Frontline scoops the spoils of rivals' staffing decisions

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This article appeared in the August, 2009 issue of CRN magazine.

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Frontline scoops the spoils of rivals' staffing decisions

In an economy where companies are cutting staff, it's a counter-cyclical approach that has been delivering results.

Based in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra, Frontline has increased staff 10 percent across the board over the past 12 months in areas such as sales, pre sales, service delivery and project management. The company now employs 130 and it is growing.

Ironically, the downturn has helped generate the growth in numbers. In cases where global vendors have shed staff numbers, Frontline has moved in and picked up the spoils. The company uses its own networks of colleagues and associates to recruit.

Frontline's general manager for professional services, Michael Chanter, says: "There have been some fairly broad brush decisions made about divisions. Those type of decisions don't tend to be terribly focused and sometimes that means they do lose good people.

"That's been one area where we have been opportunistic where those people have become available, through no fault of their own. We have picked up quite a few good people that way over the last 12 months."

Chanter says that finding talent in this market is still hard. Just because there has been a shakeout does not mean the streets are filled with the skilled and brilliant.

"The key challenge is that there is a perception it is an employers' market place but I would suggest that there is still a challenge in finding quality people," he says.

"In fact, I still believe that a lot of businesses are holding on to their quality people and they can afford to do that."

Chanter says Frontline's recruitment drive uses its own networks of professional associates, more than head hunters and job boards.

It's an approach, he says, that ensures the recruits are a good fit. Frontline has next to no attrition.

"Many of those people are very well known to us, in fact there are very few people who wouldn't be," Chanter says.

"We do advertise externally as we'll put an ad on SEEK but we don't tend to find that overly successful," he says. "We do use recruiters but the minority of our people would come that way.

"The majority come from the known network. They haven't been headhunted. They are just people who are known to us who have become casualties of the global situation and we have been lucky enough to pick them up."

If, for example, the company is looking for a project manager, Chanter will pop in to see the project managers and find out if they have heard of anyone looking for work, or thinking of taking up a new job somewhere else.

Frontline also recruits internally. Positions are advertised inside the company and people step forward.

It also makes extensive use of staff referrals. Chanter says that has also been a successful recruitment tool.

"We have found that over time, our success rate has been higher with that," he says. "People won't recommend other people unless they have a good level of comfort around the likelihood they're going to work.

"The way we look at it is that you can go to SEEK and get 1000 people; you can go to a recruiter and get maybe 10. But do they provide any better filtering beyond that in terms of the fit to your culture and needs?

"I think people who work in the environment are the best people to do that. On average, they understand their colleagues and they understand the environment and they are able to see the match."

He says the company has discussed formalising the process, and perhaps even paying staff a referral fee for every person selected. "If we got to a point where we couldn't find the right people, having an internal referral fee we would be happy to do," he says.

Grooming and incentives, he says, is very much around creating proper career paths. He says this is even more critical than money.

"The thing that I find is that high performers are motivated more by achievement than money," he says.

"Definitely you need to compensate so they don't feel it is inequitable, but beyond that, it's the ability to contribute which really motivates people. Career progression is a reflection of that, rather than being the end goal. People don't desire to be in A or B, they just aspire to do the work that comes with that.

"What I like to do is to present people with opportunities to achieve something, so whether it be gaining expertise in technology or deliver a project and reward them accordingly.

"If people are given a given a really good opportunity to achieve and then are rewarded for what they achieve then that's what most people are after.

"We have had virtually no attrition on that basis.

"The greatest challenge is to hang on to people by assuring them they are sufficiently challenged. I don't think it is about money, I think it is certainly about job security but even so, good people are always in demand. So you have to present them with something that they find stimulating."

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