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What Recruitment Firms Could Learn from the Paralympics

By September 3, 2021No Comments

I’ve been watching a lot of the Paralympics recently. I’m not trying to be “right-on” like some of the sanctimonious knob-heads on LinkedIn. I just don’t like Netflix, and it’s pretty much on 24/7 and free to air on Duke. Being candid, it’s never really tickled my pickle before. I’m a fan on the Olympics, and can easily while away my days watching Women’s Taekwondo, but I’m ashamed to say that I’ve always given the Paralympics short shrift. However, after some compulsive binge watching, I’d say I’m actually enjoying the Paralympics more than the Olympics.

Maybe it’s just the circumstances of lockdown, as without the one hour commute and inability to leave my house at weekends, there’s certainly a few gaps in my social calendar. Or perhaps, as a first time father-to-be just shy of a 20 week scan, my perspective has shifted slightly. Far from the athletes being sympathy cases, what we actually see is a level of grit, guts, determination, and achievement that puts us able-bodied armchair athletes to shame. These guys are grabbing life by the balls and demonstrate that “disability” is but a word and a mindset. Last night, I watched a fella with no arms or legs swim the 50m backstroke in a time I couldn’t come close to. How proud their family must be. And how humbling it is for us who sit at home thinking they’re the disabled ones.

The Paralympics has also got me thinking. If we stay with swimming as an example, humans have swam the front crawl since the dawn of (our) time. Over the centuries, the technique has been honed to perfection. Olympic coaches can dissect every movement of their protégés, and with infinitesimal tweaks, hope to shave off fractions of a second. We basically know what the best technique for an able-bodied person to perform the best is. The Paralympics throws up different challenges. Although Athletes are grouped by level of ability, the sheer range of body shapes and types means that when it comes to coaching – all bets are off. How does a swim-coach coach a woman with 1 arm how to swim the butterfly? Essentially, each Athlete has figured out themselves how to get the most out of their body. There is no uniform “right” way in the Paralympics – it’s what works for the Athlete.

You’d be forgiven for thinking what relevance does this have to a recruitment blog? Let me explain. Historically, Recruitment Training has come from the methodologies laid out by a small number of global agencies. These agencies probably would have scrutinised their 100 top billers globally (out of a team of tens of thousands), and created a training progamme to create clones of these high-billers. Typically however, these 100 top billers were most likely of a similar ilk. When the thousands of others tried to replicate this style, many dropped off – hence we have so many recruiters who “couldn’t cut it”. Originality wasn’t welcome, doing it your way was against the rules, and all this because the “best way” was based on the natural attributes of the top 100 billers, and not a flexible system that can make almost all types successful. These firms have created an environment which is fantastic for the top 10% of clones, but some unique talents would fall through the cracks. Now times are changing I believe, but many of the globals still labour under the reputation of only doing the things the “insert global brand here way”.

And it’s not unique to recruitment. If you look at the training in your own organisation, perhaps you’re seeing the same thing. Sales scripts might be devastatingly successful when delivered by a white man with a Kings College accent, but it’s falling flat for a woman from Manukau or a first-generation immigrant. And yet, we say the person failed, not that they weren’t given the option of finding their own voice; a voice that works for them. When it comes to recruitment, here at Rice Consulting, we’ve seen a number of recruiters who failed at the big agencies only to go on to be top performers in a boutique firm. When given a supportive environment, which still provides coaching, but allows self-expression, they’ve grown wings. These firms realise that like Paralympians, we’re all built differently, and it’s about using what we’ve got, not following the script.

Anyway, that’s all from me typing away in my box room today. Treat yourselves to a couple of beers this afternoon, and have a watch of the Paralympics if you haven’t already.