by Howard Greenwood, 29th May 2024

Welcome to the BRUTAL TRUTH, edition #28. I was recently challenged about how I came out ahead during past downturns. I went back to the 2008 crash, which, by comparison, makes today’s hard market look like a summer breeze. I looked at a single moment in time that helped my teams and divisions emerge from 2008 in better shape than we entered. I then looked at the one thing that I believe is critical when looking to accelerate from a downturn.

Turning Strategy into Great Performance.

Another day, another strategy discussion that left everyone in the room feeling more confused than when they entered. But how often do we see a great plan fall short in execution? It’s a pattern all too familiar in the recruitment industry—one I’ve been part of for over 30 years.

I read an article in the Harvard Business Review when the 2008 crash happened, and I re-read it the other week, it still really hit home. It was written by Michael Mankins and Richard Steele and was titled TURNING GREAT STRATEGY INTO GREAT PERFORMANCE.

It was about turning a failing operation into a successful one, which required building a new strategy to compete with the current market conditions while new entrants kept appearing. This sounded very familiar to me, so I read on.

The management team claimed the strategy was the right one. It was all down to execution, and they just needed to “work harder and smarter”! Again, it sounded very familiar.

The CEO had a very different view: The poor performance (think about today’s market) was more due to mistaken strategy and poor execution.

Research revealed that, on average, companies deliver 63% of the financial performance that their strategy promised. Worse still, the strategy-to-performance gap is all but invisible to management.

Think about this in recruitment: We mindlessly follow a strategy, seldom change it, and push for better execution or even change direction when the strategy needs addressing. All the things we usually do, ramp up KPIs, power hours, and change direction, still create poor performance because, in general, we are using the same strategy over and over again when, in the cold light of day, the strategy needs to change.

The article went on to say that high-performing businesses had closed the strategy-to-performance gap via better planning and execution. They had reviewed and built plans grounded in the underlying economics and used those plans to increase their execution. Performance increased.

However, companies still struggle in the general business environment. The strategy-to-performance gap was due to poor plans, inadequate resources, lack of communication, and no or limited accountability for results. Now, that doesn’t just sound familiar; that sounds like recruitment today for most of the recruitment market.

What did they find? Bottlenecks that were not being removed, unrealistic forecasts, poor culture, short-term corrections not matching the long-term plans, warning signs like increasing attrition, excuses from management that allowed everyone to have an excuse, and consistent underperformance put down to market conditions when, in fact, it was the strategy, the plan, and its execution that were at fault, and the accountability from management was lacking, and this trickled down into the business.

So, what did the high-performing companies do differently? How did they buck the trend in a hard market?

Rather than trying to improve the strategy and execution separately, they understood the link between them and worked on both together. They kept both very simple. They homed in on specific things, made them simple, made the process methodical, so all could follow and constantly measured the processes, not the person. They consistently asked if the process created consistent results.

One huge thing is that I changed in 2008, and I see the same issues today. Forecasting! In a hard market, consultants will forecast anything and everything; the managers usually work to 30% of the forecast will come in. I started working on assumptions. I would debate with every consultant on their projections, and together, we agreed on whether the deal dropped or not. If there was any doubt, it was a no. Boy, our results changed because accountability to revenue became the critical factor, not the meaningless KPI.

Now, we were all speaking the same language, and we could create a framework that delivered better results, and it did. We knew if the strategy needed addressing or the execution was poor, we became more strategic through collaboration and joint accountability.

We created what today I am calling a better Client Value Proposition, priced it better (increased), deployed our resources to the right roles early, and created consistent processes that drove delivery. We drove our values, which transferred into a service, clients lapped it up, and our placement ratios increased significantly.

By having clear priorities regarding which companies and roles we worked for, we educated poor clients or sacked them, focused on money and not potential, stopped hiding, and monitored our processes first and performance second. We looked for long-term trends, not daily fluctuation.

We thrived by executing consistently.

So, if you can close the gap between 63% and 100%, it’s an easy win, as we work smarter, not harder, and we embed efficiency and resilience into our operations. And it’s not just about hitting targets – it’s about shaping a workspace where growth is part of the culture.

Let’s get real – strategies should not just look good on paper. It’s time for them to deliver. If you’re ready to make your strategy work as hard as you do, let’s chat at

The Value of Face-to-Face Meetings in Recruitment

Is this old-school or new-school recruitment? Has face-to-face meetings died as technology has revolutionised the recruitment process? Phone calls, video conferencing, and emails have become integral tools for recruiters. However, despite these advancements, face-to-face meetings should remain a cornerstone of effective recruitment. Meeting clients and candidates in person offers unique advantages that cannot be replicated through digital communication. Here’s why recruiters should prioritise face-to-face interactions and how they stand to gain from these encounters.

Building Trust and Rapport

Face-to-face meetings are crucial for establishing trust and rapport. A recruiter’s physical presence provides a sense of commitment and seriousness that is often lacking in digital communications. When clients and candidates meet a recruiter in person, they can gauge sincerity through body language, eye contact, and tone of voice. These nonverbal cues are essential in building a solid professional relationship.

Understanding Company Culture and Candidate Fit

Understanding the nuances of a company’s culture and a candidate’s personality is challenging through phone calls or video chats. Visiting a client’s office allows recruiters to observe the working environment, interact with team members, and gain insights into the company’s ethos. Similarly, meeting candidates face-to-face helps recruiters assess soft skills, demeanour, and overall fit for the role and company culture. These insights are invaluable for making successful placements.

Enhanced Communication and Clarity

In-person meetings reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings. Nuances can be lost in written communication, and even video calls can suffer from distractions, where the candidate and client might not be fully engaged (other things going on in the background that you cannot see or control). Face-to-face interactions allow for immediate clarification of doubts, ensuring that all parties are on the same page regarding expectations and requirements. Clarity is essential when discussing complex roles or negotiating terms and offers, ensuring no details are overlooked, especially as the counteroffer culture is still a significant issue.

Building Long-Term Relationships

Face-to-face meetings foster stronger, long-term relationships. Clients and candidates are more likely to remember a recruiter they have met in person. This personal connection can lead to repeat business, referrals, and a network of contacts that digital interactions alone might not achieve. These relationships are crucial for a recruiter’s long-term success, providing a steady stream of opportunities and fostering a reputation for personal engagement and dedication. You need to take your candidates and clients from Strange to Prospect to Customer to Promoter, and there is no better way than face-to-face.

Demonstrating Commitment and Professionalism

Meeting clients and candidates in person demonstrates a recruiter’s commitment and professionalism. It shows that the recruiter values the relationship enough to invest time and effort into a personal meeting. This can differentiate a recruiter from competitors, who may rely solely on digital communications. It underscores dedication to quality service and attention to detail, which can be a significant factor in securing high-calibre clients and candidates.

Gathering Comprehensive Information

In-person meetings allow recruiters to gather comprehensive information beyond what is provided on a CV or job description. Observing a candidate’s punctuality, dress sense, and interpersonal skills in a real-world setting offers a fuller picture of their suitability for a role. Similarly, touring a client’s office can reveal hidden aspects of the company culture and work environment that are not evident in written descriptions.

Enhanced Networking Opportunities

Face-to-face interactions provide enhanced networking opportunities. Recruiters attending industry events, conferences, or informal gatherings can meet potential clients and candidates in a relaxed, natural setting. These interactions often lead to more genuine connections and open doors to opportunities that might not arise through formal communication channels.

Maximising the Benefits of Face-to-Face Meetings

To maximise the benefits of face-to-face meetings, recruiters should consider the following strategies:

  1. Preparation is Key: Come to meetings well-prepared with knowledge about the client or candidate’s background, industry trends, and specific needs. This preparation demonstrates professionalism and respect for the other party’s time.
  2. Goals:Set out what you want to achieve from the meeting. Have more than an immediate recruitment goal; have a knowledge goal, a relationship one, cross-sell, sponsor development, threat prevention and a view of the long-term outlook for your services.
  3. Active Listening: Focus on listening more than speaking. Understanding the concerns and aspirations of clients and candidates helps tailor solutions that meet their specific needs.
  4. Follow-Up: After a face-to-face meeting, follow up with a personalised email or call to reinforce the connection and outline the next steps. This shows that the recruiter values the relationship and is proactive in moving forward. Book your next meeting.
  5. Utilise technology Wisely: While face-to-face meetings are invaluable, technology can complement these interactions. Use video calls for follow-ups or when a face-to-face meeting is not feasible, ensuring that the personal touch is maintained as much as possible.
  6. Be Authentic: Authenticity is crucial in building trust. Be genuine in your interactions and transparent about what you can offer and the limitations you might face.

In the digital age, the human touch provided by face-to-face meetings remains irreplaceable in recruitment. These interactions build trust, provide deeper insights, and foster long-term relationships that are essential for successful placements. While technology offers convenience, the value of personal, in-person engagement should not be underestimated. By prioritising face-to-face meetings, recruiters can gain a significant edge in understanding their clients and candidates, ultimately leading to more successful and satisfying outcomes for all parties involved. Think just how many digital interactions your clients and candidates receive daily from recruiters. To stand out and be different, go and meet them personally.

Thank you if you have read this far. I would love to hear your comments on how you are managing your teams or bucking the market as a recruiter.

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