What are you without your Consultants? Not an awful lot really. But what can you do when you are having trouble with your Consultants’ performance?

From my experience of working with a large number of Recruitment Agencies across many sectors, I have given a lot of thought to how you can get the best out of your Consultants. And getting the best performance out of your Consultants gets the best possible results for your Company.

I’m not thinking performance management, no where near, my recommendations start way before that.

We all thrive on praise, so it’s vital to give your Consultants regular positive feedback. Some of my clients have a daily meeting with their Consultants, to give but also receive feedback. It could be first thing in the morning to motivate them for the day. It could be at the end of the day to discuss what they’ve done. But listening to them is the key to having realistic yet positive conversations. It’s a horrible feeling to be talked at, so make sure you do actually take the time to hear what they’re feeding back to you.

Naturally not all feedback will be positive. But the more often you have feedback sessions the less likely there will be negative feedback. And the less negative feedback your Consultant receives, the more they will benefit from the positive.

The more you listen to & communicate with your Consultants, the better you will know them as individuals. Each Consultant is different from the next. Ok they may often be of a type, but they’re still different people. And it’s up to you to accommodate their individual needs and recognise their passions. As a business leader it is your responsibility to provide opportunities that motivate your Consultants to work their best for your business. Your aim should be to improve your Consultants’ ability, motivation and performance, preferably in a positive and harmonious working environment.

Investment in training sounds obvious, but it underpins great performance. You can’t expect a Consultant to walk into the job and excel. But if they are given training they can and most likely will; and, the knowledge that you are investing in them will empower them to work hard to achieve their goals.

By giving Consultants development plans, either on a personal level or as a team, you can challenge them to achieve mutually agreed targets. If you give them clear starting points and realistic goals, and reward when great performance is achieved, what’s not to like.

It is up to you to monitor performance and have regular reviews with your Consultants, be it daily, weekly or even monthly – whatever suits them and you. But I can assure you that a motivated and content Consultant will reward everyone.

So what about poor performance? If you know your Consultant as an individual you may already know why they are under-performing. If you don’t, it’s your responsibility to find out. The cost of losing a Consultant is greater than you think. It’s not just your time dealing with their exit or their replacement’s recruitment. It’s the disruption in the team, to clients and to candidates. If people do business with people, it’s the continuity of those people within your business that are keeping your clients and candidates coming back to you. You really shouldn’t underestimate the hidden cost of disruption when you lose a Consultant.

If you invest the time to find out why performance has taken a nose dive you can work together to find ways of improving it. You should find the time to arrange a one to one meeting with the Consultant, away from their desk, their team and preferably the office, to discuss matters. Explain to them how their performance hasn’t matched up to the goals you’d previously agreed. Invite their comments and have a proper conversation about what might be going wrong.

Once you’ve established what the problem is, you should agree a way forward, together. Bear in mind there is no point giving a Consultant an unachievable goal. That will demotivate them even more and probably just push them to leave the company. As tempting as that may be, managing a Consultant out like that is not good business practice. It harms your reputation and leaves a nasty taste in the ex-Consultant’s mouth that can all too easily be expressed elsewhere. It can also give rise to an employment claim, so be warned.

Once you have an action plan, commit it to writing. It doesn’t have to be too formal. It’s not a Written Warning, it’s more of a mission statement to get them back on track. Then arrange a follow up meeting to see how they’re doing.  And if they need some relevant training, get them it. The cost of training is nowhere near the hidden expense of hiring their replacement. Unless a Consultant really has done their time with you, and they’re ready to move on, losing a Consultant should be bad news to you. It should make you ask yourself why? Have you let them down? Yours should be the Recruitment Company that Consultants want to work for, so what could you have realistically done to stop them wanting to leave?

Having said all of that, sometimes a Consultant just isn’t up to the job. So what do you do then? Well, dismissal for poor performance is potentially a fair reason for dismissal. As long as your disciplinary procedure is compliant and in place, that is. This isn’t the time or place for chapter and verse on disciplinary procedures and dismissal. I want to be positive and up-beat. Because I honestly believe that in a majority of cases, dismissal can be avoided just by taking a bit more trouble to help your Consultants to help you.

If you would like to discuss Consultant retention, or any issue that has been highlighted in this blog, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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