Millennial Recruiters need flexibility with boundaries and consequences

One of the most popular topics we come across today in our discussions with Recruitment Business Owners when we are creating their high growth strategies is the concept of output-focused working or Results Only Working Environments.

The ROWE ™ concept was developed by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, founders of the consulting firm CultureRx. They published the approach in their 2008 book, “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix it.

In a ROWE ™ recruitment agency environment, you measure consultants by their performance, results or output, not by their presence and hours in the office or the hours they put in after work. In a truly ROWE ™ business you give them complete autonomy over their projects, and you allow them the freedom to choose when and how they will meet their objectives and goals.

WOW – and yes this stuff scares the sh*t out of most business owners especially the Baby-boomers and Generation-X business leaders and managers who have spent the last 10-20 years in our industry. In many cases it challenges their whole philosophy, their fundamental beliefs and values about work.

So why do it?

The answer is your new hires are typically drawn from the age group born between 1980 and 1994 who are termed Generation-Y or Millennials (as they entered the workplace after the millennium). Their attitude and approach to work is different and as such they are changing the workplace globally.

Ressler and Thompson would also argue that:

  • You will attract and retain the best talent
  • Drive greater accountability at all levels within the organisation
  • Evolve managers into coaches who hold people accountable to measurable results.
  • Catalyse innovation in process by removing senseless workplace barriers.
  • Operate in the leanest manner possible by reducing wasteful practices in time and materials.
  • Drive competence in all roles.

It is our experience that all of these are possible but you will also:

  • Increase discretionary labour
  • Liberate your teams latent passion and desire for success
  • Empower your staff to grow themselves and your business
  • Secure wider family buy-in from (spouses and children)
  • Reward optimisation of working practices
  • Reduce sickness and absenteeism

Is this all possible? Well actually yes it is and it is the “Future-of-Work”. Regrettably for those businesses that don’t embrace this way of working you will be deemed out-dated and not attractive to the Millennial Generation. You will struggle to attract and retain the most accomplished staff and skilled professionals.

Some companies are already seeing this.

There has been a huge amount written about Gen-Y and Millennials mainly from the US but in 2016 we passed a significant milestone on the UK Workplace in that Millennials took over from Baby-boomers as the largest generation represented in the UK workforce. This is now true in most developed nations. Although are still the largest proportion of the population many of them have retired in the past few years.

Taken from Guardian 07/03/16

This is changing the UK workplace as businesses increasingly come under pressure from Millennials to change their working practices.

According to accepted research Millennial Generation typically seek many things:

  • Meaningful Work
  • Fun at Work
  • Collaborative Working
  • Freedom of Choice/Expression
  • Flexible Working


They tend to place a greater value on the work-life balance than Gen-X and Baby-boomers. They shy away from ‘command and control’ and traditional authoritarian leadership styles. Small intimate, collaborative working environments where they can make a difference, is what attracts them. There’s a lot here, which, Hertzberg would recognise:

  • Personal recognition
  • Achievement
  • Recognition
  • Responsibility

So it is not all new or revolutionary.


ROWE ™ Recruitment Agency environment

So how do you create an Output focused or “Results Orientated Working Environment”, which recruiters and agency leaders and owners are happy with?

It is simple by defining the key daily activity targets consultants are expected to achieve. A lot of this will depend upon your agency operating model either as a niche recruiter model or generalist one but either way you need to define the daily activities your consultants must to achieve. Typically these will include:

  • Outbound candidate calls
  • Outbound hiring manager calls
  • New Candidates found
  • New Sales leads secured
  • Job Board Searching
  • CVs Spec’d in to clients
  • Market research
  • Social Media Sourcing and LinkedIn Activity

In many of our clients who are achieving high growth their consultants who flex-on and off are achieving their daily activity targets within their hours plus their sales targets are either being exceeded or met on a consistent basis.

As one MD said to me recently “if our guys are over target and exceeding their daily activity targets then I have no issue in them leaving at lunch time one day a week to go to the Christmas Markets or Surfing in Newquay or mountain biking in Snowdonia.”

“It is amazing too! When everyone’s finishing early on a Friday because they are delivering the required results it’s a pretty big incentive for the weaker performers to hit their sales and activity targets to leave early too.”

“Families can leave for Centerparcs, Mums and Dads can see children’s football matches, ballet performances and come in late when their daughter/son has a ‘special assembly’. Everyone wins the company, staff and their families”

“They all have work phones so can still be contactable if they are needed.”

Some clients have to work skeleton cover for workers/contractors on paydays but it is all possible.


Agree Boundaries and Consequences

For this to work as managers, leaders and owners you have to be clear on several things?

  1. Activity Targets
  2. Sales Targets
  3. Consistency
  4. Exceeding targets is consultants responsibility not yours
  5. Agreed consequences of missing targets

Many consultants are like teenage children, after all many of them were teenagers until recently. They will challenge the boundaries and seek ‘special dispensations’. It’s a dangerous road to go down both morally and legally. You must treat all staff equally and be consistent. Failure to do so could result in an employment tribunal if it goes wrong.

One of the easiest ways to achieve this is to adopt the principle that you have agreed the conditions under which your teams can flex-on and off but it is not your responsibility to make sure consultants exceed the required targets. It is theirs.

Finally as long as these conditions are agreed up front then you should not feel guilty if a consultant is left alone in the office whilst everyone is down the pub on a Friday afternoon. My experience is that next time they will make sure they are the right side of the line.

The by-product of adopting this regime is you will attract people that want success. They will invest the hours and effort they need to do to accomplish their activities in the week. Working on personal development, which improves performance becomes a WIN/WIN. Peer-pressure is a key tool in a managers toolkit and your consultants will want to be seen to be in that ‘winners enclosure’.

So if people want to spend 30 mins at the coffee machine talking about last nights Eastenders or Champions League game they can but they cant really complain if they miss their activity targets and end up staying behind. Thats the consequence of their actions.

Over time good consultants will optimise their ways of working.

Some will make calls in an evening as candidates tend to talk more freely away from work. You may find some spouses are also more flexible supporting working Mums and Dads at bath-time if it means the family can leave for their weekend trip early on Friday.

You will find staff investing greater personal time if they get even greater flexibility. “Flexi-ing” a whole day off for being 125+% over target for the quarter. In this case you might see people committing larger proportions of their personal time in the week to make targets.

When you achieve this you will start to see high performance become embedded in your culture. Gen-X and Baby-Boomer recruiters did this in 80s, 90s and 00s for different drivers, promotion, recognition, financial rewards, etc. Millennials can be motivated to exhibit the same behaviours they just have different drivers.

Tapping into that and harnessing it to drive your overall business performance and achieve high growth is the Art of Leadership, which as they say is our job as leaders.


Meeting the Challenges of an ROWE Workplace

Establishing an Output focused Working or ROWE ™ workplace can be a minefield and there are challenges in regulatory controlled working environments like Education, Healthcare and Social Care but all of these can be overcome with the right structure and controls. You might need some external support from Growth Coaches, like those of us at Recruitment Training Group but there are others, who have been through the process.

So don’t delay talk to your Millennial Workers and start to discuss an Output Focused or ROWE ™ Recruitment Agency Working Environment.

The benefits to your business and profitability can be huge. Call us if you want to learn more or for an informal discussion.

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