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Listen in on this episode of The Full Desk Experience as Kortney Harmon talks about the importance of using a process-driven training program to drive best practices and increase success within your team – and what might happen if you don’t. Kortney highlights how training may not be the root cause of errors or poor performance in your office. By first taking a look at the preferred, written, and outlined processes for your office, you can take a holistic approach to your training program.
How are you getting your teams to respond when their clients are wanting to know how you’re different from 10,000 other staffing firms out there? Do you do training on that? Does your team effectively communicate that? If you don’t know the answer, stop. All of these things come from great leaders putting their brains on paper, having the preferred way to get through the trials and tribulations of this industry. Let’s face it. It’s hard. Most importantly, having the environment that fosters a community of learners that come together and get better.
Hi, I’m Kortney Harmon, staffing and recruiting industry principal at Crelate. Over the past decade, I’ve trained thousands of frontline recruiters, and I’ve worked with hundreds of business owners and executives to help their firms and agencies grow. This is the Full Desk Experience where we will be talking about growth blockers across your people, processes and technologies.
On today’s episode, we’re going to talk about taking stock in the fact that you probably don’t have an onboarding problem, you probably have a lack of process and communication problem. Oftentimes as leaders, we kind of look at the symptoms in our organization as the problem, but often don’t find the root cause of what’s going on. An example for today’s episode is looking at the lack of production in our offices as an onboarding problem or not hiring the right person problem. But I want you to take a step back and think, is that truly the case? Is it the fact that you didn’t train them right, or is it the fact that you didn’t have a process in place to begin with to ensure the success for your team? There’s actually a bigger story behind this. I’m going to dive into some things today that I’ve seen across some of the top offices and networks. And I want you to be honest with yourself, and I want you to think, do any of these things ring true in your office?
I was actually talking to an owner of a firm last week. He’s coming to a crossroads trying to figure out if he wants to re-up with his franchise organization, move to another franchise organization or merely just go independent. My question to him was what was he looking to get from that royalty that he was paying in these organizations? One of the top three things that came to mind for him and really stood out was training his people. This topic is not only near and dear to my heart, but it’s really the idea of taking an honest look at his business and what he needed outside of what he could possibly provide. He knew that wasn’t a sweet spot, and I’m not referring to the story that it only affects executive search firms, but it also hits home for staffing agencies, even more so due to the speed and volume in which their business runs.
I’m not going to lie. The number one thing that I hear from offices that I talk to outside of a network, and the reason people often hold on to being a part of a network or joining a network, is training. Now, I’m not telling you to go get a learning and development person go be a part of a network just for training. No, no, no. I’m telling you to take a look at the things that you have set up for your teams to be successful. Do you have the processes set up for your team that they know what to do at every turn of their business? Or is it just the wild wild west over there and to each their own as long as they’re producing revenue? I have seen both sides of the coin. I think we all can agree that people don’t go into staffing and recruiting because it’s their dream from the time that they were little to be a recruiter or lead a staffing company. That’s just not the case.
I know I didn’t dream of it from the time that I was little, but I did it. And guess what? A decade later, I’m still here. Oftentimes they fall into this business and they stay here because they’re successful at it. A large portion of those successful people get tired of working for the man, so to say, so they open their own office. They take a leadership position. However, just because you were once successful at running your own desk does not mean you’re good at leading a team or training others to do it like you did. I want you to be honest with yourself, you’re going to hear me say this a lot. Know what you’re good at, but know what you’re not good at. Just because you’re a leader of an organization doesn’t mean you have to be great at everything, but it does mean you have to recognize that you have gaps, and how to identify and solve them is what makes you a great leader.
You’re often going to hear me refer to sports references. I played division one softball. I was a pitcher. Just because I was a good pitcher doesn’t mean that you’re going to be a good pitching coach or a coach in general. Any coach or leadership position requires you to be able to break down the steps that you need to get in a good pitching position. You have to have the right grip. You have to have the right wrist snap, the right stride, right weight transfer, spin and follow through. Just because I was a good pitcher doesn’t mean I can translate my knowledge to others in order for them to be successful or even be able to hold those people accountable for getting better themselves. This is the same in business. It’s a skill that’s developed and we can get better each and every day as leaders.
If you decide to start your own office because you are once a good recruiter, are you good at translating how to run an effective desk? Are you good at holding others accountable to the metrics that you think your organization needs? There are no secrets to success. It is taking the stairs every single day in a business versus taking the elevator. It’s the result of preparation, hard work, learning from your failures and doing this for your people in your organization. And you as a leader can help fast track those effective communications and learning programs. But in order to do that, you have to train your teams. You have to have your way to be successful. Do you know the roadmap? Do you know where you’re going? Do you know what processes lead you to where? If you don’t know, how are your teams going to know?
That’s knowing when you get a top candidate and you don’t have a job for them, what are you going to do with them? Do you have the preferred approach in your office, knowing that you lost a job order? How can you show your value and bring your client back to you? Do you have a recommended approach for that for your sales team? Having a list of prospects. What’s your touch plan strategy to get them on the phone? Do you have that spelled out for your offices and measure them on that or be able to coach them on missing the mark, or you were once successful, you’re encouraging them to go do it? How are you getting your teams to respond when their clients are wanting to know how you’re different from 10,000 other staffing firms out there? Do you do training on that? Does your team effectively communicate that? If you don’t know the answer, stop. All of these things come from great leaders putting their brains on paper, having the preferred way to get through the trials and tribulations of this industry. Let’s face it, it’s hard.
Most importantly, having the environment that fosters a community of learners that come together and get better. I don’t know about you, but I remember the days of having to hit the offices early prior to our morning bullpen sessions, and we did role plays and resistances. I hope you can see the dread on my face. There’s nothing that I hated more, but it pulls us together, helps us learn off of each other, helps us strive for greatness, get honest feedback and make us better each and every day. And you as a leader can put your stamp on those role plays every single day. It truly comes down to the foundational building blocks of effective training programs for your staffing and recruiting firms. I promise you, once you start down this path, you’re going to realize where you are missing processes in your organization.
Start with the foundational building blocks of your candidate process, your client process, your re-engagement strategies. Every single process and thing that you have in your business that you want done a certain way, reevaluate it. It’s truly eye opening. And for those who say, I have training down, go in as you know nothing and realize what your teams are told to do. I’m going to tell you, the number one reason people are getting training wrong is they don’t put emphasis on it. They think that they can either circumvent the idea of having to train by hiring tenured people, or they hire newbies, and have them learn from those top performers. In both of these scenarios, the associates are learning the way of your office. They’re not learning the way of your office. I’m so sorry. You are saying essentially go be successful by the definition of what your tenured employees offer. That’s not what you want when you’re running an office. Most of your offices don’t have a dedicated resource. It’s either your network, your franchise organization providing training, you outsource training to a third party or most commonly, you have your managers doing two to three jobs. None of which they’re successful at. Truly successful at.
You may not only have them being managers of departments, as well as training new hires, and may or may not expect them to run a desk themselves and be a top performer. My guess is they’re stretch too thin, and they’re only giving the time and energy they have available to be status quo at best. Now, don’t get me wrong, they may have glimpses of greatness is which is why you put them in those roles to begin with. I understand where you’re coming from, but are you doing yourself or your employees any favors? We have to make sure that your processes in your organization are built to scale and that we’re truly measuring the right things so we can use those as diagnostics for everyone in our office.
You might be saying, Kortney, this is too basic. I don’t need to look at this. I’ve got this down. But honestly, do you? Take an honest look at your organization and realize the signs and symptoms that this might be speaking to a larger problem. Ask yourself, have you seen a dip in the overall gross margin for your teams or are you just attributing that to the market shift? Are you having issues keeping good people? What’s your retention rate? Is your office dynamics and performance changing after key players of your team have moved on to new opportunities? Is that because that they were carrying the way to the office and new people just don’t know what they’re doing? Not to mention, we put those people in three jobs, expecting them to outperform the rest. I’m sure we’ll get to the idea of quiet quitting in one of our future episodes.
I want you to realize low performance is one of the most obvious outcomes of having a weak training program and communicated processes. Employees who have not been trained properly will produce less and of lower quality of work. Less knowledge and training lead to lower level of performance, resulting and less profit. That hits you as an owner. This type of work often leads to errors, quality issues, time lost, worst of all, repeating activities. It has an enormous implication for customers, suppliers, stakeholders, who are all negatively impacted, but it’s the training itself. Or is it? Or is it the lack of processes you’ve established as a leader? Or are you just hoping for success?
I can speak to this from one of my previous employers. I came into an organization. I refer to this as BK before Kortney. Little humor. They had some virtual learnings to complete. It was there. Don’t get me wrong. It was a task to kill to go through. It was a box to complete, but it wasn’t done well. Things were out of date. Processes were incomplete or never even written. And activities you used to document conversations in their organization weren’t even defined for those that were using them. This is what I see or have seen with so many organizations across the board. Just because you want them to happen, doesn’t mean you can will them into existence. It means you have to have the right things in place to learn your way for your office to be successful the way you want them to be successful.
In that organization that I spoke of, I completely revamped their learning program, added a variety of types of learning and accountability, spelled out and created processes for the organization that did not exist prior to me, revamped best practices of their technologies that so many teams were using and helped get less clicks and for them to be more effective. And do you know what happened? Within the first six months of launching this program, they saw an increased gross margin for their new hires of 143%. 143 within the first three months of being there compared to those who had the old status quo learning.
Did I put them in front of the video to learn? No. Maybe they had some of that. Did they get the fire hose of content and just go on your way, hope they would retain something? No. You must provide content for your learners, but most importantly, a safe space for them to get practice at their craft, get honest feedback, opportunities to continue their growth beyond the new hire experience. Who doesn’t want that type of success? 143% in gross margin. If you don’t want that success, you’re crazy.
When I think of training in the staffing and recruiting world, I really look at it in two parts. Bear with me for a second. Number one, there’s the methodology of the job, how to have the conversations, what to ask, how to listen, how to overcome resistance and even asking for referrals or references. There’s much more to this, but you get the idea. This stuff is pretty standard. Once they learn their job, they learn the things to listen for, they learn the things to ask, honestly, the conversations don’t change. We can always get better at them, don’t get me wrong, but they’re just a skill that we sharpen each and every day with the baseline of knowledge.
The second part of the equation is selfishly the most important for you as a leader. That’s technology. When you think about technology, this is so detailed. There’s so much more than what we’re going to talk about today. It’s more about how to record the metric, it’s the activities you choose from the conversation, it’s what processes to follow that you as an owner have established. What happens after I choose a specific note action or activity in the system? These are the important factors that give you as a leader the metrics to know if someone is performing, not performing, the numbers to help you with forecasting to know if you’re on track for this year’s goals, and ultimately it gives you your go forward strategy on what’s next, how does strategically navigate the shift in markets and what we’re seeing today, as well as other cycles to come.
Is this truly technology training, so to say? No. It’s training on your proven process, the proven process that leads your teams to success. It can’t just be here in your mind and not on paper. It has to be scalable and something to help your whole team learn. Training your team on organizational technology can really help mitigate the symptoms of low performance. It probably wasn’t even low performance at all. It was probably the fact that your teams just don’t know how to use their systems that you have in place, let alone the ones that you were adding each and every year.
During my time as a consultant, I was doing coaching with a couple of associates and we were talking about their metrics. One was knocking it out of the park on their weekly metrics. The other one was struggling to get a weekly quota. Do you think it was on them and now they’re out performance? No. Do you think we should fire one because they weren’t hitting versus another? No. It prompted me to dive in. It turned out that the weekly activity each individual was using, or not using in this case, was different. The title of the activity was let’s say talent in chair for purposes for today. One of the people on this coaching call had 36 talent in chair. The other person had one. Someone in a leadership position may have looked and said that one is underperforming. That 36 is knocking it out of the park. That’s a huge difference in activities for your weekly quota if your total is 60 or 80.
After diving in asking the questions of how they both got the number they did, I really understood what promoted them to choose the activities they did in the system. Low and behold, they had different definitions of what the activities truly meant and when the trigger was for them to choose that. Their training at the time was just a document, good old piece of paper with outdated definitions, no processes for when the right time was to choose those activities. And when asking the leader about how they teach those definitions and processes for each item, it turns out they had communicated it in a morning meeting a few months ago. Ironically, the entire team wasn’t there and it was put on the managers to communicate this change on their teams. So many problems with this, but it really comes down to their communication and their single point of reference for training was never updated. Their managers weren’t holding their teams accountable to those metrics.
We’re going to dive into metrics in another episode, but metrics are so important. It really comes down to, we can’t make a knee-jerk reaction on our metrics and the things that are happening in our system if we don’t set the right precedence and have our standards in place. This is really a prime example of why you not only need to train your new hires, but you also need to give that same expectation for existing teams to ensure their success as well. Think about it, when you have a change in process when the market shifts, so does your team’s process and your technology, when you add a new technology to your organization, it changes, alters or updates what your teams have to do in their system. Training is not just for new hires. Change management is something that we need to do a better job with overall in our organizations. Be honest with yourself and know where you’re missing the mark.
I’m going to give you a situation. Does this sound familiar? You as a leader recognize something that needs change due to lack of process, ineffective process, market shifts or some other unknown factor. You change the process. But think, how is this communicated to your teams? How are you dealing with the questions to this process? Are you explaining the why behind the change? Who and how are you determining what good looks like? And are you holding your teams accountable to those new changes and your managers, or are you just making sure your teams measure something on a nice to have metric that you’re never going to check?
There are so much that goes into change in the staffing and recruiting world and with the robust technologies that we use, let’s face it, it’s only going to get more advanced in our industry each and every day. We are using automations, chatbots, drip campaigns. Hopefully you’re one of the lucky ones that are able to use a software like ours that allows you to do all the things that your current ATS and CRM needs and not have to go outside of the system each and every time. Please, please, please just make sure when you’re using these technologies, you ensure your team knows the process of what’s happening on the back end with these automations, chatbots and campaigns.
If I had a dollar for each time, I heard someone say, I know we have automations, I just don’t know what they are, they’re like the magic on the back end, or, I know an email gets sent here when I choose this activity, I just don’t know what it says. As leaders, it’s great that we’re putting money into technology. It helps our team scale, but just make sure they are truly helping your teams, not giving them a crutch and thinking that technology can do it for them. I’ve heard owners and CEOs in these situations where they tell me, it’s the idea of making sure we’re making life easier for them. It doesn’t matter what it says or what’s happening behind the scenes. It makes me really nervous for them. Technology isn’t meant to do our jobs for us. It’s supposed to supplement what we do. It’s only if we know what’s being said and know how it works in conjunction to how we work ourselves.
Today more than ever, having a strong training and development plan around your proven process is essential for recruiting. Millennials consider learning and development to be one of the most compelling reasons to join a new organization. Gen X and beyond also need opportunities to upskill and reskill as technologies and market shifts. Without proper training opportunities, you could see the retention challenges and miss out on top recruits. You as an owner have lived it and were successful at it. Now it’s your time to put that proven process in place and on paper, leverage stories of how and why you failed and had amazing success, and lead your teams to record setting months and years to come by having a clear, defined process and metrics to hold your teams accountable for.
I think that brings us to the AMA, feel free to put any questions in the chat. And they are coming in. You mention continual training past the onboarding process. How often should I train my employees? How do I know when to train and how much training to do? That’s an amazing question. In a past organization, I really looked at things that we were doing as an organization. You had to learn two different ways. New learners learn something and existing learners learn something. That is with change management. That’s your new processes. That’s what’s going on. So you have to think of that in two separate ways. But I think you also need to think of the idea of the people that you’re bringing on your team if you want retention. The last organization I was at, we really pushed certifications. We paid for the certifications for them to have their CSP or other things that they could take with them. Yeah, unfortunately they could take that with them, but we showed that we were investing in their process.
How much are you going to invest in your team? That’s a bigger picture, but I also think you can look at this as smaller pictures as well. Bring your team in early for a meeting, talk about resistances that you’re experiencing, processes that you could see where you might have problems, have someone take the reigns, do role plays. Those things aren’t going away. They’re things that have been tried and true in our industry that are helping people succeed on a daily basis. I don’t think there’s a quantifiable number when and how frequently you should train, but I think it’s making sure you create a learning culture for your organization and a safe space to create that community.
Who should run the training? I like that. That’s a great question. I really have seen it done many different ways. I will tell you, those organization that have leaders lead training, lead role plays, you’re leading by example. It’s not the fact that I said to do it this way so do it this way, but it’s the fact that I was successful at this and listen to me talk. You’re that pitcher, you’re the person that’s out there performing, and you might not be able to train effectively, but you can show how you work. You can show the words that you say, you can show the process that you have done.
And I really think teams listens to stories. People learn better through stories. And I think that’s something that we can use as leaders. Have your managers lead it, have you as a leader your whole entire team, but give the chance for those newbies or rookies to be able to lead that process as well if they’re so willing. That can be part of their professional development plan, as well as an expectation for your managers and leaders to be able to do that and provide their insight and knowledge. It gives them a better boots on the ground concept of how their teams are performing.
We have someone that actually wants to ask a live question as well.
Hey, Kortney. First, thank you for this. This, well, was a lot, and I’m trying to jot notes as fast as I possibly can to keep up with this. So you mentioned earlier on not necessarily letting managers and tenured folks guide how new hires interpret your process. I’m sort of curious how you would talk, think about socializing your process so that it’s not necessarily something that’s like handed down from an ivory tower, whiteboarded out with the best of intention and then delivered to quote real world, where then you want folks that have actually potentially lived it to help socialize that, or also to kind of give the nuance or the kind of filling in around the edges. Can you talk a little bit about, so why not necessarily let tenured employees kind of run with process after it’s been developed and handed out?
I think there’s two parts to this. I think there’s a high level. Obviously when you start your organization or you’re moving, transitioning from running your own desk to having your own organization, I think that should be a thought process that how you want your business to be run, what metrics you want to be able to retain and get, because it’s going to give you your baseline information beyond your P&L, it’s going to give your baseline information of what you need to know in running your business. I don’t necessarily think that they shouldn’t have a say. You’re right. Those people are your thought leaders, your people that are really boots on the ground. Do I think those challenges or those things shouldn’t be challenged? And not challenged in a bad way, but really the idea of they could have say, they can give additional best practices.
But that’s where you’re going to learn from those live events of those role plays. Hey, you know what? I did it this way at this last organization I was at. What are your thoughts on that? But creating that safe space and that community be to be able to have those conversations is amazing. You as an owner need to think the foundational building blocks, row one, row two, your team will help you build row three, row four, row five, put the house on, put the windows in. That’s where that community is going to continue to build, but you should also have that baseline of information of how you want your business to be run and what you’re looking at to know what success looks like.
If it’d be okay, I’d actually ask a follow up question.
The question in my brain is then, how would you evaluate whether you are leaning too hard on established or tenured staff versus the process guiding as much of the activity, especially for junior or newer employees as it should? Right? There’s some best practices or just kind of like a range of right here. But I’m curious if you have any thoughts about how you’d evaluate, hey, you’re really leaning too hard on tenured staff to interpret too much of process that was under-defined from the start. Are there any earmarks or are there any hard and fast rules you can share?
I think those dips in gross margin are going to speak to you. I think the true number of retention of you holding your employees. I also think the idea of you stepping back. Most people after they establish their business, they walk away from it. They’re like, okay, it’s being done. I built it into existence. Or I’ve said, this is what I want, but is it truly the case? And I can tell you most times, it’s not the case. Someone interpreted your ideas, the thought process that you had all good intended, but as it comes in, it’s that lovely game of telephone that we played when we were in first grade, that it gets misconstrued. We think that we understand what this owner, the CEO wants, but are we truly measuring that?
I think it comes down to metrics of the weekly one-on-ones with your team. Are you measuring them to the things that go with the process? So your metrics should be also related to your process. Okay, do I have, let’s go sales, do I have 80 calls? Do I have eight site visits? Do I have one new logo every single week? If I don’t, maybe my managers are holding me accountable to other things. That speaks leaps and bounds to your process, but make sure each and every department within your organization is measuring the same metrics, your grapes to grapes.
I like to use that term because I’ve seen very frequently people say grapes to raisins. Well, this is what I wanted. At some point in time, it was what it should have been, but it got misconstrued. It got dried up and it got a whole bunch of wrinkly. And it’s the idea that it’s not what I truly wanted it to be. So just because you’re a part of an organization, you’re leading an organization, doesn’t mean you revisit that, doesn’t mean you see what’s going on, doesn’t mean you drop in on those one-on-ones with your team to make sure that they’re hitting the metrics and they’re doing the things that you want them to do.
Mind one last question that follows up on that?
Okay. The note I had was, okay, so let’s say I’m an operations leader at a firm where I’ve come up my entire career, which I’m not super uncommon, how do you avoid benchmarking against yourself? Right? So that if you’ve never necessarily had a process or all of a sudden we say, hey, our process just isn’t where we needed it to be and we’ve been filling in gaps the whole time, are we going to see a process, are we going to see a results dip? Or are we, because we’re benchmarking against ourselves, just unaware that this firm could have been turning out more?
I think that’s where the awareness of what the industries are doing. I know, selfishly having an ASA or an SIMA membership, or if you’re a part of a franchise organization, it really sets the tone, it gives you the trends of what’s happening in the business. So I think you need to look outside of yourself. You have to be well connected in those industries. You have to understand most places have an ability to have a group that you’re a part of, a leadership group. I would have those honest conversations with other organization leaders. You’re going to get a good let baseline information. Hey, are your numbers to placement dropping? Is your fee percentages dropping with the market shift? It’s being able to talk about those things. It’s not being able like, let’s shove it under the rug. Let’s act like that didn’t happen. We’re fine. We’re fine. I’m fine. It’s really having those conversations to say, are we on track? Are we on par? Be a part of organizations, groups, other communities that are going to have those conversations and provide some value.
That’s helpful. Thank you.
Absolutely. All right. In closing, remember, content consumption is not a substitute for community. Every part of our business should revolve around a simple, yet effective thought out process that holds our teams accountable. But that all starts with you as a leader. Have out those honest conversations, get honest feedback from other people in our industry. Just because you have been doing something a certain way for years or since you can remember does not mean it needs to stay that way. I challenge you to look deeply and critically not only at your onboarding process, but to see if you have the things in place to ensure success for your team through your processes. Look at the symptoms your office is experiencing to know will you have a larger problem. Do you need to revamp your processes, create a process for those gray areas in your organization? These small changes will drive efficiencies and, most importantly, increase your gross margin of each and every individual on your team.
I’m Kortney Harmon with Crelate. Thanks for joining the Full Desk Experience. Please feel free to submit any questions for next session to [email protected]crelate.com or ask us live next session. If you enjoyed our show, be sure to subscribe to our podcast wherever you listen, and sign up to attend future events that happen every other Tuesday at 3:00 PM Eastern, 12:00 PM Pacific.