How Wavelength drives growth through talent management

Wavelength employees

A holistic approach to talent acquisition, development and retention has seen medical recruiter Wavelength realise a customer satisfaction rating of 92 per cent among doctors and consistently high employee engagement scores of more than 90 per cent over the past seven years.

This holistic approach revolves around the company’s values, according to its CEO Chris Riley, who said these have led to a distinct departure from the long hours, high stakes culture common in many other recruitment companies.

“The people & culture team are responsible for ensuring our values are visible and incorporated into our business processes, recruitment processes, development plans and performance reviews – ensuring they are continually reinforced and infused within the business,” said Riley.

“Our company values are integral to everything we do – not just in terms of driving our customer proposition and business performance, but also in creating a positive workplace culture and making a difference in the community – giving a sense of meaning and contribution to everyone that works with us.”

Wavelength, the largest medical recruiter in Australia with 74 employees placing over 2000 doctors a year into locum and permanent roles, was also rated as the second-best place to work in Australia (under 100 employees) by the Great Place to Work Institute.

Sharing information and creating a culture of transparency is a key business focus, according to Riley, who said the business’ people & culture team have also been integral in setting up formal and informal routes to facilitate this.

For example, Wavelength employs an internal social networking platform called ‘Chatter’ to foster a modern culture of openness and transparency.

Over 15,000 messages have been posted since its introduction in 2010, with numerous specialist groups set up to share information and ideas.

“This helps foster a sense of community,” said Riley, who explained that employees (called “Wavies” internally) can comment, ask questions, provide feedback or show approval by liking a post, without cluttering up inboxes.

“The KRA process gives employees an opportunity to review their personal development plans and discuss training needs”

Quarterly all-staff briefings are also held to share information, business goals, successes, challenges and new initiatives.

The firm also publishes a quarterly newsletter to share information and key achievements and showcase charitable initiatives.

In addition to formal 1:1 manager meetings, quarterly performance reviews and team meetings, Riley said regular Friday night drinks also provide a more informal route for employees to catch up and to share information with Wavelength managers and senior managers, as appropriate.

He explained that the people & culture team are key to ensuring consistent monitoring, recognising and rewarding business performance.

Each employee is set KRAs (key result areas) each quarter, cascading from overall Wavelength strategic goals.

The business has just launched a new Cornerstone management platform which is used as a structured online framework to input goals, results, measurement metrics and development plans.

These can be easily viewed on an individual, team or company basis.

Employees achieving their performance goals receive a quarterly bonus, and when all members of a team meet or exceed a certain level with their quarterly KRAs, Riley said the team is given a generous budget to spend on an activity of their choice.

“The KRA process gives employees an opportunity to review their personal development plans and discuss training needs,” he said.

Each year the people & culture team conduct a training needs analysis to determine individual and overall skill gaps, and internal and external training, coaching and mentoring programs and study support are undertaken as required.

Riley said Wavelength spends a generous amount on these initiatives (during FY16 more than 1 per cent of total revenue was spent on training and development plus an additional 0.6 per cent of total revenue on recognition and rewards).

“We are also experiencing increasing competition from healthcare employers recruiting directly”

Wavelength offers a range of initiatives to facilitate training and development, including: role specific training as required and identified in quarterly KRA sessions; increased investment in recruiter coaching; a formal internal mentoring program facilitated by the people & culture team; study support with one day of paid study leave per subject, per semester plus a half day of leave as required to complete exams; one volunteer day per year, and quarterly lunch and learns with external guest speakers discussing issues that impact on wellbeing and personal growth.

A number of steps are employed during the acquisition process, to not only ensure an individual is well-placed to deliver on their role, but also to ensure they will be a good ‘fit’ to help to maintain the agency’s unique and collaborative culture.

As part of its referral program, employees receive a $4000 bonus when a candidate they refer secures a permanent role.

“This is a strong source of talent – we have also found recruiting in this way we are more likely to source people who match our cultural/social characteristics,” said Riley.

It also uses a number of select recruitment agencies which have an in-depth knowledge of its culture and the profile of candidates that will succeed at Wavelength, while its direct recruitment strategy is centred on promoting its brand and using an online microsite www.wavies.com.au.

“This tool provides a virtual tour of the office and provides insights on working at Wavelength, day to day,” said Riley.

Its interview process follows a five-step model:

Wavelength recruitment model

Wavelength also places a strong focus on welcoming and integrating new employees, and Riley said the time and energy invested in managing a new employee’s experience in the first few months is well founded.

There is an extensive induction program designed to support and smoothly integrate new starters, and a personalised two-week induction schedule is created with each new starter, which commences with an initial people & culture welcome session.

Each new employee is allocated a ‘buddy’ from outside their team to take them to lunch on their first day and who they can approach on social, cultural and practical aspects of working at Wavelength.

“Longer employee tenure facilitates continuity of relationships and building up market knowledge/networks”

Wavelength is operating in a mature and increasingly competitive market with low barriers to entry, according to Riley, who observed that competitors range from small local boutique agencies to global players.

“We are also experiencing increasing competition from healthcare employers recruiting directly,” he said.

Wavelength has aimed to stand out by our service proposition, according to Riley: “we don’t claim to be the cheapest, we do claim to offer a superior level of service.”

Central to maintaining this service proposition is having recruiters who are experienced and experts in their field, and he said employee retention is at the heart of the firm’s business model.

Over a third of employees have been with Wavelength for more than five years, while over 10 per cent have been in the business for more than 10 years.

“Longer employee tenure facilitates continuity of relationships and building up market knowledge/networks,” said Riley, who said the agency also has a high Net Promoter Score (NPS) and customer satisfaction rating, with more than 92 per cent of doctors happy to refer its service to others.

The agency has also achieved consistently high employee engagement scores over the past seven years of more than 90 per cent (with a figure of 94 per cent in 2016), while 97 per cent of employees rated Wavelength as a ‘Great Place to Work’.

Wavelength has had to adapt to meet changing market conditions, as well as candidate and employer requirements, and Riley said that its core business initially was to bring doctors from the UK to fill the shortage of roles in Australia (particularly in remote areas). This mix has now changed, and more than 50 per cent of placements are now made with Australian doctors.

The agency has also expanded its range of recruitment solutions, and in addition to filling locum and permanent medical roles, it now offers a suite of strategic services, from managing an entire locum roster in a hospital department to offering a full recruitment management system, including full delivery and reporting of all recruitment needs.

Despite the changing landscape and market conditions, Wavelength has grown steadily since launch and maintained strong returns, with sales growth of 12.3 per cent over the past five years.

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