Heat Recruitment’s Steve Preston talks about what he’s learned in the last 15 years

Steve Preston, Heat Recruitment.

Steve Preston, Heat Recruitment.

I founded Heat Recruitment 15 years ago, and in that time, I’ve seen and learned a thing or two.

Increased technology and Artificial Intelligence, a couple of office changes, a pandemic, legislative changes to IR35 and GDPR, flexible working, Brexit, a new economic climate, more robust business models and the need to think outside of the box and embrace flexibility and agility in ways none of us could have predicted.

One of the most interesting shifts in the last five years has been a changing attitude in employee expectations. Where before it was a given that employees expected monetary rewards, there has been a movement towards employees placing a greater importance on attractive company cultures, brands, and better work-life balance.

We’re all constantly learning in the fast-paced world of recruitment, and with so much change and development it’s important to take in as much as you can.

My ten new takeaways for business leaders:

1. Five years ago, my advice included the need to remember that time is precious, and this is more important than ever. As I said before, no one, no matter how rich they are, can buy time so make the most of it. Plan to get the best out of every day!

2. Following on from the above – make time for yourself. Being in the rat race can be fun but try not to get trapped and become a slave to the business. Work to live, don’t live to work.

3. Manage your stress levels. Learn to vent and reduce the pressure on yourself; this will also reduce the pressure on those around you. Showing that you’re human and that even you can get frustrated will help your team cope with the fluctuations and pressures of business in healthy ways.

4. Trust in your talent. You’ve hired good people so let them perform to the best of their abilities.

5. Remove the roadblocks from your career. Everywhere in life and work roadblocks will appear, it is your job to remove these blocks and create a more efficient work environment for your team, and a clearer path for yourself.

6. Go off-piste. Daring to boldly go where others haven’t, or doing something that you would not normally do is not a bad thing! More often than not, it can shake loose the answers to the problems you’re experiencing.

7. Use experts where experts are needed. It’s all well and good saying ‘Oh I can do that’, and then never getting around to doing it. Getting an expert in will cost slightly more but will move things on in a timely manner and to a higher standard than you would achieve on your own.

8. Fail quickly and recover quickly. It’s ok to fail or make mistakes but try not to dwell on them, and if you get knocked down it’s about how quickly you get back up.

9. Engage your team and business in the journey. The phrase ‘It’s about the journey and not the destination’, is very poignant. Involving people in the development of your business will help not only your company grow but also give your team invaluable insight – so get people onboard!

10. Unify your company values and your company culture. This starts with having a clear vision of what you’re trying to achieve yourself, with your team and with your business. Having this embedded in your company culture will make sure you’re all working towards a shared goal.

Processing the pandemic: Five things I’ve learned:

It’s no exaggeration to say that I can divide the last five years into: a) what I had learned before the pandemic, and b) what I learned during and after the pandemic. Here are five things I’ve learned during the lockdown that will shape the way I think about business forever:

1. Business Interruption Insurance does not do exactly what it says it does!

2. We do not need to do as many internal meetings as we previously were doing as a business; we can save ourselves a lot of time with more efficient communication and summaries.

3. Stay calm, relax and let the dust settle. After a major crisis you get to see things much more clearly.

4. You can’t fault good old-fashioned hard work to get you through a tough situation.

5. Trust in those around you. People are stronger both mentally and physically than you may at first think. The hard work of my employees has been one of the most empowering parts of the pandemic, and I can face further uncertainty with a degree of certainty.

A crisis like that allows you to take a step back and, in some ways, break the business down in order to re-build it and come back stronger, more streamlined and more efficient. We have taken the attitude that unless a process benefits the candidate, client or consultant user experience then we can either reduce or eradicate it.

Of course, if I was to do it all over again I’d have bought shares in Zoom, been more sceptical about the warped perceptions of the media, and not been so tentative about trusting my instincts. It’s human to question yourself but implementing flexible working and engaging the furlough scheme was the right move for the company and remaining positive that the world would get through this helped.