How to find white space in your workday

With budgets tightening, demands rising and disruption the new normal, keeping up with business as usual while maintaining high standards of recruitment and retention has many internal recruiters feeling like they’re drowning in work.

Executive recruiter at Rio Tinto - and mum of two young children - Grace Jarvis, and SEEK Relationship Manager Damian Walsh, share their top tips for how to create some much-needed white space in your day.

When stuck in a rut, kick goals, not yourself

One problem identified by many recruiters is that they are bogged down by ever-changing systems and high staff turnover. Keeping up with this constant disruption has left many exhausted and in a state of inertia.

Jarvis’s advice is to break the cycle by tackling it head on. She says getting wins under your belt and channelling the positive energy that results is the best way to build up the momentum to get back ahead.

“When I came back from maternity leave to a three-day week, we had changed our recruitment system, process and stakeholders, and it was all a bit crazy,” she says.

“When you’re under that kind of pressure, you need to stay positive and focus on kicking goals. If you can kick the first, it gives you the energy to kick the next. Negative energy gets you nowhere, so pick yourself up, find solutions and kick goals.”

If your hiring manager is the problem, help them to help themselves

Many internal recruiters say their hiring managers are one of the biggest drains on their resources. Because they’re so busy, they sit on resumes for days, slowing down the recruitment process and making everyone’s job harder.

Walsh’s advice is to speak up in a positive way and have some great, evidence-based solutions on hand.

“At SEEK we work to empower our clients to identify these kinds of problems and to do something about them. We encourage them to understand their guidelines, to know who is responsible for what and when, and to be brave enough to speak up.

“Use your accumulated knowledge over the previous year or two to identify the problems, and then propose repeatable, scalable solutions.

“Many businesses stick with inefficient systems for years, so you need to demonstrate how the short-term pain will be worth the long-term gain.”

Smash bottle necks by addressing the big issues first

When under the pump, it’s tempting to put off big tasks, but that’s a big mistake, says Jarvis. Her experience during almost ten years at Rio Tinto is that dealing with the major issues first speeds everything else up and helps avoid gridlock later on.

“If you want to avoid bottlenecks and the stress that comes with them, make the most difficult job your first priority,” she says.

“Doing the easy jobs first is a mistake. If you do the hard work first, everything else runs more smoothly. One big problem you can cope with, but two or three later on can become unmanageable.”

Master your time with a master plan

When work builds up, it can feel like you’re on a treadmill you can never get off. But it’s precisely when planning seems like the last thing you have time to do, that you need to do it most, says Jarvis.

“Planning is critical, and there are lots of programs to help you do it, but I find a pen and paper works best when it comes to prioritising my work day,” she says.

“I write an action list every morning and make sure I get the most important things done. It’s old school, but writing things down keeps me focused and helps me to stay in control.”

Recruit to retain and save yourself pain

The best way to free up some of the time you spend recruiting new staff is to make sure the old staff don’t leave, says Jarvis. That means beginning your retention strategy at recruitment.

Over the past nine and a half years I’ve recruited a lot of people, and many of them are still around,” she says. “That’s because I always recruit for values and culture as well as skills.

“I have recommended candidates who were a great fit for culture over others who were a better fit for skills because they will stick around and grow into great assets to the business.

“One of those candidates is now a general manager.”