Where are you from and tell us a bit about your background.
I have been in the contracting, bulk placement, and manpower/HR outsourcing business for the past 14 years. I fell in love with my work the very first day that I stepped into this business (Read on to know more why I fell in love with this business)!
How did you fall into recruitment?
I have been in sales positions all my life — in industries from Hospitality to Beauty. When I got married and had children, I realised that I could not afford to work in the Retail or Beauty industry because of the irregular hours. Thus began my search for a job in sales with a 5-day work week, where I came across a job advert for a Recruitment Consultant role. If I were honest, I had applied for the role with zero confidence that I would be shortlisted for an interview. I have been in the beauty industry for the past 10 years selling beauty packages and treatments — who on earth would hire me? Nonetheless, I went ahead and tried with great confidence. I was extremely lucky; the day that I had submitted my application, I was offered an interview the next day and I got the role within three days! The rest is now history!
How has Covid-19 situation impacted the culture of the business?
As we are in the business of dealing with people, interacting with people, meeting them and addressing their concerns are part of our daily work. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, we needed to quickly adapt and change the way we communicate with our teammates, clients, and candidates.
Instead of chatting face-to-face over a meal or a coffee, we now have virtual meetings where the sense of engagement is lost, which causes us to constantly think about how we can make virtual meetings more interesting and productive. We are extremely fortunate to have clients who are supportive and receptive in learning how to assess potential candidates via video calls. Although there is no in-person interaction, video calls still allow clients to look out for critical factors such as body language during interviews, which enable them to make better assessments. We had to keep learning along the way and improvising so that the quality of our work is not compromised despite the pandemic.
As for our candidates — especially those who are not as digitally savvy — they found it a huge challenge to adapt to many of our newly digitalised processes, such as submitting their job applications or signing their employment letters. Fortunately, with the help of social media and messaging applications, we were able to simplify our business processes. Technology has indeed made a crucial contribution during this time.
Our recruitment team, on the other hand, needed to quickly implement different workflows and tools to help the team work efficiently while remotely, as we are in the bulk contracting business. We need to always ensure that sufficient resources are readily available for everyone.
Although team bonding sessions, birthday celebrations, and the welcoming of our new joiners must now happen virtually, we do our absolute best to add a twist of fun to them!
As a leader of a business, what have you learnt during such unprecedented times?
Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, my team, clients, and myself have come to develop a great change of mindset. Being able to accept change as it comes, being adaptable, and being creative are some of the things that we have learnt and are still practicing. We have come to accept that constant change is inevitable, and adaptability and innovation are the key to getting us through unprecedented times.
In addition, it is equally important to build a strong bond with your team and to inculcate a positive mindset. As leaders, we need to constantly communicate with our people and reassure them as there is much uncertainty to expect. It is important to assure them that we will always be there for them and support them — that they are not alone, and we will get through these difficult times together, which is also in line with CGP’s Abundance mindset.
As the team works from home most of the time, we communicate a lot with each other via platforms such as WhatsApp. We formed group chats and offer our heartiest congratulations and celebrate whenever we achieve the tiniest victory. We would also encourage one another, think of solutions together, and reinforce positivity whenever anyone of us shared about the struggles and challenges that come with our job.
During these difficult times, my team has certainly relied a lot on technology, which has indirectly helped a not-so-technologically-savvy-me improve on my digital and technological skills 😊
How has CGP evolved as a business?
The Personnel team’s key business is in supporting our clients in bulk manpower placements (both contract and junior perm roles), business process outsourcing, and matching our candidates to the right job roles.
The pandemic has prompted us to help our clients, even more so during this time. We work closely with them and are often involved in our clients’ businesses and their business continuity plans, as their successes are our wins. We do not see ourselves as just a manpower solutions provider or HR consultancy firm, but rather as a partner to all our clients. It is important that we are involved in their business — albeit to a reasonable extent — and do our best in helping them succeed during this trying time.
We treat our contractors, aka candidates, as our own employees and would always ensure that they are each placed in a new job, or that their current contract is renewed before it ends, thus giving them security during this difficult time. We are also constantly engaging with them to check in on how they are doing and to give them encouragement and support. They are simply a part of us.
Technology has played an important role in our recruitment business over these past years and will continue to advance. However, it is crucial that we ensure that technology does not replace the relationships with our clients and candidates, but rather enhance them; technology and relationships should always come hand in hand.
How has CGP supported the mental health of its employees?
Every week, the leaders of CGP would meet virtually to catch up with the rest of the team, where we would talk about their activities for the week, the challenges they each face, and what we could do to better support them.
Oftentimes during these get-togethers, everyone would have an equal opportunity to talk about how they are doing, especially during this time where we have to all work from home. Our managers would also have separate one-on-one sessions with their team members each week, particularly for those who require more support and attention.
Furthermore, our company’s Marketing Director conducts high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and workout classes during what we call a “Bootcamp” — a session that happens every fortnight, and a reminder for everyone at CGP to stay healthy and fit while working from home. It is a great chance for us to bond with one another as well.
What other initiatives has CGP come up with to help employees stay engaged?
Besides our weekly virtual meetups, people at CGP often celebrate small wins together and cheer on those who are progressing slower. We would often have surprise virtual birthday parties, farewells, and welcoming parties for our new joiners. Every month, our sales leads would each take turns to provide training sessions for everyone, so that we may continuously improve our knowledge and skills by sharing each of our own unique experiences. Additionally, we would have a Town Hall meeting held every quarter, where we would share the progress of the company, recognise staff efforts and contributions, and reward and celebrate their achievements.
Given the changes in the economy, what does onwards and upwards look like for the business?
In my opinion, the pandemic has created new demands and opportunities for the contracting business. Companies are taking a more cautious approach in hiring new employees as there are many imponderables during this time, thereby causing them to have a preference towards contract workers. The hiring of contract employees helps companies in terms of workforce agility and provides them with the flexibility to meet the changing needs of their respective industries. This in turn helps them to achieve better business results and a competitive advantage against their competitors, without exceeding their hiring budgets.
We also observe that candidates in the industries affected by the pandemic are also open to working as contract employees as they are able to explore other opportunities and acquire new skills and knowledge.
The new norm has changed the lifestyles and habits of many people, and therefore created new business demands. Companies are also hiring more contract employees to meet such demands.
Over the years, the mindset of taking up contracting roles has evolved, as people look to acquire new skills, build up their professional portfolio, and attain new experiences that they might not find in many permanent roles.
If you could go back in time, would you have changed any of the decisions you have made during such challenging times?
I believe that I would still have stuck to the same decisions as they are currently working out well for myself and the team. I would, however, improve our processes and systems so that my team would not spend longer hours in manual work and be able to use the time to help more candidates secure their jobs efficiently!
What advice would you give to those considering recruitment?
I would always tell my team and potential applicants that recruitment consulting is one of the best roles in sales; not only do we get to make a difference in the lives of others and their livelihoods, but we receive good compensation in return. It is an extremely rewarding and fulfilling career.
Being in the people business, we engage with others every day and learn new things from people who come from all walks of life. It is only through real-life experience where you will learn and sharpen your relationship and people management skills.
Attitude and mindset always play an important role when it comes to success in the recruitment industry. One must always adopt an attitude for focus, discipline, grit, and self-motivation. Once you have set a goal, you need to be able to have the focus and discipline to see it through. As this business is largely intertwined with people, there is a huge amount of unpredictable and uncontrollable outcomes. If an initial plan does not work out due to unforeseen circumstances, one must always be prepared with a plan B or better yet, an additional plan C.
It is also important to develop a positive mindset and a willingness to learn. As mentioned earlier, the industry is filled with uncertainty, which calls the need for us to remain positive even in the face of disappointment, such as when a potential candidate rejects a client’s job offer. Put your emotions aside and move on! Crying over spilled milk will not help anything as what has happened was beyond our control, but you can in turn control your emotions and mindset towards the situation. In other words, train yourself to have a strong heart.
In order to excel in your line of work, it is crucial to have a good grasp of relevant industry knowledge and hiring trends. We are the first to receive first-hand information about the industry, and this is where your mindset for learning should come in. Be inquisitive, ask questions, and talk to the people around you (i.e., colleagues, clients, and candidates) — you would be surprised by the amount of information that you can gather. You may even use this opportunity to build your network as well.
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