Game of Thrones – 5 Recruitment Lessons To Learn

Our business at Australian Health Professionals is a multi-faceted one, but one of the key aspects of our business is the wonderful team in our recruitment division.  I’m extremely lucky to be able to work with...

Our business at Australian Health Professionals is a multi-faceted one, but one of the key aspects of our business is the wonderful team in our recruitment division. I’m extremely lucky to be able to work with such a dedicated group of professionals who support the aged care industry in Australia by providing excellent staffing services to providers across the country. I’m also very proud to announce that we’ll soon be launching our medical and nursing recruitment divisions; but more on that in the near future.

I’ve spent much of my professional life in the recruitment industry, and as anyone that has will also testify, it can be an extremely rewarding one; but also extremely brutal at times. So it’s on this topic that I’ve decided to write this month thanks to one of the funniest comments I’ve ever heard to describe that sometimes brutal recruitment experience. As I’m very aware of the (mostly very rarely I might add), difficult nature of the business, I try to ensure that I’m available to my recruitment team on a daily basis to offer support, advice, and guidance if and when needed. Last week I was walking through the office and spotted one of the team who didn’t look very happy; so walking over to this particular colleague I asked how their week was going; and the response? ‘Don’t ask; it’s like an episode of Game of Thrones!’

Everyone, and I mean everyone in the office burst into laughter; not just because the response was hilarious; but because we’ve all had that week from hell in recruitment, we all empathised with him, and we all knew that at some times in recruitment when things seem at their worst, you just have to laugh to keep your sanity.

It also got me thinking about the response; surely if we can relate a working week from hell to Game of Thrones, then there may be lessons we can take from the show related to us recruiters and our clients? As I thought about it, and taking notes and scribbling ideas, I realised that you could probably write a book on the lessons a recruiter, a hiring manager, or a job seeker could take from this great show. If I could, I would here write about dragons, white walkers, the Night’s Watch and every other lesson I could think of, but I fear I would lose 90% of my professional network if I posted something that long! So here I’ve selected the top five lessons I believe we can take as recruiters and hiring managers from Game of Thrones; and would welcome your own ideas or thoughts on lessons you think we can take from the show.

Everyone’s Replaceable

I think that one of the defining uniqueness of Game of Thrones is the complete regularity with which it dispenses of its leading characters. In season one we were just getting comfortable with the honour Ned Stark was trying to bring to King’s Landing and its rulers, when he promptly lost his head. Utter shock and disbelief; how on earth could the show maintain its success when the leading character was dead? But what the show taught us was that he, and many more of our favourite characters went on to meet with untimely ends, were replaceable. And this is also incredibly true in business. I have often sat across from a hiring manager whose whole world had come to an end because the star performer in their team had just resigned. How would they replace such an important player in their business? But the reality is that very often, this should be seen as an opportunity. Too often when businesses come to the recruitment market they are looking to source a carbon copy of the person who is about to leave the role. The opportunity to rather search the market for someone with fresh ideas, a new outlook on the team’s goals and ambitions, and innovative and daring ideas on how to achieve those goals, is very often missed. Adding new and interesting characters to your business keeps it alive and relevant to the ever changing market in which you work; don’t worry about replacing the irreplaceable; because for the most part, often they aren’t.

There is always a Joffrey

Never is this truer than for a recruitment professional. The character Joffrey (played by the insanely talented Jack Gleeson), in the show has got to be the embodiment of everything nasty that can be thought of a human being. He is the cruellest, almost demonic leader you can imagine and caused hardship and horror to everyone he came in contact with. If you’ve spent more than six months as a recruitment professional you will understand what I mean when I say that eventually, and sadly inevitably, you will meet your Joffrey. I love the recruitment industry and the people we get to meet along the way; it’s a hugely rewarding profession that is full of positivity. We get to learn about and become passionate about the wonderful client businesses we work with. We get to help our candidates enhance their lives by progressing their careers, and for the most part the clients and candidates we deal with are the most amazing individuals you could ever meet. Until you meet your Joffrey. That candidate or client that treats the recruitment process as a necessary evil and their recruiter as a mercenary. Demanding, unreasonable, arrogant and rude. To all recruiters out there who are about to meet your Joffrey – this is an inevitable experience in the recruitment industry; it’s how you deal with your Joffrey that will define whether your career will survive. When you meet your Joffrey the key is honesty and openness. Sit them down and explain that the only way you will be able to assist them is through a collaborative process, an engaging partnership where your role in that process is no less important that theirs; and must be respected. If they hear you and agree, you have tamed your Joffrey. If they do not, mount the nearest horse you can find, gallop across the king’s road and run to the furthest and remote place of the seven kingdoms to get away from them! One thing I always tell my team is that they must always value what they do and the value they add to businesses across the country. If your Joffrey doesn’t appreciate you as an equal, chances are neither will they as a manager or team member; which will ultimately damage your reputation by placing a candidate under Joffrey’s control, or placing a Joffrey into a valued client’s business. Value yourself, your time, and your profession – that’s when you can really achieve something special for your clients and candidates alike.

Identify your young wolf

If engaging a recruitment expert to assist with your vacancies were a free exercise, I have no doubt that the phones in the recruitment offices of Australian Health Professionals would never stop ringing. Given the fact that recruiting a team member can be an expense process, it still astounds me to the degree that many businesses have not invested in their current team members and implemented succession plans. The most engaged staff members are those who feel valued, who receive training and development, and who can clearly see a career path laid out with their employer. In the first season on Game of Thrones we are introduced to the young Rob Stark. A young boy who is destined to be Lord of Winterfell one day. But it is not until the second season that we see him really become the leader he was destined to be, and the leader he only became once the opportunity came and necessity demanded it. Your current team may just have your very own Rob Stark hiding beneath a lack of investment and training, but overflowing with potential nonetheless. Recruitment can be expensive; review you current team member’s potential and ability, identify your young wolves and develop them; they’ll be your leaders of tomorrow.

Bad things happen to bad leaders

Look no further than the young King Joffrey and his grandfather Tywin Lannister to prove this point. The old adage of ‘those who live by the sword, die by the sword,’ is never truer than for those two delinquent leaders. I have always believed that leaders should inspire, listen, learn, and motivate the people around them to help them achieve great things. There is a great quote from Steve Jobs that goes something like:

'we don’t hire great people so we can tell them what to do. We hire great people so they can tell us what to do.'

How true is that? When you hire people into your business you are hiring talent that you hope will add value to it and help achieve its business goals. Why hire talent to be ordered to do as they are told and nothing else. How does a business achieve with a dictative leader? It simply can’t. If your business seems stagnant, if you are experiencing staff turnover in a particular team in the business; ask yourself is the leadership that is in place working? Is it inspiring and inclusive; or is it directive and coarse? Bad things happen to bad leaders, but more importantly bad things happen to businesses with bad leadership.

Winter is coming

My favourite (and many other people’s I’m sure), quote from the entire series of Game of Thrones. Throughout the series we are always reminded that after the years of summer that winter is coming, a brooding and haunting intimation, coupled with the general consensus that this winter will be a long one. We see the preparations being put in place, the desire for the wars to be won before winter arrives, and the impending threat of the white walkers from the north. So my equally haunting advice to all hiring managers and businesses out there is simple – winter is coming. What I mean by this is that you may be sitting at your desk contently surveying your happy, settled and engaged team before you. They are working hard, engaged and inspired by your leadership, and achieving their goals and those of your business. You are currently sitting in the professional version of summer, and summer must, eventually, secede to winter. Winter is coming, I can’t tell you when, but it is coming. At some point in the future that moment when one of your star player’s resignation will arrive on your desk or in your inbox. Are you prepared? Have you partnered with and developed a relationship with a recruitment expert in your space? When I was on the frontline of recruitment and managing a portfolio of clients, the key to my success was always my determination to get to know each client’s business in its totality; its culture and the many sub-cultures within its various teams and departments. I did this more diligently at those times when my clients had a settled team and had no recruitment needs. Why? I did it for that moment when their winter arrived so as I could go to market with full knowledge of their requirement, the skill set they needed, the culture (and sub-culture) fit they needed; and ultimately I did it so when their winter came to ensure it was a short one. As you sit basking in the light of your teams summer stability, use the time to educate and engage your recruitment partner because sooner or later winter will arrive and you need to be prepared (if not there is a very high chance that you may become a Joffrey as a result!).

So these are my thoughts and lessons I feel we can take from the wonderfully entertaining show that is Game of Thrones. As I stated above, I would love to hear your GOT lessons!

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