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Unprecedented with Des Potter

Published 4th March 2021

At Unprecedented, we had the opportunity to talk to Des Potter, Head of Recruitment Outsourcing (RPO) at Macildowie. He spoke to us about how Macildowie adapted to the effects of Covid-19 and gave advice for those entering the workforce today.

A background into you and your business?

I’m the Head of Recruitment Outsourcing for Macildowie Recruitment and Retention – the well- established and successful Midlands based recruitment company who in August 2020, became the only retention focused recruitment agency in the country.

Before recruitment, I was a Trainee Forensic Psychologist having studied psychology in different forms for 6 years. I am now in my 10th year in recruitment and outsourcing, having worked across 3 different recruitment outsourcing firms. At those outsourcers, I’ve experienced the full breadth and extremes of their services – including working on huge MSPs (I was the lone Operations Manager for the Lloyds Banking Group account across their 13 brands where we were responsible for 4500 contractors) to the other end of the scale where I ran an RPO for an SME, hiring less than 50 people a year. What that variety of experience gave me, was a very clear understanding of how outsourced accounts should and shouldn’t be set up and ran – for both you and your client.

Define leadership and what being a leader means to you.

Leaders should have confidence in their ability and be demonstrably capable. They need to help improve the individuals in a team, make it clear what each individuals’ role is and what their objectives are, and do the same for the group as a whole.

Who are your Leadership role models/inspirations

I think the two leaders I have at Macildowie are the best I’ve come across in the industry – although their approaches come from either end of the scale. James Taylor the MD, known as JT internally, is passionate, enthusiastic, and inspirational. James Stewart the COO, known as JS internally, is highly professional, measured and with a fantastic eye for detail. They complement each other perfectly, and together they really are ‘the’ perfect leader.

What are the “non-negotiable” behaviours that you expect you and those around you to live by?

It’s very simple - treat others how you wish to be treated yourself.

What impact has covid had on your business?

It’s had a nasty impact on the recruitment industry in general and especially for traditional RPOs, with big teams and big overheads, supporting big accounts. However, our RPO function is lean and has been able to adjust brilliantly. Macildowie, in general, has coped with the pandemic fantastically well and I think the key has been communication. The internal comms is open, honest, consistent, frequent and it’s provided by positive, enthusiastic and genuine people. The impact it’s had on our team is evident in our collective performance – which is strong.

Where were you and what were you doing when you first realised that Covid-19 was very serious?

I must say I realised very early on. My friend works in China a lot and was telling me the stories about what was happening there in early February 2020. I also use Twitter often, and there were various reports from reputable sources that this was very serious. I couldn’t see how it wouldn’t impact us significantly in this country. I said to my partner at the start of March that it could be the biggest thing that ever happens and it’ll be all we’ll talk about for the foreseeable future. She thought I’d gone mad!

The word pivot was used unprecedently in May/June. What have you done to innovate or differentiate you or your business?

Our retention pricing - which we can extend further for our RPO clients – has been an unbelievable success with our customers. It shows our true intent for working ‘in partnership’ with a client, significantly reduces risk in their hiring decisions and shows that we’ve got ‘skin in the game’.

How have you/your business evolved from a digital/tech perspective?

We began to use Odro which is a fantastic online remote interviewing tool – it saves hiring managers so much time and candidates love it because they don’t have to book time off to undertake interviews.

How have you (your business) coped from a mental health/stress perspective?

We extended lunch breaks ensuring everyone gets 1 and a half hours a day, meeting free. We also introduced a well-being professional to provide a session for us all every other week, about topics such as mental health, healthy eating, and sleep. They’ve genuinely been fantastic.

Looking ahead to 2021 what are your predictions for the economy? For your sector?

I’ve been confident for quite a while that life will be far more normal come the end of March, and now the roadmap has been released – I, like everyone – I can’t wait!

With regards to the economy, I really hope that we see a real bounce at the beginning of Q2 (although it might actually be Q3), with the country opening up, a release of pent up consumer spending, and the outpouring of positivity and relief of it being all over.

I am worried that Brexit has gone under the radar due to Covid and that is inevitably going to have an impact. The Governor of the Bank of England said before Christmas that the economic impact of COVID is going to be dwarfed by the impact of Brexit, which I’m surprised didn’t have that much press. Once Covid news dwindles, we’ll see the real impact of Brexit.

I think all of these factors combined should increase the need for recruitment outsourcing. For those SME companies who need to recruit, RPOs should be the recruitment method of choice, even from just a cost perspective alone: they can offer more cost-effective recruitment than using multiple agencies or having the fixed-term costs of an internal team. Furthermore the Macildowie RPO also significantly reduces the risk of that recruitment investment with much longer rebate/replacement periods for our placements – offering free replacements for those that leave up to 12 months after starting - that has the potential to save our clients thousands and thousands of pounds. And that’s not to mention the benefits it can have from a process perspective - saving companies’ most important staff huge amounts of invaluable time and delivering better talent.

Fast forward to 2050 .... what would you say to your future self...That you did well or badly in 2020 to learn from.

I kept calm and kept well informed. I was sensible with my decisions and struck a balance. Also, I bought lots of plants for the house and they really do make a difference to everything!

However, I underestimated how much I needed other people. Even if you think you’re good on your own, to some degree we’re all social animals and you need to be as regular with your socialising as possible; and in lockdown getting out of the house every day regardless of the weather, is vital!

What advice would you give to those entering the workforce today?

Be a specialist at what you do and make sure that thing you do has a long-term future. Be passionate about it and be an expert, that way it won’t feel like a job, it’ll be a career, and you’ll have many better days than bad. If you can add strong personal and communication skills to that expert knowledge, you’ll go far.

The Pandemic has caused many of us to reassess what is important in our lives. In what ways have you recalibrated your own priorities and goals.

It’s definitely reinforced to me how lucky I am. How lucky I am to be in the situation I am at home. It also made me realise I was probably spreading myself too thinly; I’ve since concentrated on the things that are most important – and of course, those things have improved massively.

If you’ve found Des Potter’s and the team at Macildowie leadership style inspiring, why not visit their website and connect with him on Linkedin.

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