It is 5 p.m. on a Friday in Austin, Texas and I have just received an urgent email from a recruiter on my team who needs to discuss a new position and the resources needed to fine-tune the search.
Ah, the life of a virtual recruiting lead! Having clients in Canada, on the East Coast, or the West Coast can be demanding, though exciting and fun! As I tell my team, being passionate about our work is key to our success.
Leading a team in the RPO space, after working in corporate recruiting at a large semiconductor company, has been a great eye-opener for me. It is the perfect blend of direct client work and the support of a large organization like my company, ManpowerGroup Solutions, where I can leverage recruiting expertise and share tools and resources. I’ve been working virtually for seven years and there is nothing else I would rather do!
“So, what is it like to lead a virtual team of recruiters?” you may ask. Pretty awesome; especially when you have the right players on your team and continue to help your clients reach or exceed their goals.
As with any relationship, the most important consideration when building a team is building trust. You have to trust the people you lead to take care of the client. They, in turn, have to trust that you will have their back. So, let us talk about teams and the four main areas that I consider most important when leading a team:
- Team building.
- Expectation setting.
- Client communication.
- Difficult conversations.
I found this quote from an anonymous source particularly compelling: “My responsibility is getting all my players playing for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back.” In successful teams, all team members align behind common goals and have a sense of being part of something larger than themselves. While I feel fortunate to have a rock star team now, building it did not happen overnight.
So, how do you build the best team to service an RPO client? First you need to assure that client expectations and culture are of most importance to each team member. Without a good cultural fit, it does not matter how great a performer they may be. One tactic I find particularly helpful in assessing this fit is to ask a prospective team member for a work sample. This allows me to gauge how well a potential new hire can communicate with a client, defend their position or persuade them to see their point of view.
Once you select your team members, you have to set expectations. This may sound simple, but defining metrics, which is what many leaders tend to focus on, is only one piece of the puzzle. Following up on the metrics to determine a team’s efficiency and results is even more paramount. Leaders should regularly discuss growth and development opportunities to keep their teams challenged. Engaging the team in goal-setting helps gain buy-in. Achieving planned goals is a constant work in progress requiring continuous modification, tweaking and tracking. Metrics should be a subject of a discussion rather than a directive. And while expectations should be set high, they should also be realistic and achievable. They should include both tangible recruitment goals and objectives and practices that are less tangible, but equally important to a team’s success, such as work ethics.
In RPO, it is not unusual for a recruiter to be working on an engineering role one day and helping out with a finance position the next. That is why teamwork, collaboration and knowledge-sharing, which require a ton of flexibility, are critical. A good practice we have used to share knowledge is to create recruiting guides for each vertical, so that at any given time, any member of our team can pick up and assist with any project. Collaboration fosters sharing of ideas and innovation. Innovation is exciting, drives progress and keeps team members engaged. Another practice we have adopted on our team is to take turns sharing and discussing a recruiting or career-related topic or article. We have done this weekly for two years and still haven’t run out of new and engaging topics!
When each team member knows the client’s expectations and culture, they can successfully deliver on all elements of the recruiting lifecycle. How can they do it? By communicating with clients. One hiring manager may want a funnel approach to gauge the candidate flow and how candidates are selected. Another may prefer something different. To maintain credibility with clients, team members need to know a client’s expectations and how to communicate with them in a manner they prefer and are used to. No matter what, delivering on client expectations helps teams drive results and keeps clients satisfied. Another aspect of great client communication is aligning with the clients’ culture and mirroring their style, just what we do when working with a hiring manager. When hiring recruiters, it is important to remember that some may work better in some cultures than in others. Recognizing that before matching the recruiter with a client is critical to team success.
So what happens if client expectations are not met? Sometimes, leading means having difficult conversations which, when done constructively, ensure teams continue to deliver on objectives, work well together and maintain high morale. How can leaders be constructive? By constantly and consistently evaluating results and monitoring progress, citing specific examples, being prepared with facts and metrics, and staying aligned with HR and their management.
Shying away from difficult conversations shows lack of leadership and sends that wrong message to the rest of the team.
What happens after you master the four aspects of successfully leading a team? What happens when you put together a rock star team? You may want to keep in mind that many of your team members are top performers, which means they have one very important trait in common; they are passionate about their job and winning — all the time. So, cultivate it and encourage them. The best testament of your leadership is when your team can help clients win.