The 3 ‘R’s. HR people call it ‘Retention’, recruiters call it ‘Revenue’. Success or failure for either leads to ‘Replacement’. It’s the simplest of maths; 1 seat minus 1 backside = 0 for your business. How many empty chairs did you have last year, and for how long? Exactly how much does an empty chair cost your business?

Whilst there are those amongst us who think that an empty chair is saving money or some other such justification for not replacing key staff, loss of productivity, loss of billable hours, downtime, loss of direction etc. are all direct impacts of loss of key staff. ‘Replacement’, costs money, not to replace usually costs more. If you can afford not to replace a key staff member, then you really need to reanalyse your businesses requirements to see how much more money you could save, otherwise you need to move quickly, or even better stop it before it happens.

People change jobs, it happens naturally, for a lot of reasons. But when this outcome is deliberately influenced by a third party, can you do anything about it? By third party I mean agencies, specifically head-hunters, not the likes of Linkedin or other social media.

Of course you can stop them. First though, you have to acknowledge that it happens, only then can you change it, and the answer to the problem is probably a million miles away from what you were first thinking. There are ways and means of reducing your losses to predators, my fellow recruiters, who are at the end of the day, just doing their job. If you let your staff stray from the protection of the herd you are going to lose them, fact. However, you should beware of pointless distractions in your fight. Do not allow yourself to get distracted in the battle for employer supremacy over this very real threat. For example, don’t blame social media and waste your time limiting access to it for this reason.

A colleague said to me recently that Linkedin meant the end of recruiters. Many people have said the same thing over the years, including Linkedin when they first launched. If it was true then it would be the beginning of a staff turnover disaster for your business; your staff would just be leaving in droves, yet more would replace them instantaneously. Fortunately it’s not true. Direct connections to potential employers will cut out the need for inter-mediation, my colleague added with an air of authoritative gusto. Yes of course it will; that’s why there are more agencies today than ever before, and more job ads on Job Boards than ever before. Look on seek.com.au right now and you’ll see there are around 150,000 jobs; that is a lot of empty chairs waiting to happen.

Then there are the Social Media and Business Networking sites. Linkedin claim over 2 million users in Australia, that’s around 16% of the workforce and less than 9% of the total population. Facebook claim around 10 million users in Australia. Yet to a recruiter, Linkedin, and other social media, are just another source of candidates. If your phone number is on the Internet, then as far sourcing your staff is concerned, Linkedin is already redundant.

All head-hunters really need to know to get started on pillaging a business is the phone number. As long as you’re not afraid of the telephone and know how to really use Google, you can be a head-hunter, and there are no shortage of companies to place top class candidates. We all have bad days now and again, it’s part of life’s balancing act, so if the head-hunter calls on that day, they are on their way to generating some serious money. But somewhere someone has to pay, someone always has to pay.

The perceived threat from Linkedin is not helped when people say ‘I was approached through Linkedin’, rather than admit outright that it was an agency; a recruiter did the work, not the database!! It is recruiters who drive recruitment on Linkedin (as they do with all databases), and it is recruiter’s monthly subscriptions that make it viable; yet they are not to blame for your empty chairs, you are. Every employer I talk to wants to cut out the use of agencies from their annual budgets, but they never do because when you are desperate, what option do you have? How long can your business last without a CFO, an IT Manager, BDM’s etc? What if the solution to loss of staff to agencies also helps you to get the best service from recruiters when you absolutely need them?

Whether internal or agency, recruiters are proactive, not reactive. They search, they select and they head-hunt, and will go after your best and most important staff; and they will get them, eventually, even if it takes ten years. They just need to know who to target and a phone number. They are hunters, they don’t wait for the phone to ring; picking up the phone and dialling out is in their blood. It’s the thrill of the chase, winning; their success is measured in numbers of placements and money in theirs and their clients’ bank account.
The irony of it is undeniable; one agency creates the gap, another agency fills it. Two substantial commissions generated by one empty chair. Yet agencies themselves are afflicted with the very same problem, so there is a little poetic justice in there somewhere.
Remember the one golden rule of recruitment; If we are not supplying you with staff, you are supplying us with staff, it’s as simple as that. You can limit their activities and it’s a lot simpler than you think. I’m not going to blog the solution though. Feel free to call me at Professional Advantage and I will tell you how to win this particular battle for staff retention.

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