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Is the numbers game going out of fashion?

Like many things, recruitment has undergone a big change over the years. Back when I started, it was incredibly KPI driven. You were constantly monitored on how you were doing in relation to a number, with quantity being a bigger factor than quality. Some businesses today still use this approach, and personally I don’t agree.

Obviously, everybody will have a target. That’s the nature of any sales business. But I believe in agreeing an overall target, rather than micromanaging every last detail. When I took over at Onezeero just over a year ago, I was very clear that quality of output is what I wanted. I would much rather my consultants made 10 calls and got something good out of them, rather than bash the phone 60 times with no real value.

I think today’s generation appreciate this, and some of the new hires I’ve made have told me as much. They’ve come from environments which had a big KPI culture, and things like their call stats were constantly being monitored. I’ve said it before – but it’s like a cricket captain demanding that everybody in the team bats the exact same way. Does it matter, as long as everyone scores the runs that are needed?

Obviously, there will be certain critical times where managers may need to be a bit tighter, but these should be very rare. At the end of the day, you only have to look at the CEOs and MDs of any FTSE 100 business. I’m sure they all have targets that their shareholders have set for them. But do those same shareholders check up on every single move being made? No, they trust them to get on with what they’re doing!

With all of that being said though – there needs to be a bit of a balance. I don’t think the approach of “total freedom” works either. The reason is, today’s generation need some structure to what they are doing. This is a really interesting trend that I’ve noticed, and I’m sure there are people who’ve studied it in detail and know a lot more than me! But I get the feeling that young people coming into businesses want guidance as well as flexibility.

There’s a school of thought that today’s generation are absolutely full of themselves and think they’re smarter than everyone else. I’ve not seen this. If anything, I think they sometimes lack confidence within the business world. That’s why they want their managers to give them a bit of a framework. Like I said, the KPI culture doesn’t work for them. But neither does letting them have a completely free reign.

This is where Learning & Development is so important. It sometimes feels that businesses see this as a bit of a soft word that doesn’t add any value. I disagree 100%. With the pace of change we’re seeing in the workplace; L&D is a big part of closing skills gaps and increasing productivity. It also keeps people engaged – several studies have shown that millennials in particular see this as a core reason for joining and staying at a company. The days of people only wanting a salary and a decent final pension are long gone. Employees are eager to learn and grow.

A few months ago, I was watching the football and Gary Neville was doing a spot of analysis. He made the point that today’s footballers really enjoy being coached. They want to be guided by their managers on a playing style and patterns of play. They don’t just want to be told to go on the pitch and do their own thing. Today’s workers, especially in this industry, have a similar mindset. There’s a fine line between flexibility and freedom. It’s really important for businesses to make sure they’re on the right side of it.

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