Simon La Fosse, Founder and Chairman of La Fosse Associates, has an approach to recruitment based on honesty and openness towards clients and candidates. He combines this with a sharp and incisive understanding of why certain companies hire well and others don’t. We talked to Simon to find out the key attributes that you should look for in hires, what inspired him to set up his own company, and why recruitment needs to be supported with learning and development.
Good recruitment is a two-way process. While it’s important to find the best talent, you also need to make your company an attractive place to work and develop.
Recruitment is not a one-off event — it is a dynamic process. If you hire outstanding talent, you have to focus on developing that talent. The ability of your people to develop quickly is largely determined by the quality of internal and external training support.
Measure your attrition carefully. It’s important to investigate your attrition rate beyond the first two years, as that is when people tend to add the most value.
Tell us about your career journey
I had been working for around 15 years, for a number of different companies, before I set up La Fosse Associates. Although I loved what I was doing, I had a nagging feeling that it could be done better. There was a lot of short term, sales-driven and selfish behaviour in our industry that didn’t add value to our clients or our candidates.
“My complete conviction that we could create a better business model was the impetus that I needed to overcome the fear of walking out of a well-paid role into thin air.”
I have always tried to be honest and open with clients and candidates, and give people my advice and time, whether there was a commercial reason to do so or not. That led me to develop a good reputation, and receive a lot of referred business. It was a more enjoyable approach, and it became increasingly obvious that it was also a sound business strategy. It was a short leap from there to thinking that a business with that approach would also be successful. It was no more complicated than that.
My complete conviction that we could create a better business model was the impetus that I needed to overcome the fear of walking out of a well-paid role into thin air. That was very big step psychologically speaking. However, that was the toughest part, and while building La Fosse Associates over the past 10 years has not been easy, it has been, and continues to be, a hugely rewarding journey.
What are the key attributes you look for in hiring?
We focus on the following:
Have they got good emotional intelligence? Can they read people and situations and respond appropriately?
Are they ambitious? Do they really want to go the extra mile to achieve more than others?
Are they resilient? Can they take the knockbacks and just keep going?
Do they get a kick out of helping people? Are they as interested in helping others as they are in achieving for themselves?
What makes certain companies good at recruiting?
The best understand fundamentally that their success as a business is largely down to the quality of the people they can attract and retain. Once they understand that, the process generally gets the care, focus, and prioritisation that it needs.
Recruitment is a two-way process, so successful companies focus firstly on creating an attractive place to work, and communicating that to potential candidates. They look far and wide for talent, not merely at those who are knocking on their door.
They assess candidates thoroughly and objectively, basing that assessment on evidence they’ve gathered against the attributes they seek. Once they’ve made a decision, they spend time on-boarding and nurturing their new talent until they are up and running.
“Recruitment is a two-way process, so successful companies focus firstly on creating an attractive place to work, and communicating that to potential candidates.”
They also value the relationship with a third party recruiter, see it as strategically important and invest time in making sure that their partner is motivated to do an outstanding job for them.
Does recruitment differ in tech compared to other sectors?
Certainly, as demand massively exceeds supply. Even when you have managed to find someone with great tech skills, you need to ensure that their emotional intelligence is also strong — qualities which don’t always go together. As a result, when you find a good developer, you can’t afford to lose because of a poor process — you may not be able to find another for many months, if at all.
You have said that the recruitment industry treats people as commodities — how can companies in the industry avoid doing this?
It starts with the kind of people that companies choose to employ as Consultants, and the ways that they reward and motivate them. If the organisation genuinely cares about people, it’s likely that their teams will reflect those values, and in turn treat candidates with the care and respect they deserve.
“If the organisation genuinely cares about people, it’s likely that their teams will reflect those values.”
Can you share your approach to L&D at La Fosse Associates?
We invest in L&D hugely. We spent around a third of our annual profit on training last year. We spend a lot of time ensuring that we hire outstanding people, and we recognise that their ability to develop quickly is largely determined by the quality of the internal and external training support that we give them.
“It’s not just a critical area for the business, but one where we have a clear responsibility to our employees.”
Intriguingly, our L&D team recently asked to be measured on the speed with which they are helping their ‘students’ get promoted as one of their key metrics. Support functions can often become slightly separated from the rest of the company, but this smart move has enabled them to remain completely aligned with the interests of the people they are helped, and the aims of the organisation. The best part is that they came up with the idea!
What are the key frustrations on the employer and the applicant sides in recruitment?
Employers naturally want the best people in the market. They will only achieve that if they are genuinely the best destination for top talent. Putting a slick recruitment process in place will go some way toward achieving this but unless they deliver on their promises, they will find that people are leaving just as fast as they’re coming in.
My advice, therefore, would be: create a world-class recruitment process, look hard at how you make your company a great place where top talent can develop, and then focus on nurturing that talent once they are at the company. All too often I have seen people conceive of recruitment as a one-off event rather than thinking of it as a dynamic situation.
Measure your attrition carefully — don’t just evaluate it as a single percentage. For example, look at attrition rates for your employees in their first two years, and separately in their third to fifth years at the company. That second cohort is often where employees start to add huge value. If you’re losing them at this point, then the cost to your organisation is much higher.
“All too often I have seen people conceive of recruitment as a one-off event rather than thinking of it as a dynamic situation.”
The key frustration for applicants is not getting the job which they applied for, especially when their skills were a good fit. That will always be frustrating, but I think you can, and should, do more to help at that point. Feedback and dialogue makes a huge difference. While it is time-consuming, it treats candidates fairly, and is a big reputational benefit. And, of course, from an applicant’s perspective, if someone has taken the time to explain exactly why you were not the best fit for a role, they should, and likely will, have the good grace to accept that feedback and move on.