Work-Life Balance in Recruitment

Many people would scoff at the mere suggestion a balance was even possible. The old rule book dictates if you’re in recruitment, you should be working long hours and be comfortable with the commitment, in exchange for the high financial reward.

Recruitment isn’t an easy job to fit into a 9 to 5, the more available you are to candidates and clients, the higher the chance you’ll make more money.

The first barrier for ‘work life balance’ is that most candidates are more available to speak after working hours. Arrive early and stay late, and you can reach people more easily. That’s common sense. But if you assume work life balance just means working less, read on.

Increasingly at Hunted, we’re seeing a rise of recruitment businesses offering innovative working practices and greater flexibility.

The Balancing Act

What does work-life actually balance look like for these companies?

Rather than simply working less, work-life balance translates to having more control over your day and more flexibility to fit work around your life.

It might mean working 14-hours one day, but taking the afternoon off the next day.

It might mean starting work early, but taking a one and a half hour lunch and hitting the gym. Or it might mean remote working from home.

Some Hunted partners offer ROWE (Results Only Work Environment). Which means their consultants control the clock and their responsibilities. So there are no set office hours.

A Case For the Defence

The culture of togetherness is an important part of a lot of recruitment companies, and a lot of recruiters thrive in that environment. Junior Recruiters specifically, benefit from exposure to those more experienced.

Allowing flexible working can mean less buzz and less collaboration in the office, which could have a negative impact on company culture and teamwork; and ultimately, results.

A recent statistic adjudged just under 3 hours productive working time from the average employee who spends 8 hours a day in an office.

I’m sure we all know plenty of Recruiters who flatter to deceive in this respect. On the other hand, there are lots, who are productive for well over this.

Technology as a Means

Technology makes the balance possible.

Advancements in technology have afforded flexible working opportunities that were not imaginable in the past.

Cloud technology means recruiters can work from anywhere. Everything from email to your CRM to candidate CVs can be accessed from the Cloud, so you don’t need to physically be in the office to work.

Video conferencing software dissolves distance – so it doesn’t matter if you’re in the office in London or in the villa in Bali, mobile collaboration tools such as Slack allow instant communication from wherever you are. Read more in our series on productivity here. 

In theory, technology allows you to run a recruitment business from your smart phone. With email, LinkedIn, CRM apps, Dropbox and other useful mobile tools, your office desktop is no longer a necessity.

Competition for recruitment talent

Flexible working has emerged in other industries, especially in the talent-short tech world, as a means to attract and retain talent. You only have to look at the plethora of benefits companies now offer, such as unlimited holiday.

In the recruitment industry, more so than in most other industries, the real asset in any business is its people. Which means attracting and retaining the best recruiters out there is imperative to business growth and success. Never before has there been such demand for talented Recruiters.

Equally, even a powerful company brand, traditionally a crucial tool in attracting clients and candidates, has become less important for experienced Recruiters. Now, with the help of social media, the creation of a personal brand is arguably more important.  

Competitive commission structures, large base salaries, great training, fast-track promotion schemes continue to be some of the most important selling points for attracting talent.

Today however, a flexible working structure is a welcomed addition to the talent attraction arsenal.

A benefits scheme that benefits your company

Most benefits are nice-to-haves, but for many people, typically parents, flexibility in the workplace is a necessity. For others, the flexibility to start late/finish late and miss the commute at either end can be the decisive factor in choosing where to work.

Research from Randstad Technologies found that 45% of candidates cite their commute as the single most important factor in considering a new role.  Robert Half have equally stated that a work-life balance is the number one reason for their consultants seeking a move away from their business.

Based on this, recruitment companies are becoming increasingly creative with the benefits they offer in order to attract and retain the best recruiters.

Assimilating with clients

People like working with similar people. As a result, many recruitment companies strive to create a culture reflective of their client base.

The obvious example is dress code. A shirt and tie clad recruiter meeting the jeans-and-tee creative agency; the recruiter in a t-shirt meeting the suited and booted corporate director – either way, a mismatched appearance sends the wrong impression.

It’s not only appearance though. Many recruitment companies are developing a working culture that mirrors the culture of their clients.

Offering flexible working in recruitment is a practical step. Recruiters often need to take late or early calls to fit in with their candidates’ schedules. Few other industries require this flexibility and as an industry, we should be encouraging it.

Where traditionally recruitment hasn’t been the most flexible of industries, it’s also traditionally been a sector with a high rate of staff turnover or burnout. Unlike other sectors, recruitment is completely meritocratic, so the motivation is the reward at the end and recruiters who feel appreciated, fairly treated, and know they can have a lie-in when they need one may be more productive workers.

Some time ago, it may have been a choice: continue in your recruitment career or have children.

Unfortunately, this also saw the discrimination of women in the recruitment workplace. Regardless of female employees’ billings or skill, were they a risk to hire? Thankfully this is becoming a draconian and outdated thought process.

What are the dangers? 

As with any system, flexible working is not a one size fits all. Not every business could accommodate flexible working. Companies that hire graduates may not offer working from home, for example.

There’s a strong element of trust and maturity that’s required. Although in recruitment the numbers simply can’t lie, so anyone who’s taking advantage won’t stay under the radar for long.

Weigh up the balance for YOUR business

Flexible working does not mean working less if it’s managed effectively.

Flexible working can put even more pressure on the Recruiter to get results. If the manager can’t tangibly see activity levels or commitment, results are all that matter.

Still, flexible working may not be feasible for a lot of companies and it may be a difficult transition for others. Those companies who can offer a better work-life balance through flexible working and can ensure their performance is not negatively impacted will end up with a bigger pool of recruitment talent.

Critically and most importantly, those who can strike a great balance and offer creative employment benefits may find a happier workforce and see the industry hang on to more of its best assets.