Recruitment & The Arsenal Effect…

I got into a little trouble on Twitter last week… I had the audacity to suggest that a ‘large’ Global Recruitment firm reminded me of Arsenal – in that they train their staff/players into superstars, and them lose them to competitors offering a better overall package and environment… Needless to say that I was accused (maybe with some merit), of being disrespectful to the company – and I was even informed that the business in question had the best retention rates of consultants amongst their competitors… Look, I’m not going to mention the name of the company again, but I thought it prudent to delve a little deeper… and look a little more closely at some of the things that may… just may help Arsenal, and any Global Recruitment Company in holding on to their key staff/players…

OK, let’s look at the similarities between Arsenal and (let’s call it for the sake of this post…) ACME Recruitment company. Both are large, both are well known, both have had a recent history of success… well Arsenal hasn’t won a piece of silverware (goldware or bronzeware for that matter) for the past 7 seasons… both have a great training set up for younger/entry level players/consultants, both turn promising inexperienced players/consultants into absolute superstars, both have a huge number of seriously talented and well trained individuals leave their employ and finally, both are oblivious to their attrition rate and – worse still – seem disinterested in doing anything to stop the bleeding…

So, in the interests of helping both Arsenal and ACME, let’s look at reasons why employees may seek greener pastures…

  1. Ker Ching!!! – What do Pink Floyd, ABBA, Jessie J and Dire Straits all have in common?  That’s right they all sing about money! And let’s face it most of us are to some extent driven by the almighty $$$.  Did you know the average age of a commercial recruiter is 26 – which is the same age as the average professional footballer… no, no keep reading it gets better… Did you also know the average professional footballer’s career lasts 6 years… and that my friend corresponds exactly with the average length of a commercial recruiter’s career… amazing right? Anyway, given these mind blowing statistics – and comparatively short career for both – it makes sense that footballers, and recruiters are driven by making loads of coin in a relatively brief timeframe.  And guess what? Neither Arsenal, nor ACME pay top dollar for their talent…not as base salaries, or in bonuses… ‘nuff said!
  2. Culture. – Now this is a little harder to clarify, but bear with me… (and it is ‘bear with me’  bare with me would be an invitation to get naked…). It is well known in the recruitment industry that ACME isn’t the most liberating or fun place to work.  Consultants are governed by activity based KPI’s and rules around behaviour sometimes more akin to primary school than the workplace.  Sure, when I talk to consultants from ACME they tell me that the best thing about working there is the people they work with, but they never… and I mean never… tell me that they enjoy the micro-managed environment, the incessant monitoring of activity, or the Big Brother feel, (and I don’t mean tv show BB, I’m talking Orwellian all the way…). Arsenal’s culture has been described as… ‘cultivating a culture of exodus’… Ouch!
  3. Xenophobia – Big word right? I had to look it up and I’m still not sure I’m using it right… Both Arsenal, and ACME really need to look outside of their patch to understand what they can do better to retain their staff. Arsenal needs to stop going to the press with outlandish statements such as ‘…you can not come to a conclusion that this team needs massive change…’, or this gem ‘…at some clubs success is accidental, at Arsenal it is compulsory…’ That stuff simply isn’t true – and much worse if they believe it internally.  Similarly, ACME needs to stop telling those who listen (but don’t believe), that they have low staff attrition rates, that they pay well and have competitive commission structures, because again, this is simply not true…

There are two huge differences between Arsenal and ACME that I would be bereft in my duties not to highlight, and one of which I briefly touched on before – Success & Opportunity.

ACME is one of the most successful recruitment companies in business – particularly over the past decade – and goes from commercial success to commercial success… Arsenal, on the other hand, are seemingly moving in the other direction…

And, in terms of opportunity, ACME loves to promote from within… and they have an extremely high ceiling.  There is plenty of opportunity to further your career if you stay with ACME… With Arsenal (unless you are the Manager), people simply do not stay.

And, in closing… what do Arsenal fans do after Arsenal win the Champions League???

They turn off their X-box.

Couldn’t help myself…


9 thoughts on “Recruitment & The Arsenal Effect…

  1. ACMEX on Reply

    I agree with the points above completely – but having worked for ACME in Melbourne for a few months, the worst thing about them is the culture. 26 may be the average age of a recruiter in general but in there it would be more like 22. Not everyone wants to sleep with their colleagues and not everyone wants to walk into a room full of consultants (close to 100) where no one remembers your name, the lads leer at the girls and lets face it the girls are on the most part giddy and bimbo-ish.

    For a 20-something recruiter with 5 years experience, it was the worst experience of my life, and I got out quickly.
    The salary was not a problem nor the commission structure- there are consultants and managers in there making plenty because they put in the hard work. But unless you are a consultant who does not mind the fact that people will look at you, talk about you, judge you physically, remain nameless outside your own team and who is willing to sleep with all the girls or boys on your floor who may or may not be single, then do not work for ACME!!

    People do not leave a job for money on the most part- they leave because they are unhappy for some other reason.

  2. exACME on Reply

    I couldn’t agree more with the point on the Culture. I got into the recruitment thanks to the ACME 🙂 , and the training they provide is truly outstanding. But that culture is really something they need to look at. Recruitment consultant is a professional not a 5 year old child, and needs to be trusted to do his job properly. Coached, mentored definitely, but not micro managed. Especially with the comission structure you need to work hard to get the results and the $$$. And not having that trust from the company was one of the main reasons i got out as soon as i could.

    P.S. really hope ACME reads your blog and will actually do something about their culture..

  3. Robert Wright (@robmwright) on Reply

    What an oddly entertaining blog. Two things though. First, it would be interesting to see the stats behind your claim that the average recruitment career span is 6 years. C’mon be honest … did you make that up to fit nicely with the footballer analogy?

    Second, you’re correct when you may not be using the word Xenophobia right. Arsenal are probably one of the least xenophobic clubs there are and they played a key role in bringing foreign players, management staff and management practices to the English game.

    Your misuse of the word is slightly worrying.

    [Xenophobia: Xenophobia is defined as an intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries or as an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers]

  4. Robert Wright (@robmwright) on Reply

    Parochial could perhaps be a better word. Derives from “Of The Parish” and could be used in your blog to represent narrow-mindedness, provincial or limited scope. Or perhaps Panglossian, which is one of my favourite words … comes from Voltaire’s novel Candide and means to have a delusional optimism.

    PS – Sorry for being a smart arse

  5. Anon on Reply

    Funny and true blog. I’ve never worked for said agency but I will say this, I’d never employ anyone who has worked there. They are “laddish” to say the least and learn too many bad habits that take a long time to “unlearn”. You say they are trained well. So are monkeys. ACME are a disgrace to the already tainted industry we work in.

  6. Mitch Sullivan on Reply

    The article is also incorrect about Arsenal going in the wrong direction commercially. The opposite is true – they are, I think, the only UK football club that operates at a profit and/or doesn’t trade under a huge debt burden.

    That, along with the “xenophobia” thing, makes the overall comparison a little flimsy.

    Maybe comparing this recruitment agency with News International might have worked a little better?

    1. Craig Watson rec-to-rec on Reply

      Hi Mitch,
      Not so sure about your assumption if Arsenal’s commerciality… 2010/11 figures show that despite Arenal being second highest in terms of turnover (GBP256mill) – they are the 6th most debt ridden club – posting a debt of GBP98mill. And the second highest rate of interest on debt… Hardly a commercial success story…

      1. Mitch Sullivan on Reply

        Hi Craig. I haven’t checked but I always thought that Arsenal traded at a profit, unlike all the other big clubs? Maybe I’m wrong. Either way, I think Arsenal as a business performs better than all the other big clubs, given that it hasn’t been saddled with huge debt and doesn’t have a sugar daddy owner.

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