Why AGILITY has been our saving grace! | Agile Recruitment

Jamie Sharp

Writer & Blogger

To describe this year as having been ‘difficult’ may be the understatement of 2020 however, we have all learnt so much about our business and personal capability.

It seems unbelievable that it was only a year or so ago that the first hint of the Coronavirus pandemic emerged in Wuhan in China.

Mental wellbeing has been profoundly affected by the pandemic and consequent restrictions. In a survey by the mental health charity MIND, 60% of adults and 68% of young people saying their mental health has got worse during the lockdowns. The challenges people have faced include not being able to see people, not being able to go outside and anxiety about friends and family.

We ticked all the right boxes for agile recruitment……

In 2019 we had identified that the market was demanding a more agile recruitment service to meet the needs of the recruitment marketplace and our existing customers (read our blog about developing an agile workforce in a new era). We decided to rebrand our Recruitment on Demand model, invest in a new website, social media, online events and PR. This was part of our focus to drive our new brand forward and demonstrating our ability to be innovative and enhance our digital presence.

When you are faced with a situation beyond your control, in our case, the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns, you must adjust rapidly. We aggressively reduced our corporate expenses and the luxuries we enjoyed in the office environment.

Once we completed the obvious rationalisations, we sadly had to review headcount in October and unfortunately lose loyal and talented individuals (who we hope can re-join the business when the market lifts).

The one area of investment that did not get reduced was the eSift brand. Our plan to host quality events, maintain a strong online presence and promote our Recruitment on Demand service continued in order to support clients who were enjoying recruitment peaks.

What we did recognise was the need for the team to adapt their mindset and ‘learning’ agility in order to overcome the challenges of the market.

Research from the Teachers College, Columbia University, and the Centre for Creative Leadership defined the pillars of learning agility as:

‘Learning agility is a mind-set and corresponding collection of practices that allow leaders to continually develop, grow and utilise new strategies that will equip them for the increasingly complex problems they face in their organisations.’

We used the pillars of agility to define and adapt our strategy to overcome the challenges of being an agile recruitment company.

The learning-agility enablers are reproduced below:

  1. Innovating: This involves questioning the status quo and challenging long-held assumptions to discover new and unique ways of doing things. Innovating requires new experiences, which provide perspective and a bigger knowledge base. Learning-agility individuals generate new ideas through their ability to view issues from multiple angles.
  2. Performing: Learning from experience occurs most often when overcoming an unfamiliar challenge. But to learn from such challenges, the individual must remain present and engaged, handle the stress brought on by ambiguity and adapt quickly to perform. This requires observation and listening skills and the ability to process data rapidly. Learning-agility people pick up new skills quickly and perform them better than less agile colleagues.
  3. Reflecting: Having new experiences does not guarantee that you will learn from them. Learning-agility people look for feedback and eagerly process information to understand their own assumptions and behaviour better. In fact, in prior studies, Green Peak Partners discovered that strong self-awareness was the single highest predictor of success across C-suite roles.
  4. Risking: Learning-agility people are pioneers – they venture into unknown territory and put themselves “out there” to try new things. They take “progressive risk” – not thrill-seeking, but risk that leads to opportunity. They Volunteer for jobs and roles where success is not guaranteed, where failure is a possibility. They stretch themselves outside their comfort zones in a continuous cycle of learning and confidence-building that ultimately leads to success.

The opposite of the enabler behaviour is derailing behaviour where an employee is ‘defending’—being closed or defensive when challenged or criticised tends to indicate someone who has a low learning ability when it comes to agility.

These pillars of learning ability translate into five ‘types’ who are most able to learn agile recruitment behaviours.

  • More extroverted: They are more sociable, more active and more likely to take charge.
  • More focused: They continually refine and polish their thinking and their work. They are more organised, more driven and more methodical.
  • More original: They are more likely to create new plans and ideas, seek complexity and readily accept change and innovation.
  • More resilient: They are more “at ease”, calm and optimistic. They rebound more quickly from stressful events.
  • Less accommodating: They are more likely to challenge others, welcome engagement, and express their opinions.

By incorporating these behaviours into our team, we have effectively transitioned into an agile recruitment organisation.

A time to reflect producing an agile recruitment solution!

“We are proud that the transition to promote an agile solution had been agreed and started before the pandemic took hold. Not only have we adjusted how we work, moving to an agile approach but we have shifted away from traditional marketing methodologies to engage with our audience in a more sophisticated way. eSift has not only survived 2020 but also made some profit, for that reason I am confident the business will bounce back in 2021 and be recognised for its agility and as a true partner for high growth SME’s and corporate businesses alike.

On behalf of the team, have a Happy Christmas and a healthy New Year!”

Geraldine Cole


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