We’re thrilled to bring you the latest installment of the Recruitment Speaks Out series in which top Australian recruitment leaders share unique stories on their agency’s origins and what drives their business growth.
Kingfisher Recruitment are a team of leading recruitment specialists spanning across Melbourne and Sydney. Introducing new initiatives to an established team can be challenging but Kingfisher’s Managing Director, Matthew Barnett, is always open to change and knows the importance of listening to the feedback from his team. He joins me today to speak about some of the recent changes at Kingfisher and the benefits they’ve had on his team.
Sally Wong [SW]: Tell me a little about your recruitment company and what you focus on in the industry.
Matthew Barnett [MB]: Kingfisher was established in 2005, we’ve been going for 13 years. We specialise in the built environment, when we say the built environment, we’re referring to the human made aspects of our surroundings. So if you look at a city, it’s all the buildings in that city as well as all the spaces in-between and the infrastructure that’s required to run that city. There’s a wide spectrum of sectors all the way from design to construction and engineering right through to operations, maintenance and facilities management.
SW: Your employees are undoubtedly a key component of your success. Tell me a little about the qualities that make someone successful at your agency.
MB: Our consultants and support team are all passionate about the built environment which is incredibly important, because that’s what we’re talking about every single day. They’re basically self-starters; they need minimal management. We provide the environment, the structure and the tools to help maximise their success but they are the ones that have the drive and determination to deliver quality outcomes. That’s what works best for us too, we don’t want to be a business that spends time micro-managing people doing things they don’t want to do. We want to have people that want to do good things and help them do it better.
SW: What do you think makes your agency different than others. How do you stand out to people you’re trying to recruit to work for your business?
MB: At Kingfisher, we strive to offer an enjoyable and flexible environment but importantly we also give structure and support to help maximise consultants individual success. We’ve got clearly defined career paths with extensive learning and development. For example, we have a trainee scheme so we can take someone with zero recruitment experience, and train and mentor them to become a fully operational consultant over a six month period. We have regular team building and social activities, as well as rewards and recognition among the team. We’re heavily involved in the industry and encourage industry participation wherever possible.
We’re also open to change, we’re always listening to the feedback from our consultants and the marketplace. It’s happened recently where we brought some new initiatives into the business specifically for our consultants and support team.
SW: When it comes to finding and retaining quality recruiters, what’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?
MB: We don’t really have an issue when it comes to retaining consultants. I think once someone’s been here and seen first hand what a great place it is to be at Kingfisher then they stick around and tend to be here a long time.
However, it is difficult finding and attracting quality people to come on board. We’ve probably suffered in the past from underselling ourselves. We’re getting much better at that now, you know, hence talking to yourself right now, Sally! We’ve got so many great unique reasons for someone to want to come here but we’ve just got to let everyone know. So that’s something we’re working on all the time.
SW: As you touched on earlier, your company recently underwent a big change where you introduced greater flexibility for your employees. Tell me more about why this is a priority for your business and why it’s something important to do now.
MB: Again, this comes back to what’s really important. We get feedback by asking questions of our existing team and the general market and we listen to what our people want. It’s important for us not to presume what people want but to ask them what they want.
It’s no secret that in today’s world, flexibility is important for everyone. Whether it means getting to a gym class, or dropping off and picking up the kids from school. No matter what your age or situation is, flexibility is key for a much better quality of life. For us, happy consultants are also more productive consultants as well, so it’s a win-win for everybody.
SW: What are some of the specific things you’re doing to provide employees with greater flexibility?
MB: We’ve brought in what we call ‘Kingfisher Flexi’. Again this was on the back of our team’s feedback and listening to what new and existing consultants were looking for. Kingfisher Flexi, means we have no set start and finish times. Consultants can choose when they start, anywhere from 7:30am to 10am in the morning and then work their day accordingly from there. If you need to do something in the morning you can start later or if you need to do something late afternoon like pick the kids up you can start earlier and then leave at a time that suits you.
The other part to this is our casual dress, or as we call it ‘dress for the occasion’. No longer is there the expectation for everyone to be suited and booted every day. Obviously, if you have a client meeting or external meeting then, yes, you need to look the part. If you don’t then everyone’s able to come in casual dress and basically just feel more comfortable and express their individuality. You can leave the office without having to walk about in your business clothes for the rest of the evening.
SW: What are some of the benefits you’ve seen since you introduced flexibility in the workplace?
MB: It was always a bit of an unknown for us, what would happen if we stopped chaining people to their desks so to speak. It’s been really interesting for us to see the huge benefits. I think just the general atmosphere here, everyone feels just a bit more empowered. They’re happier. They’re making more of their own decisions, therefore they’re happier most of the time. Our productivity has increased dramatically because of this and we’re getting better outcomes which is shown in our results.
SW: Let’s think back to when you made the decision to introduce greater flexibility for your employees. In hindsight, what do you wish you had known that would’ve been partly helpful during this effort? What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about doing something similar in their agency?
MB: First and foremost it’s been a very positive initiative for us and something we’ll continue to do. But I think that you do need to have a number of things set up, and some strong systems and processes in place for it to be successful. I’m talking anything from a cloud-based CRM system and file access all the way through to more sophisticated and defined recruitment processes. This enables individuals to take full control of their workload without needing to be in the office 9am to 5pm. It’s not everyone’s just left to slowly ‘fail’, I suppose. We still need outcomes so these systems are essential to ensure everyone continues to deliver results.
SW: We love to hear about new things recruitment agencies are doing and Kingfisher has just launched a brand-new website. Tell me more about what lead you and your team to undertake this project and why your website is such an important aspect of your business? Are you doing anything to celebrate the launch?
MB: We’re having a launch party for our new website on July 26th, we’re inviting candidates and clients to come join us. We’ll be giving everyone a taste of the new website as well as providing a good networking opportunity.
In terms of what lead to this new website, marketing and branding is just so important. We’ve had a marketing manager in place now for some time and this new website is just one piece of the overall marketing plan. We’ll be doing a number of other initiatives over the next 12 months, including actively sitting down with each of our consultants and mapping out individual marketing plans specifically for them. So with our marketing manager driving all this activity, it ensures a consistent approach and we’re getting really good results. It is really important for us and it’s exciting times in terms of our marketing and branding at the moment.
SW: What are some of the key features on your website? How will they help your team better serve your customers?
MB: Our previous website was ok, but again it is about making sure we’re one step ahead. We want to be using the latest technology available and that goes right across the Kingfisher business. The new website delivers a really smooth user experience, so for our candidates and clients it just makes navigating the website to find the information they need really easy. Again, we’re moving forward with the marketing strategy we’ve got in place, and the website is essential to that. We needed to make sure that it was up to speed in terms of being the central point of our marketing brand for candidates and clients.
SW: The recruitment industry is constantly changing and evolving. What are some particular changes you’re keen to see take shape and is there anything in particular your agency’s doing to help drive those changes?
MB: Yeah for sure and look that’s exactly right, we always say that our business here changes everyday. Kingfisher today is so different to what it was even 6 months ago, it’s constantly evolving. As a business, we’re constantly speaking to our clients and candidates, asking them what they want and making sure we’re delivering exactly what they need rather than just doing it the same time in time out. We need to be in a position that offers our candidates and clients that adaptation, that’s really important to us.
Internally, we need to stay one step ahead as well and offer that environment again that is moving with the times. Hence all the things we’ve been discussing today! Someone might come to me today with a suggestion around flexibility or around what we could be doing for engagement and we will launch something new next week. I suppose for us it’s about having that ability to change quickly. That allows us to stay one step ahead rather than playing catch up later. Things change all the time in this business, you never know what’s going to be around the corner but look I suppose that’s why recruitment is such a cool and awesome industry to be a part of.