What To Do When Your Office Is In A Malaise

Bored businesswoman - freedigitalYou got into this business years ago. You listened and learned and you became successful. Over the years your billings grew. Some of you decided to add people to your operation and your operation grew, and was also successful.

And then it happened. It seemed to come out of nowhere. First one recruiter went into a slump and then another and then the whole office seemed to be in a funk. Even your production, your ‘money in the bank’ desk, started to suffer. What happened and how do you get out from under this wet blanket of recruitment misery?

In this article, I am going to give you a six-step remodeling plan. This plan will work for those of you who work alone and for those of you who have an office of recruiters. Here are the steps:

  1. Physically Move Desks
  2. Motivate and Lead By Example
  3. Pump Up The Volume
  4. Monitor Numbers
  5. Constantly Adapt
  6. Change the Office Attitude

Now, before we get started, let’s take a look at what we are facing.

Office Malaise

What precipitates an office malaise? What is happening when everything and everyone seems to be operating under a black cloud? What do managers do when all of their recruiters seem like they have taken on the characteristics of a Charlie Brown or an Eeyore? And just how do you respond to these ‘negativity magnets’?

Losing Control Over That Which Recruiters Control

I am constantly reminding recruiters that, while they don’t have control over very much in their professional lives, they do have control in four main areas:

1. Their attitude

I like to re-tell the story I first heard from Leo Buscaglia about the central character in the book by Alexander Solzhenitsyn entitled, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

According to Leo, Ivan was thinking back on his day in the brutal Soviet prison camp in which he was interned. Apparently Ivan always awoke in the middle of the night starving to death. So, earlier in this day he had hidden a scrap of bread from breakfast in his shirt so he would have something to eat in the middle of the night.

Ivan then thought back on his day. He got to work on the brick wall all day and he enjoyed that type of work. And he worked on the warm side of the wall where the wind chill factor was not as high. And the guards didn’t physically abuse him this day. And the guards didn’t curse at him this day. And now he had a scrap of bread to eat in the middle of the night when he awoke starving to death. Ivan looked back on this day and thought, “Today was a great day!”

Recruiters complain over the littlest things. They complain because their database is not working smoothly or their niche is too small or they can’t reach their hiring manager on the phone and yet Ivan, who had every reason in the world to complain, didn’t. You do, indeed, have control over your attitude! More on this later.

2. The number of daily calls they make

No one stops you from picking up the instrument and talking into it. That is all about you.

3. The ability to hone their professional skills

Cavett Robert, the great sales trainer, used to say, “You can’t be so busy chopping wood that you don’t occasionally stop to sharpen your ax.”

4. Their goal setting, daily planning & organization including the tracking of numbers and knowledge of the ratios generated

Goal setting is central to success. And these goals must be written down. If they are not in writing, then they are wishes, not goals. In the powerful words of Robert A. Heinlein, “In the absence of clearly-defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.”

Daily planning is the second key to success. “Winging it” will only work in the short term and will never uncover meaningful numbers. Only by understanding the numbers will you be able to ascertain the ratios and be able to effect change when, and if, needed.

When an office (or an individual desk) goes into a funk, it is usually because we have lost control over these “givens.” We have got to regain that control and reestablish good habits.

I. Physically Move Desks to Break Negative Anchors

One of my favorite presentations is something called “How to Establish Elegant Rapport through Elegant Communication.” It is based on Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) ™. NLP basically divides the human communication universe into three types: Visual, Auditory And Kinesthetic.

There is much more to NLP, but that being said, one of the basic tenets that NLP teaches is the setting of ‘anchors.’

Here is the clinical definition of anchoring:

Anytime a person is in an intense state (full body, congruent emotional state), and a specific stimulus (V or A or K), is consistently applied simultaneously, then the two (the stimulus and the state) become neurologically linked.

This mind-body continuum, or link, is important. If your recruiters are in a funk, then you can assume that the funk and their physical surroundings have become neurologically linked in their subconscious mind. So, how do you break that link? You physically move that recruiter to a new location in your office, and strive to anchor more positive behavior with that new location.

A reminder here: If a recruiter is doing really well, don’t relocate that person. He or she has most likely established positive anchors with their current physical surroundings and you want those anchors to grow and to flourish.

But with the recruiter in a funk, completed action is required. Jeff Kaye of Next Level Exchange (NLE) poses the question, “If five frogs are on a log and three decide to jump off, how many frogs remain on the log?” The answer: Five. While three had decided to jump off, they hadn’t done it yet. Completed action is necessary for a decision to be finalized.

As Max Evans said in The White Shadow, “A decision without action was only another delusion.”

II. Motivate By Example And Implement Secondary Motivators

Enthusiastic businessman - freedigitalManagers must lead by example. Human beings model behavior. It doesn’t matter whether that behavior is good or bad, human beings will always copy it.

In recruitment, the desire to perform, created by the prospect of direct commission, results in an immediate and powerful drive behind performance, reaching the optimum point almost immediately. Pressure to move this motivator past the optimum can come from the manager who continually exhorts the recruiter to produce. It can come from fellow recruiters who ask, “How are you doing,” or it can come from the recruiter himself as he worries about paying bills, etc.

There is no relationship between productivity and motivation through direct commission payment. The low producer is just as highly motivated to earn large commissions as is the high producer. Further stress placed on direct commission is most likely to push the individual past the optimum motivation level and lead to performance deficits.

Three keys to stop this stress are:

  1. Careful planning;
  2. Positive encouragement from the manager;
  3. Specific advice on what they should be doing differently or better.

In other words, your recruiters don’t want to be berated for their lack of success; they are already acutely aware of their lack of success. They need positive encouragement. This will not encourage a good A/E to slack off. You are after sufficient tension and anxiety to keep performance up, but not so much that it interferes with performance. The most valuable help, recruiters say, is practical, situation-specific advice offered in a positive manner.

III. Pump Up The Volume

In the recent study, “Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise On Creative Cognition” published in the Journal of Consumer Research, researchers led by Ravi Mehta conducted five experiments to understand how ambient sounds affect creative cognition.

In one key trial, they tested people’s creativity at different levels of background noise by asking participants to brainstorm ideas for a new type of mattress or enumerate uncommon uses for a common object.

Compared to a relatively quiet environment (50 dB), a moderate level of ambient noise (70 dB) enhanced subjects’ performance on the creativity tasks, while a high level of noise (85 dB) hurt it. Modest background noise, the scientists explain, creates enough of a distraction to encourage people to think more imaginatively.

The study concluded that the next time you’re stumped on a creative challenge, head to a bustling coffee shop, not the library. As the researchers write in their paper, “Instead of burying oneself in a quiet room trying to figure out a solution, walking out of one’s comfort zone and getting into a relatively noisy environment may trigger the brain to think abstractly, and thus generate creative ideas.”

IV. Monitor the Numbers

The 100 Point Sheet: This monitoring device was created by a recruiting firm owner who possessed advanced college degrees in mathematics and computer science and wanted to objectively measure a very subjective business. He wanted to insure that his recruiters would ultimately be successful.

He awarded more points for the activities that were central to making a placement. A marketing attempt was given 1 point. A marketing presentation was given 1 point. Matching calls (where a job order pre-existed) to either the hiring manager or the candidate were given 3 points. Sendouts were awarded 15 points, etc. This formula has been modified over the years, but the intent is still the same.

The 100 Point Sheet is designed to show you where you are at any given point during the day. For instance, if it is lunchtime and you have 50 points or more, you are doing well. If, on the other hand, you only have 25 points, then you didn’t have a good morning and you had better kick it up a notch in the afternoon to make up the deficit. The idea is that if you attain over 100 points per day (and your ratios are normal) then you will make placements. If not, then you won’t. Simple as that!

One of the obstacles that we all face in this business is that we sometimes get so caught up in the ancillary tasks during our day (long strategy sessions, figuring out who to call next, entering information into our computer databases, chasing the same person all day long, etc.) that we miss the tasks that are central to making a placement, i.e., action calls and sendouts.

Article Continues Below

This sheet also allows you to feel rewarded even when you didn’t make a placement (not usually a daily occurrence in recruitment) as long as you reach and/or exceed the century mark. Like any good map, this system forces you to stay on target.

I promise you it works! It does measure performance, so don’t use it if you are afraid of being measured. But without benchmarks your job becomes more like a game of golf with no scorecard or a game of football with no final score. That’s pointless, isn’t it? In the words of one of our legendary managers, “Inspect what you expect.”

V. Constantly Adapt – Be Noted For Your Flexibility

Adaptation in our business can best be explained by understanding the law of requisite variety. The textbook definition of this principle is that in any “closed-loop system” – electronics or human communications – the element with the most variables always controls the outcome. What this means in layman’s terms is that you need to be “noted for your flexibility.”

When obstacles are thrown in your way, you need to evaluate the new situation and change your behavior accordingly.

Unfortunately, it is a fact of life that when a human being learns a task, but new circumstances arise requiring alternative measures, humans will try to respond with what they know, even if it doesn’t work, as opposed to learning a new task to handle the new situation. The superstars, however, have learned to adapt; have learned to be flexible and change with the new circumstances.

Three thousand years ago the Chinese general and philosopher, Sun Tzu, put it this way:

Those who are victorious plan effectively, and change decisively. They are like a great river that maintains its course but adjusts its flow. They have form but are formless. They are skilled in both planning and adapting and need not fear the result of a thousand battles: for they win in advance defeating those that have already lost.

VI. Change the Office Attitude

The difference between success and failure in sales is attitude. And yet, as soon as we start talking about attitude, we face our first hurdle. Attitude seems to be one of the most overworked words in selling. How many times have we been told we need a positive mental attitude in order to be successful? Believe me, we recruiters hear it so much that we either stop hearing it (tune out) or become rebellious.

But think of it a different way. Any true professional’s real secrets to success are their skills and abilities, which will lead to the right attitude. A doctor will tell you this; a lawyer; an engineer; the captain of an ocean liner.

The mistake we make in recruitment is that we try to magically acquire this positive mental attitude. Well, it is a proven point psychologically that the more we try to force an attitude into the mind, the more the mind rejects it. The bottom-line is that positive attitudes are not acquired by will-power.

How Attitudes Are Acquired, Changed, or Modified

Attitudes are acquired, changed or modified in two ways, and two ways alone:

1. Change in environment or conditions (temporary)

If I can change your environment severely enough, I can change your attitude. If I can magically put $1,000,000 into your pocket, once you realize that change, your attitude will completely change.

On the other hand, if I can change your conditions adversely, I can also change your attitude. If I magically transport you, penniless, to a strange country where you don’t know anybody, and you do not speak the language, once you realize that change, your attitude will also change completely.

Implementing this theory, when a recruiter hits a slump, how do we change their environment or conditions? We tell them to work harder or suggest longer hours. We give them a new candidate to market or even suggest a new specialty niche—anything so that they will have a chance to feel more successful and be able to sell more successfully.

The only problem with this approach is that we are ‘manipulating’ attitudes and that won’t last for an extended period of time.

2. Acquisition of ideas or knowledge (long-lasting)

This is the longer lasting solution because the knowledge becomes a part of you. Through knowledge, attitudes have sources and you will have the ability to return, when necessary, to your sources and the knowledge you have acquired. This is where the trainer enters the picture with new training manuals, daily planners, quick resource guides, and sets of DVDs and CDs.

Ours is a unique profession. Most of us got into recruitment after pursuing some other endeavor. Most of us didn’t go to a college or university to get a degree in recruitment. But, for whatever reason, we ended up in this fascinating profession. And then, right away, our manager, or some trainer, told us that we needed to have the right attitude in order to be successful. And so we started to force that attitude in our mind.

Now don’t get me wrong. While a positive attitude is critical, most professionals have it because they have spent a lifetime acquiring knowledge that causes that attitude to naturally be there. If their confidence ever gets low, they don’t go home and look into a mirror and try to force themselves to have the proper attitude. They merely return to the knowledge they had previously acquired.

So those of us in selling need to follow the same path as any true professional. We need to have the ability to revisit our sources of knowledge.

The Right Attitude is comprised of two elements: Enthusiasm and Self-Confidence.

Enthusiasm has two sources:

  1. Product Knowledge (knowing what we are selling); this involves a detailed understanding of the specialty area in which we recruit and the candidates who populate that area, and;
  2. Knowing what we can do for others; we change lives for the better, on a daily basis. We help both our client companies and our placed candidates to become more successful quicker.

But occasionally even the best recruiter loses enthusiasm for their desk. They become exhausted or worn out. Or they become too accustomed, or hardened, to what they can do for others. It gets to be ‘old hat.’ So get in the habit of conditioning your thinking so that you can go back to what you can do for your clients and your candidates.

On every day of your selling lives have a personal sales meeting; something that includes motivational literature, maybe a testimonial letter from a satisfied client or candidate. Read these over aloud to help get the words into your subconscious (that’s the nine-tenths of your brain that controls your behavior).

Self-Confidence has three sources:

  1. Product Knowledge: You need to know your specialty niche and the companies and candidates who live there. You need to know the lexicon of your specialty.
  2. People Knowledge: You need to know the answers when your client, or your candidate, asks you a question. Remember, we are always looking for candidates who can make an impact on our client companies: Superstars (candidates who can make our clients money) or Heroes (candidates who can save our clients money).
  3. Recruitment/Selling Skills Knowledge:  Here is the foundation that any good trainer will lay out for you. These are the tools of our trade: the MPC; the FAB; Sales Linkage; the Qualifier JO; the Eight Point Candidate Prep, etc. You just need to learn them and then use them on a daily basis. Treat your recruitment profession as a ‘process’ and not as a ‘series of events’ and you will be consistently successful!

In Conclusion

So there you have it. I can almost guarantee that if you follow this six-step plan you will change your operation significantly. Then just stay current with these new good habits and you won’t have to face periodic makeovers!

Bob Marshall began his recruiting career in 1980 when he joined MR Reno, NV. In 1986 he founded The Bob Marshall Group, International, training recruiters across the nation as well as in the United Kingdom, Malta, and Cyprus. In 1996, he returned to working a desk full-time, while continuing to train recruiters. In late 2011, Bob will begin licensing his proven training system in selected U.S. and international territories.

To learn more about his activities and descriptions of his products and services (including the Double Production-guaranteed program), contact him directly at: 770-898-5550, www.TheMarshallPlan.org, or bob@themarshallplan.org.