Productivity can falter when consultants return to the office after a leisurely summer break, and the crucial time for preventing this "slowdown effect" is in the months and weeks before the Christmas shutdown, say recruitment agency bosses.
managing director Simon Lusty said pipeline activity is a key focus for the company's consultants in the lead-up to Christmas.
"Fighting the slowdown effect can be challenging when, fundamentally, talent is not applying, and clients are often already into holiday mode," – they are therefore not inclined to be thinking or talking about new hires, he told .
But any manager that allows a team to wrap up the year, however strong it may have been, without activity planned in the diary for the first week back, "has failed in my mind", he said.
"People come back from leave, they take another week or two to wind up, and January, which is historically slow anyway in this part of the world, is completely lost."
He said Aquent plans its pre-Christmas strategy a year in advance, and starts putting it into place from August onwards.
The core of that strategy is developing initiatives and talking points to help recruiters keep conversations going with clients "right up until the last day before Christmas", Lusty said.
The team also strives to lock in interviews and meetings for when they get back, confirm placement start dates in January, and prepare to invoice on those dates.
"I also work with people a lot on making sure they have their January mail [ready], from a billing standpoint, before they go on Christmas leave. Otherwise it has a critical impact on their entire quarter's billing."
Roster planning an opportunity to speak to clients
CEO Jason Cartwright said healthcare recruitment doesn't have the same kind of summer shutdown as other sectors, as people continue to get sick.
"Having said that, in our business [before the break] there is a drive to get all of our candidates' availability over the Christmas and summer period – so we are [determining] the rostering of the hospital wards currently."
The team also collects information from managers on hiring plans over the next few months, "and then you've got a plan of action when you get back", Cartwright said.
Permanent doctors tend to take holidays at this time, creating a spike in demand for locums, while demand for nurses and allied health staff "rolls on as normal", he said.
HCA recruiters continue to operate in business-as-usual mode, while also undertaking the large-scale campaign to gather availability and hiring forecasts.
"It sanity-checks the tactical plans they've written up because they have to validate those plans by talking to the clients and the temp workers."
Draw a line in the sand between the old and new year
managing director Erica Westbury said one of the best ways to ensure recruiters start 2014 on the front foot is just to ensure they take a break in the first place.
"When they've achieved their targets, or worked towards targets that finish in December, I find it's really important they have that time off... and [they] can then come back refreshed in January," she told .
"Unless you have that line in the sand of December [and] a new beginning in January it sort of feels like it's just another day. It is very difficult to start the year totally motivated."
Norwest ensures recruiters have pre-booked client meetings to return to, but finds January is a better time to focus on the candidate side of their business, she said.
"We are always inundated with candidates [in January] and this is the time of year that we can meet with new candidates and start the relationships for the next couple of months with them," said Westbury.
Phone calls create warm leads for January
managing director Stephen Noble said his company's consultants were on the phone last week booking time with clients in January.
All consultants had to report back to Noble by Friday with a detailed list of clients they had spoken to, and a list of potential roles in the New Year.
"And that is with a view to perhaps even starting on some of those [roles] before the break, or at least getting a good understanding of what the client's recruitment requirements will look like at the start of the year."
He said for the last few years, AWP has sent out a mass email in mid-November, reminding managers that if they want new hires to start in early January, "you need to speak to us now about that".
This campaign gets "mixed results, but it certainly does get some results", and because it goes out to the entire customer base, it's an opportunity to get in touch not just with active hiring managers, but revive conversations with clients that have made few hires recently, or been dormant.
Business development "heartbreaking" in January
director Daniel Fuller said it's important to get as much work underway before Christmas as possible.
"You'll always find people that are back at work early and what have you, but going out and doing new business development in January can be a bit heartbreaking. There's a lot of voicemails and left messages and unreturned emails," he said.
At Naviro, which placed 69th on with revenue growth of 51%, consultants are encouraged in early December to categorise clients in two ways: those looking to hire pre-Christmas, and those who want to put jobs off until they return from their break.
"It's a case of getting as much on the go as possible before Christmas, having a lot of conversations with your clients at the beginning of December, and then separating out the business between what we recruit for now in the lead-up to Christmas, and then what we put on hold and we have to work on when we come back," he said.