says.

Remote work is “one of the big unknowns”, he says, and will present “quite a challenge for leaders to get the best out of people”.

And with most recruitment companies having completed their downsizing and cost reduction initiatives, leaders are now focused on hanging on to their best people and doing their best to “motivate and inspire” them.

Hall has observed an uptick in business development activity, but warns this needs to be “tempered”, because “a significant amount of brand damage can occur if this is too aggressive”.

Instead, he suggests “a very low-key professional, reverse marketing approach” to develop new business, “as opposed to cold calling and making multiple calls… where there’s no relationship”.

Failing to plan…
Looking back on 2020, Hall says he was surprised by the number of recruitment companies without a written business plan.

Formalising a plan is important because it commits owners, leaders and consultants to identifying and achieving their goals, and “dramatically improve[s] the probability of success”.

Hall has developed a simple one-page business plan methodology “which is much easier to go back to and revise and make sure you’re on track”, which he is presenting on Wednesday at a Navigator Consulting event for owners, managers and consultants.