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On Recruiters – an Ethically Bankrupt Business Model?


Each week brings new challenges and, occasionally, provides illumination into a world where you wonder where a business model actually comes from and on what ethical platform it is based.

This week has got off to a great start – on return to the office yesterday, I was greeted by a chorus from the team telling me how they had been approached by a “Professional Services Recruitment Consultant” wanting a “confidential discussion” about “…some opportunities that are available”.  Based on the subsequent discussions with the crew and our GM, there is nothing professional or ethically “good” about him.

Given the apparent carpet-bombing approach to people within my business, a phone call to the “consultant” was called for.  His argument went along the lines of “that’s business”.  Fair enough.  I pointed out to him that his business model was based on trying to market and place the people he destabilises to, well, people like me.

The ironic and sad issue (for him and his employer) in all this is that he is currently wanting to speak with our GM about placing a “candidate” from another local firm into our organisation!  Great tactics Einstein!  Try and poach our crew whilst trying to “market” someone else’s staff to us.

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Spectacular business model – until you get found out.

According to the firm’s representatives (spoke to the body-pusher and his Manager), their electronic communication and website, they are an “elite” brand.  It all comes down to how you define “elite”.  I note on review of the various dictionary definitions, there is no reference to ethical.  There is also no mention of the word “ethics” on their website.

Later that afternoon, I had cause to have a discussion about ethics with one of my crew.  It was interesting, engaging and high-value.  Ethics is something that is inherently about doing what is “right”.  I like the following definition from the British Dictionary:

adjective
1.  pertaining to or dealing with morals or the principles of morality; pertaining to right and wrong in conduct.
2.  being in accordance with the rules or standards for right conduct or practice, especially the standards of a profession…

If you believe it is ethical to try and destablise a person from their job to place them into another one where you are trying then to create a “gap” that needs filling by taking someone from that business, are you really any different from a slave trader? Is there really any inherent value in this process or is it just about levying fees and costs, disruption and bad feelings?  As Ron Baker, an Ethics Teacher and Founder of the Verasage Institute put it to me:

I’ve always thought “headhunters” were a notch below used car salesman

If you have staff who are unhappy, they need to let you know and you need to address their concerns or they will leave.  The culture you create in your business is critical and will serve to keep your people engaged and developing.  My view is that you should speak with each of your team regularly, one-on-one, to give them the opportunity to bring up issues they are unhappy with early rather than when it’s too late.  As I say to them “If I don’t know, I can’t do anything about it”.

In all of this, returning to the question “is this good?” is imperative,  Thinking about the afternoon and events that unfolded, my further education into ethics has been good –  I have further clarified what conduct is right, good and ethically supported and what is not.

I will be informing all of my colleagues in Ballarat as to the approach of this particular organisation to let them determine how they will ethically deal with this “elite business”.

If anyone would like to know the name of the firm, please contact me – happy to share.

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