Canberra recruiter offers paid leave before starting work


FEATURE ARTICLE: This is an editorial I wrote for Canberra firm, HorizonOne Recruitment explaining their plan to offer a six-week holiday before starting work in a bid to fill a talent vacuum. It has been written in a business context to also explain the role of employer branding in creating a workplace of choice. 


Increasingly competitive job markets are seeing employers ramp up their perks to have any hope of attracting world-class workers. Our industry, recruitment, is no different – in fact, in some cases it is even more difficult to find good staff. This has lead to an increasing need for employer branding, the current buzz word which involves bigger and bolder incentives to lure the industry’s best.

Adding to our already comprehensive portfolio of staff perks here at HorizonOne Recruitment is a six-week paid holiday - before new recruits even begin. It’s not a gimmick, but a way to show possible candidates what we are about. How we value staff. How we reward them. How we listen to what they want from a workplace and how we provide for them. That is employer branding, and if you’re not doing it already you’re late to the party.

In 1997 a man named Steve Hankin, who was working for global management consulting firm McKinsey and Company, predicted the success of companies will rely on how well they compete in a so-called ‘war for talent’. He felt employers would need to foster unique and progressive profiles, or ‘employer brands’.  The underlying assumption is that for knowledge intensive industries, there is an increasingly competitive landscape to recruit and retain the very best. That ultimately, it is talent in your organisation that drives your success. Sounds logical, doesn’t it.

Cue almost 20 years of a rapidly evolving marketplace (thank you internet) where top companies compete fiercely to attract and retain the best talent. It’s pretty much The Hunger Games out there, but with daycare, bowling alleys, free drinks, office gyms and massages. The key to a thriving business, becoming an employer of choice via employer branding.

Today, there are as many as 10,000 advertised positions for recruiters in Australia. This is a sign of the times. There are a number of contributing factors to this lop-sided supply and demand equation in the recruitment field. Primarily, there just aren’t enough amazing recruiters out there! There are a number of reasons for this. Recruiting is still a young profession, with few clearly established career paths from university and no real profile amongst graduates.

Our latest incentive to draw out the best talent in the recruitment industry is about adding to our employer brand by showing people who we are and what we stand for. This idea is adding another string to our bow, with a solid benefits package for every employee and additional perks for high performers already in place. This is the newest addition to our employer brand.

Naturally, the concept will capture people’s attention because it seems counter intuitive.  A holiday for someone that has not earned it yet? Who does that?! But that’s what we want. We want attention, we want to start conversations, because we feel that this will increase our employer profile and widen our proverbial-net of possible staff (and even new clients).  

 The six weeks is about planting the seeds for change, it’s another way we are showing that we understand the needs of our staff and the possible upheaval cause by changing jobs. Relocating to Canberra, potentially with family, is a big move. Even finding the time out to contemplate such a move would be challenging for most busy recruiters. This addresses that.

Another hurdle Australian workplaces face is a case of better the devil you know. “In general, people don’t like change, and the best workers are often highly incentivised to stay put,” Mr Cox explained. “Their boss knows they are as rare as hen’s teeth and work very hard to retain them.” Other reasons experienced recruiters stay put despite not being entirely happy include:

§  The fact that leaving established contractor revenues are like leaving a warm bed on a cold morning;

§  The potential loss of networks, as well as credibility; and

§  Watertight ‘no compete’ clauses.

Ultimately, this six-week idea will spur people to have a look at us as a company, see all the other perks we offer and consider a move to Canberra. We believe it’ll appeal to consultants who are yearning for something different, those ready to escape the rat-race of congested CBD living and those wanting a better, more affordable and healthier lifestyle. It’ll also ensure whoever starts with us will be fresh faced and full of ideas.

Finding our next superstar is even more difficult in Canberra, compared to other parts of Australia, which again makes our employer branding even more important.

Canberra struggles against the “sexier” cities of Sydney and Melbourne, with a lot of high-flyers often focusing their attention there. It’s pretty ridiculous really to think that Canberra isn’t high on the corporate recruiter’s map. We have the lowest unemployment, consistently rank as having the highest levels of candidate shortages in multiple markets, and in some ways are a ‘softer’ market for competition. A savvy consultant could easily set themselves up for life.  Lifestyle wise, the nation’s capital is hooting along with a veritable explosion of dining, nightlife and social precincts throughout the city. Culture and outdoor pursuits have always been a key feature, and remain so. Affordability wise, you can’t compare it to the astronomical house prices and cost of living of other capital cities. 

Nonetheless, the above still seems to be a well-kept secret as studies show it takes on average 25 days to fill an ICT contract vacancy across Australia. But in the Canberra region, it takes an average 60 days. By far the toughest recruitment assignments we undertake are for ourselves.  It takes us on average nine to 12 months to hire a talented recruitment consultant!  So we decided it was time to take a look a critical look at ourselves.  To treat our internal challenge in the same way we would for a client, and the six-week paid holiday was born.

It’s undeniable, the internet has in many ways changed the way we work and our industry has not been immune. Today, when job boards are abundant and many employers look to them to find new staff we, as recruiters, need to make sure we are going above and beyond – providing exceptional service and to do that we need quality talent ourselves. Some key phrases that have recently caught my eye include the below:

·       Recruitment is not a resume race anymore. It’s a talent acquisition business.

·       It’s no longer your job to screen applicants. It’s your job to create candidates!

So in order to go above and beyond, exceed expectations and remain useful and in demand we need to have the best recruiters working for us, to find the best talent to work for our clients. And to do that, we need to have strong employer branding, clear values and demonstrable ways we express these within our workplace.