Skip to main content

For all of us involved in scaling a business, having the right team is an essential ingredient.  The second half of that is to retain them.  When lockdown first hit businesses, many people looked with horror at both those challenges.  Some are still struggling.  I set out to find the expert secrets of the people who are triumphing.

Finding people to recruit

Jimmy Williams is the CEO of the Urban Jungle, which provides insurance to generation rent and millennials.  They doubled their team in 2020 and anticipate doing the same this year. Jimmy finds they are swamped with applications, but not necessarily people with the right qualifications, so they plan to improve their filtering.  They find Zoom works for interviewing, but they like to do practical tests, so they also plan to develop these in exploding formats to prevent sharing between applicants.

Jimmy says that it is “harder is getting to someone’s personality, so we often ask more direct questions about that. It’s not like anyone has any out of work interests at the moment, so we have to get it out of them!”

Donald Lindsay is People Operations Director at the hugely successful FreeAgent, which makes award-winning cloud accounting software for small businesses and their accountants. While FreeAgent has had low turnover, when Donald has needed to recruit, he too found a great pool of motivated talent in the market last year and expects to see much the same this.

Natalie Lewis of Dynamic HR Services also feels that with so many good people who will be made redundant, the talent pool will be large in 2021, but the key will be in the selection.  The choice is even more comprehensive than before. Entrepreneurs worldwide are no longer restricted to employing people locally or even nationally.  A global company in San Francisco might be hiring someone who lives in a remote Cornish cottage.  But pulling precisely the right fish out of a worldwide ocean will challenge everyone in the business of recruitment in 2021.

Integration post recruiting:

Both Jimmy and Natalie agree, the biggest challenge is often not the recruitment but integrating them remotely.  “It’s not like it can happen by osmosis or down the pub,” Jimmy points out.  Urban Jungle encourages everyone in their team to bring their personality to work, but Jimmy admits it is hard to do.

Companies have to create that crucial buy-in to vision, mission, and culture, and this has the crux of the lockdown challenge, which Natalie describes as behavior onboarding.  “Previously, with people in an office together, it was much easier for newbies to pick it the culture and internalize it from the people around them, what they hear and see, embodied in the physical room.”  Without it happening naturally, leaders have to create it.

Natalie believes it is the companies that have been open to change and adapting that are thriving and cites Gitlab as a perfect example.  They have a flat structure, high accountability, and responsibility.  Natalie believes that even post-pandemic, companies like this will retain hybrid working.

FreeAgent moved the whole company to remote work in March last year and quickly adapted to virtual recruitment.  Donald says this meant both updating their range of interview guides and processes so they cover online settings and upskilling their staff so they could properly manage and lead this work.

“Even before the pandemic,” Donald adds, “we were looking at how we could strengthen the employee experience at FreeAgent. 2021 will see us building on these strong foundations.”

Creating culture and retention from day one

I asked all three of my experts for their top tips, practices that they find work best to build and retain great teams in new times:

Jimmy’s top tips:

  • Jimmy says that they work “very hard to keep the team both productive and happy.  “We’re trying to maintain our usual levels of transparency, despite being in a physically different space, which makes that difficult.”  One thing they do to maintain transparency is that some of their senior team members now have ‘open 1-2-1s’ with their direct reports so that more junior team members can eavesdrop on what is going on like they would in the office.”
  • The second Wednesday in the month is “Workmate Wednesday,” which is just to have non-work chats with colleagues.
  • They also use their social budget to send people little treats in the post and include some remote socials. “Remote cocktail making for the Christmas party was brilliant,” Jimmy adds.  In addition, having found that around 20% of their team were suffering from their mental health after lockdowns started in 2020, they replaced their social budget for a mental health fund, offering counseling and yoga session in place of after-work drinks. This does seem to have helped and the team is coping better with this lockdown.”

Donald’s top tips are:

  • Donald believes that “flexible working arrangements will become the new normal going forward when it comes to future recruitment with fewer roles requiring to be based full-time in our HQ.   There will be more of a hybrid split between office-based and remote working from home.”  He believes this kind of flexibility is likely to be an important factor for many applicants in the future, so it’s vital to adapt and meet these expectations as quickly as possible.
  • Donald also plans to strengthen FreeAgent’s progression and personal development.  They will offer people the chance to upskill and also to explore other careers within FreeAgent.
  • They will also aim to improve things like salary bands, inter-departmental movement, flexible working arrangements, and succession planning “so that employees feel properly valued and nurtured.”
  • FreeAgent is also continually reviewing staff benefits packages to ensure they are as strong as possible.  Donald believes that “if our people don’t feel they have a voice or are valued, we simply won’t be able to retain the amazing talent we have here.”

Natalie’s top tips are:

  • For Natalie, it is all about building culture.  One tip is that everyone on a remote team to have google hangouts open all day.  People being able to see each other makes a crucial difference to isolation.  They can always mute for an important call.
  • She recommends enforcing virtual coffee meetings a couple of times a day.  Her experience is that people embrace it at first and then lose interest, so you need to really encourage it until they see the benefits – which are huge.
  • Natalie says that to retain teams, a culture of compassion and flexibility will be the absolute key in the future.   Many people have to juggle work and family responsibilities in these lockdowns, and they need understanding and flexibility to remain committed and happy.

Guided by the experts, I conclude that selecting the right talent will be the challenge for 2021 from a vast global pool.  Integration is critical for culture.  And when it comes to retention, the keywords are flexibility, transparency, compassion, and showing you value your team in every way possible.  Just as they have always been, but much more so.

Jan Cavelle has several decades of founding micro and SME’s behind her and is now a freelance writer and author. Throughout her career, she has worked on various campaigns to support and encourage other entrepreneurs.   Her first book is Scale for Success: Expert Insights into Growing Your Business, Bloomsbury Business, 2021.

Share this post:

Source

Sally Fletcher
Sally Fletcher

Left us a 5 star review

google
Sally Fletcher
December 12, 2023

I would highly recommend agilis recruitment to anyone looking for work. I was contacted a few weeks ago by Chris, who matched the skills I have to an opportunity I was unable to refuse. He was professional and knowledgeable, but also friendly and down to earth. With quick response times, he was able to answer every question I had about the role whilst selling my skills and personality to the company before I had even met them. The input form Chris throughout the process, not only made everything easier but also it took the pressure off massively. I am very grateful. Thank you.

google
Jon Ives
December 11, 2023

Chris has done a great job for me. It's most refreshing to have a recruiter that both understands the role being recruited and listens to the candidate's requirements and concerns. Top marks!

google
Michael-William Kelly
December 2, 2023

It was great to work with Chris at Agilis to find my new role. He was always on hand to guide me through the process and make sure I was fully briefed prior to each interview. I would happily use Chris to find me a job... although I'm very happy where I am now! M-W Kelly

google
Eric Edge
October 31, 2023

Had a top experience with Edd. Sorted me 3 interviews with my preference of company, landed a role very quickly after. Professional + Friendly guy, would recommend.

google
Edna Atkins
July 17, 2023

An excellent recruitment experience. From the initial contact and throughout the interview process, Chris and his team excelled. I can highly recommend this agency.

google
Brendan Dodge
May 15, 2023

Chris from Agilis recruitment was fantastic. Professional and friendly; from providing the role, to the level of contact throughout the process.

google
Jen Cummings
May 15, 2023

Edd was great, I had some bad experiences with recruiters whilst looking for a new role but Edd restored my faith!

google
Harry
March 29, 2023

Chris at Agilis was professional throughout the entire process and was always available to discuss any concerns. He also made sure to only flag roles that I would have a genuine interest in. Thanks again Chris!

google
Mac Beirne
March 1, 2023

Chris Ellsworth was my recruiter and I was greatly impressed with the level of his assistance throughout the process from start to finish. He provided me with job role applications that were personalised to me based on what I told him I was looking for. If there was any confusion, I was always able to contact him throughout the whole process and ask for clarification which he would then, always happily give. Chris genuinely made me feel that he wanted me to get the role as much as I did and helped me with every step on the way.

google
subhash d
May 24, 2022

I had a great experience with Ed and Agilis. Found me a job which was the perfect fit and supported me along the way. Thank you so much for the support Ed.

google
Jessica Stafford
May 10, 2022

Had a great experience with Agilis Recruitment. Ed helped me find the perfect role for me in a great business. He also was very professional, cooperative but most importantly, understood what was important to me and listened to what I was looking for. Thank you Ed!

google
Arthur Guide
February 25, 2022

Amazing experience with Agilis, a professional company. I have no words to thank Edward. He found a great role for me.

google
Miles Jarvis
February 5, 2021

I had a great experience with Ed and Agilis. It was great to have a recruiter who understands exactly what his clients are looking for in a candidate. 5 stars!

google
Damian Marchewka
February 2, 2021

Ed was great, found me a job which was the perfect fit and supported me along the way, solid agency

google
Nadia Mkinsi
May 27, 2020

Laura is a lovely individual and easily the best recruiter I have ever worked with: proactive without being pushy, professional without lacking sincerity, and most importantly, she genuinely cares about her clients. She was incredibly conscientious in understanding my background and aspirations, and matched me with a role I WAS really excited about. I knew I was in good hands from our very first conversation – and I am happy to say I am a month into my new job and loving it!

google
Dean Rudge
April 21, 2020

I worked with Ed when securing my role. It was a massive step in the direction I wanted to move my career in and Ed was pivotal in making that happen. I liked that right from the start he was not pushy, he listened to what I had to say and feedback and he kept in regular contact without bombarding me, using the most suitable form of messaging whether it be LinkedIn, Email or a Phone Call. I would highly recommend Ed and the guys at Agilis - keep up the great work guys!

google
Paul Stonuary
March 30, 2020

A really nice team to do with. Proactive, prompt and supportive - just what you want, but rarely find in a recruitment agency.

google
Chris Harvey
March 23, 2020

Have found Agilis recruiting fantastic. Cannot rate them highly enough! Give them a go for all recruitment needs!

google
Harry Ray
March 20, 2020

Laura and Ed at Agilis helped me get placed last year, and Laura was exceptionally accommodating and patient, calling me outside of hours when it was convenient for me and keeping me in the loop about everything that was going on. I'm happy with my role and feel like the guys at Agilis really put time and effort into their work -- thank you!

google
Tarnea Garvey
March 20, 2020

My experience with Agilis has been great. I found Laura to be incredible helpful and always ensured she remained in contact with me throughout my job search. Thankfully I managed to find a new job through Agilis and the company has turned out to be everything that they told me the it would be! 5 Stars from me!!

google
Alex Dewey
March 19, 2020

Great experience with Agilis. Following relocating to Bristol I’d found myself having conversations with a couple members of the team. I’d expressed how important it was for me to find the right role but also due to circumstance I needed the process to be accelerated as much as possible. Laura was my main point of contact and managed to find me the best role I’ve ever had in what must be record time. I couldn’t rate their work higher and will definitely be my first point of contact when looking for new opportunities. Thanks again!

google
Harry Rossiter
March 19, 2020