A touch of bushido in the workplace

THE samurai code has much to offer the recruitment industry, as some adventurous participants at last week’s 2002 Recruitment and Consulting Services Association conference, ‘Thriving in a Competitive World’, discovered.

Guest speaker Dr Takashi Kinoshita suggested that, while it was proper and professional to respect one’s competition, workers must be prepared to put in maximum effort for their employer, at the expense of the competition, if need be.

While it was amusing to see a packed room of HR professionals try ninja moves on one another – from karate to breaking planks of wood with bare hands – Dr Kinoshita’s Eastern philosophies have much to offer those in the business of recruitment.

His driving themes were: exciting thoughts are strong, and teamwork will create a winning company.

In one demonstration, guests were asked to stand opposite a partner and hold their hand. The aim of the game was to get your hand on your hip as many times as you could. The more times your hand touched your hip, the more points you scored.

Only six people out of a room of around 200 highly experienced and competitive HR folk scored more than three points. The simplicity of how they did it was more startling.

Those to score worked not from a principle of confrontation and opposition, but rather one of cooperation. Instead of trying to pull their partner’s hand to their hip, these pairs worked in tandem and moved hands to one person’s hip and then to the other’s hip, in a very quick fashion.

“If you try to block your team member or associate your company will not score points, your competitor will score points. If you support your partner you will both score points,” Dr Takashi said.

Also providing strategies for recruiters to “score points” and survive the competitive marketplace was Aquent Asia Pacific chief executive officer Greg Savage.

Mr Savage emphasised the need to focus on people – employees, candidates and clients – and to value add the recruitment process.

“People are your greatest liability ... what does it cost to have a mediocre person at your office and what is the opportunity cost? Technology cannot overcome the deficiencies in your staff,” Mr Savage said.

“It is what technology cannot do that our clients will pay for.”

Mr Savage identified a number of strategies for recruitment owners to take away and build their business, including targeting businesses in growth mode and working harder with top-four clients.

“Most of our fees come from no more than three or four companies. Work out what spend on recruitment your top three or four clients have and try and get more of it, get more of the wallet,” he said.

“The best business will be the hardest to win, but once you’ve got it it’ll be the most profitable.”

Mr Savage also believes recruitment firms need to be more creative to gain more sales.

“You need to have a targeted, intelligent, consistent approach. It’s not the odd phone call. It requires creative consistent tactics,” he said.

“Who in your company will visit which client, by when, and what are the objectives? What worked in the past will not work in the future. We can sell people to jobs and jobs to people but it’s not enough anymore, we need to sell solutions.

You want your customers to talk about you like raving fans.”

And perhaps the strongest strategy Mr Savage outlined was the eradication of what have now become habitual emails.

“Seventy per cent of the emails your people send shouldn’t be sent. Why not pick up the phone or visit them? Go back to your offices and ban email unless it’s absolutely necessary,” he said. “Recruitment is about relationships. Email is bland, annoying and it often doesn’t get read.”

Other speakers included Chandler MacLeod Group executive director John Plummer, AIM-UWA Senior Management Centre managing director Dr Ron Cacioppe, and economic and political commentator Max Walsh.

The 2003 RCSA conference will be held in Brisbane.

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