Assembling a Winning Team For Your Staffing Firm

Build It, Recruit It, or Buy It?

Challenges around talent are not limited to finding consultants. For most IT and engineering staffing firms, their inability to add high-performing team members on a consistent basis is the most common reason for slow growth. So how do you go about building a team with top performers? Do you train and develop your own people? Laterally hire experienced hands from other organizations? Do you recruit your team from within or outside the industry? Do you acquire other companies and their teams?

A panel of industry thought leaders delved into this topic at the recent TechServe Alliance Executive Summit to explore the advantages and drawbacks of each approach. The panel, moderated by Barb Bruno, President, Good As Gold Consulting, included: Threase Baker, President, ABBTECH Professional Resources; Dan Callaghan, CEO, Veremark; Rick Carlson, Director, TechServe Sales & Recruiting Management Program & President, Harvyst Consulting; Adam Conrad, Founder/CXO, Great Recruiters.

Below are some highlights from their conversation.

Recruiting your internal team

Let’s face it — Finding top producers from within the IT and engineering staffing is challenging. So why not look for talented candidates who have experience in other industries but have the project management and other skills required to make a successful recruiter or salesperson … someone who likes to interact with other people.

“I think a lot of great innovation, new ideas, and new perspectives come when you look from the outside,” Adam said. “You can teach the tools and the tricks of the trade, but I think a successful recruiter or a successful salesperson is somebody who generally wants to get out there and help somebody else.”

The panelists shared some industries and professions that have worked well for them to hire from:

  • Commercial staffing
  • Services industries
  • Teachers
  • Real estate
  • Veterans
  • High school and college graduates

Of course, not all hiring managers have the resources and time to train people who are not familiar with the intricacies of their industry. For example, Dan’s company, Veremark, is an early-stage technology start-up with about 100 employees and growing fast. “We’ve been purposefully taking people out of competitors who are just unhappy working with the current status quo bureaucracy that comes in the large organizations,” Dan shared.

Growing your team via acquisitions

An alternative to hiring is buying another company to grow your team. It’s certainly a great option if you have the resources and want to expand quickly and enter a new vertical or market. Needless to say, there are pros and cons to this strategy. As Threase put it aptly: “The pro is that you inherit a team; the con is that you inherit a team.”

Why is it so complicated? Well, there’s the tricky issue of cultural alignment. According to the panelists, culture is the baseline behavior and actions that are acceptable within an organization. This could include how the leadership holds employees accountable, how the company measures or rewards performance, is the work environment more people-centric or more metrics-driven and transactional, or a combination of both.

“Culture is big,” Threase emphasized. “We do a lot of metrics tracking in our organization. And I would say that if you are looking to acquire, [ask] what metrics are they tracking? What goals do they have the staff tracking to, because you want to align those with your internal goals.”

Another issue is potential churn after the acquisition. “When you acquire organizations, are the leaders going to stick around?,” Adam said. “A lot of times the key salespeople own those client relationships. And if they’re not around what happens to those client relationships?”

If you build it, will they stay?

Either way, it’s all about spotting candidates who have the right personality, similar core values as your company, and the zeal to sell. After that, it’s all about training them and empowering them with a roadmap to success.

“It falls on us is to make people successful,” Rick said. “If you’re successful, you don’t want to go somewhere else. So, it’s on us to hold people accountable, make sure they hit the goals and targets, and show them a career path inside our organization.”

So what are successful IT and engineering staffing companies doing to retain their top-notch team members? The panelists had some great suggestions:

  • Referral programs for referring a recruiter or a salesperson
  • Clearly defined goals and expectations
  • Having fun with goals by gamifying them and tying them with incentives
  • Reevaluating compensation plans by leveraging TechServe Alliance’s Sales and Recruiting Metrics Report to offer more competitive, hard-to-leave packages
  • Offer hybrid work schedule that enables employees to work from anywhere. Implement tools in the company that facilitate continuous engagement and set them up for success
  • Recognize and reward your employees

It’s all about execution

Barb ended the session with a million-dollar question, “How do you execute a winning strategy to build an extraordinary team?” Here are some highlights of the responses from each panelist

Dan: “I don’t think greatness happens overnight. Make sure that you have patience … [for the] stages that the team will go through until it becomes that high-performance team. Be sure that you are enabling open discourse around the organization and within the team. That people feel comfortable in their ownselves to be able to push back or have constructive conversations so that you can grow together. It is less about the paycheck nowadays and more about the purpose and the sense of mission, a sense of ownership of what they’re doing or belief in what they’re doing.”

Adam: “We wanted to make sure that if we surrounded ourselves with the same types of folks who had the same kind of core values to have a very cohesive team that was marching in the same direction. I think that people need to have purpose and alignment. They also need to see what their growth path is. I think you need to continuously reward and recognize. Unfortunately we typically reward and recognize on the end outcome, which is a placement. Let’s face it: If we’re placing 5% of the people we talk to, that’s good. So you’ve got 95% of your work that typically goes unnoticed, right? I think it’s important to have other ways to celebrate people who do a great job exhibiting your core values.”

Rick: “It’s all about accountability. It’s incumbent on us as owners and leaders of organizations to make sure our people are successful. If we don’t track where they are and what they’re doing, to help them get to that next step, then they kind of fade off. If we don’t hold them accountable, they won’t grow. It really comes down to making sure that what you set for a standard is met and that everybody sees it. I would post where everyone was cause I wanted that bottom person to look at it and go, ‘Why am I at the bottom? How do I get to the top?’ And so maybe there’s a way to improve.”

Threase: “The first thing is to set the expectations and hold them accountable. Have strong team leaders cause you can’t do it all yourself. If you find folks internally, promote them up. Celebrate the wins. Those that are meeting the expectations, celebrate them. Those that aren’t meeting expectations, coach them and mentor them. If you find that they are improving, they’re getting excited and their numbers are getting better, that’s great. If they’re not, and they’re not going to make it then replace them or find another place within the organization that they may be a fit for.”

Barb: “If you are not getting your new employees through referrals of your current employees, you have to ask yourself why? If your employees really love working for you, they should bring other people to you. So one of your greatest resources to hire your internal team should be internal referrals. And so if you’re not getting internal referrals, you really gotta stand back and say, why am I not getting them? Because that is key.”