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When it comes to his company’s financial information, Sam Ibrahim can predict well into the future. But when it comes to his employees’ daily workloads, he says projections are almost impossible.
The workload unpredictability has led to staff-retention issues for Mr. Ibrahim, who is president and managing director of Arrow Professional Services, a Toronto-based recruitment firm with six locations and about 200 employees, which generated revenue of $11.6-million last year.
Mr. Ibrahim says that short notice and quick turnarounds are the norm for the recruitment industry, and, as a result, there are often wild swings in how much work needs to be done in a day.
“We work with [our clients] as much as we can to get as much projection in the forecast as possible, but the reality is that we’re lucky if we get a week’s notice.”
This means employees need to be flexible. “There are certain expectations. At 3, if a client just ordered some staff for tomorrow, then you’ve got to stay until it’s done. On the flip side, the next day, it’s okay to come in at 9:30 or 10.”
Arrow tries to prepare new employees for this unpredictability. “We really try to make it extremely clear in the interview process what someone is going to get themselves into,” Mr. Ibrahim says. “However, the reality is that they’ve got to see it firsthand.”
Some new hires simply can’t handle these wild swings in workloads, and end up resigning, he says. “I would say about 20 per cent, within the first three months, are completely overwhelmed by the expectations,” Mr. Ibrahim says.
Because Arrow’s training and onboarding costs are high, “we do lose a lot of money, directly and collaterally, when an employee doesn’t work out. It’s extremely detrimental,” he adds.
Arrow has tried to address its retention issues by hiring employees with demonstrated time-management and multitasking skills. Once on board, the company’s training program helps new employees further develop these skills. Additionally, Arrow tries to reduce wild swings by distributing work across its six locations.
These tactics have helped to reduce retention issues somewhat, but not as much as Mr. Ibrahim would like. “Overall, this year, it has gotten slightly better, but not enough to say that we’ve now figured this out.”
The Challenge: How can the company help employees better manage their unpredictable workloads, and reduce retention problems?
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