Simon Cox has some valuable insights here as a Founder of a successful company that is now 10 years old. Simon is clear on what differentiates HorizonOne Recruitment from other companies and has ensured he has preserved quality through retaining control of key processes internally. Simon is also candid about the effort (and the effect on his personal life) required in the initial startup years – something I think many of us can take some solace in.
Simon Cox is a recruitment consulting professional with 15 years of experience in servicing clients predominantly in the Canberra market, with the last 10 years as Director of the company where he founded HorizonOne Recruitment. Simon is Bachelor’s degree qualified (BSc, Psychology) with a wide range of industry training, supporting his experience. Whilst a Director of a busy, thriving business, Simon is driven by his passion for recruitment and still loves the thrill of helping and connecting people. He is also passionate about leading the industry to higher levels of professionalism, quality and service. Simon is an active blogger, writing topics about specialist recruitment through leadership and change. Outside of work, Simon loves going outdoors, traveling, and is a mad keen fisherman. When not at work, he can be tracked to a river or a remote island with a fly rod in his hand. A soon to be family man, he knows that the biggest challenges lie ahead.
Why did you start your initiative?
We saw a niche in the recruitment market and were determined to make a difference by driving the industry to new levels of service and professionalism. Having spoken with several National firms about opening a Canberra branch, we found there was interest in high quality recruitment methodologies, but no clear commitment to evolve beyond the tried and true traditional practices. We believed that the common transactional experience of trading resumes for fees was simply not sustainable long term, and clients and candidates were crying out for a value-add, consultative approach.
What are typical indicators that show an organisation is passionate and successful in the way they engage their employees?
A successful organisation has a strong reputation for attracting and retaining talent and are sought out by high performers as an employer of choice. They invest heavily in their people and treat their employer brand as an important asset that is to be carefully managed and nurtured. As a recruiter, we are continuously delving into what makes an organisation successful at attracting and retaining staff. Key indicators include:
- A reputation for strong leadership; team of passionate people fully engaged in the ‘why’ of the organisation
- Strong groundswell of opinion in the market, word of mouth
- Testimony of the people who work there, highly congruous with employer brand; understood by speaking with new employees about their experience joining and settling in the organisation
- Strong staff retention, promote from within
- Strong passive talent attraction; high performers actively seek out the employer
- A well developed employer brand with employee benefits specifically tailored to attract high performers.
How do you qualify people to bring into your organization?
We are very careful about hiring staff and we use a variety of techniques to qualify high performers to join our team. We start by having a very clear understanding of the kind of person we are seeking, the core competencies required and key behaviours they need to demonstrate. Each role in the organisation is clearly mapped out in terms of core and technical competencies, and key behaviors. We use a broad range of tools and approaches to qualify candidates. These include, roughly in the order they are applied:
- Initial screening call to assess understanding about the opportunity, motivators, and overall suitability of past experience
- Behavioural profiling (MyProfile) and registration form
- 1st interview
- Full competency based behavioural interview assessed against core competencies for the role. For senior level roles we may do role plays or specific scenario based presentations
- (if proceeding) Testing which may include Cognitive testing, Resilience (MTQ48), written test, Emotional Intelligence, & tailored testing as required
- 1st verbal reference undertaken, detailed analysis of past behaviours and verifying information from interview
- 2nd interview with 2 new team members assessing gaps observed in the first interview and testing/team fit
- 2nd reference undertaken, 3rd if necessary
- Final meeting (if required) to talk through offer, meet the team , sort out any concerns or issues
What are your thoughts about virtual staffing? How does this impact your recruitment processes in the digital age?
From time to time, we use virtual staffing accessing skills through freelancer.com and the like, and we anticipate our use of virtual staffing to increase in time. Overall, I believe we will see a significant increase in virtual staffing and AI in the modern workplace in the next 20 years, rendering many processing jobs and non-specialist occupations obsolete. We welcome innovation and we operate in an industry continuously disrupted by new technology and services. Wherever possible, we find ways to minimise ‘processing load’ on our consultants whilst maximising opportunities to add value to our clients and candidates.
However, our focus on quality service and value add consulting, does mean that any new approach we apply cannot erode where we add value. For example, we receive constant advances about outsourcing our reference checking as for many, it is seen as a minor compliance process in a recruitment company. However, one of our major differentiators is that we undertake detailed, thorough background and reference checks requiring specialist knowledge of our markets and subject matter. Reference checks are crucial to a high quality recruitment service. We are not just referring to CV’s and going through a process, we offer our clients unique insights into their potential hires to encourage more robust recruitment decision making.
Our results attest to our approach. Less than 5% of our permanent hires require replacement, and over 70% of our contract hires extend or go permanent. Additionally, we are approached by other outsourced ‘virtual’ services such as offers to research candidates for Executive Search processes. We just can’t see how an outsourced service is ever going to replace the specialist, nuanced judgement of a recruiting professional when identifying and approaching the best talent on the market for an opportunity they have detailed understanding of. At best you will end up with a list of ‘maybes’. However, we do embrace technology and services when it can be applied in a way that supports our approach to recruitment. This includes recent moves to using LinkedIn Recruiter, SEEK TalentSearch and other online talent researching platforms. We also use a wide range of new technology and applications in the running of our business. We also build bespoke applications partnering with remote developers with an as-needed basis.
How does being a Founder affect your personal life and space?
I am coming up to 10 years since commencing HorizonOne and it is a good chance to reflect on who we are and where we have come from. Early on in the business, being a Founder meant living and breathing the business 24/7 and it virtually took over my life for the first 2-3 years. Getting through the start-up period with a balanced personal life would be a remarkable feat, and it was something I was not able to achieve. But it was a fairly rocky time in the world (2008, GFC) and I needed all of my determination, tenacity and focus to see it through.
Over time however, whilst my role as a Director and Founder has grown and changed, so has my ability to compartmentalise where work ends and life begins. I make sure I take regular breaks from work, I make sure I prioritise the things in my life that gives energy back, and I am doing better with looking after my health and wellbeing. For example, I have just had my first month off work since we began. Whilst I may not be working weekends or on nights as much, as the profile of our business has grown so has my exposure and public profile. If someone was to tell me that I was to be regularly in the press and on the news back in 2008, I would not have believed them. Some say that having a business is like having a baby, and in many ways they may be right. I am having my first child at age 41 in November, having a family being somewhat delayed, but maybe I should think about this as baby number 2? I guess we’ll find out!
If you could give one bit of advice to an employer looking to improve their employee engagement, what would it be?
That is a tough one. There is no easy answer to this multi-faceted challenge all organisations face. I would probably defer to a well worn saying you finish where you start, and suggest that knowing your audience is the key. We find that many leaders presume to know what employees want. For example baby boomers often assume money and stability to be the key drivers for staff, whereas many younger employers value flexibility and career progression over these motivators. I would suggest that you need to engage a HR consulting professional to measure your employee engagement. There is a host of modern approaches that include using mobile apps and easy to use platforms that give great data on employee engagement and what drives them. But don’t stop with your employees, survey high performers you would like to attract to the organisation and learn what motivates them. From there, you will have a great baseline for tailoring your employee value proposition and employer brand as well. You should be able to design a set of benefits and working conditions that serve to attract and retain high performers.
HorizonOne is a medium-sized specialist recruitment business based in Canberra. They currently have a very busy team of 12 staff and have recently embarked on a National attraction campaign to grow the team significantly through 2017-2018. HorizonOne’s success has been built on a foundation of trust and a reputation for delivering quality results. Being one of the fastest growing recruitment companies in their region, their success is evidenced by several awards – as they have been recognised as future leaders in the industry:
- Best Start-up Recruitment Agency in Australia (Thomson Reuters Recruitment Excellence Awards, 2012)
- Number 50, BRW Fast 100 (2012)
- Finalist, Telstra Business Awards (ACT, 2013)
They live their values every day, as they are not simply words in a business plan, or ideals on the wall. They apply them to everything they do each day, and they are built into every facet of their operation. Their Mission is: Bridging Talent and Opportunity through Insight. Changing Lives.