Ochre Recruitment General Manager Malcolm Reeve: Interview Transcript

1. Ochre Recruitment has been certified in ISO 9001 for more than eight years. What do you think this has done for the business?

First and foremost, it’s ensured that our systems, our processes and our governance are all aligned with the objectives of continued improvement, and delivering quality services to our customers. It’s ensured we’re aligned with these really important priorities.

Also, it’s required that we at Ochre Recruitment acquire and maintain an awareness of our key compliance obligations. So, that’s for things like privacy, WHS. It’s really encouraged Ochre, and all our staff, to understand compliance responsibilities under important statutory obligations like privacy and WHS, for example. That’s been really important for things like data security, especially as it’s emerged as a really critical topic over recent years. And we’re in a highly digital environment, so again, the certification in the 9001 Standard’s really been an important guidepost for us in knowing how to address our obligations in that regard.

A couple of other things too – I think 9001 certification has given our business really important balance against financial drivers. Recruitment agencies are always really oriented towards financial imperatives – which is of course important – but the certification certainly gives us balance to ensure there’s a really important evenness to our business in ensuring quality of services as well.

2. There still are not a lot of recruiters that have achieved certification in any standard. How does this differentiate Ochre from others?

It firstly shows Ochre’s commitment to quality, and that instils a confidence in our clients particularly, and also our candidates – that we have the systems and processes in place to deliver what they want with accuracy and reliability.

So that’s a real differentiation for us to show that – especially over 8 years, having maintained and improved our ranking over a period of time in the Standard – that demonstrates that we’ve got a commitment to quality, and I think that resonates with clients who want to know that they’re getting value for money in the services that they’re purchasing.

As well, it’s probably also meant that we’re eligible for a number of key tenders or EOIs, which we’re seeing these days that certification in 9001 particularly, as well as the RCSA standard, is actually a prerequisite to be eligible for some tender contracts. So that’s really vital for us as well – making sure that we’re eligible and valid to try to win that business.

3. What does the quality management system look like at Ochre? What does it mean you do differently than if you weren’t certified?

I guess what it looks like at Ochre – the quality management system – is that essentially, we’ve set up a full suite of policies and procedures and set up our systems and processes to support those in a way that they all interact, to ensure that controls and checks are in place against all aspects of our service delivery – with quality being the overriding objective.

So I suppose it looks like, to a degree, everything’s synchronised to an extent. We’ve got policies and procedures and processes and systems that are all complementary to ensure that they interact to make sure we can measure and monitor the quality of service that we’re delivering.

A really important part of that is having your manuals and your procedure manuals for staff to follow, with really clearly laid out policies, for staff to be aware of what their responsibilities are and what we stand for as a company.

It’s also meant for Ochre that the focus on continuing improvement has prompted us to look for innovative and efficient ways of monitoring and measuring our performance to make sure that we are delivering a quality service to our customers. And to do that, we’ve implemented things like system broadcasted reports from our CRN that go out to all staff and enable them to pre-emptively see that they’ve satisfied all requirements before a placement, as well as measuring our quality and our compliance through audits and system monitoring after placements – right through to doing automated customer satisfaction surveys from our database. So it’s given us an opportunity to innovate to make sure that we’re supporting the system really well.

And the other thing, lastly, is that the quality management system at Ochre has really evolved to become a key part of the way that we do things. So I guess you could say that it’s a part of our culture. And I think that’s the big thing that’s different than if we weren’t certified. As I said, rather than our business only being driven by financial drivers, we’re also driven by quality drivers. That means our team have really taken that on, and all understand why that’s important and what their role is in delivering that. So there’s a real culture of accountability and responsibility, I suppose, in everything that we do.

4. Recently you had staff changes in the Sydney office. How did that go, and did the quality system help?

Like most recruitment agencies, we do have our fair share of turnover. I think what we saw particularly over the last 12 months especially is that the Sydney office was probably more the focus of some of that turnover, and we lost some quite experienced staff throughout the course of the year.

You can never replace experienced staff who take a lot of IP with them when they leave. But what the Quality Management system enabled us to do is that because that’s replicated consistently across all of our office locations, it’s actually really helped us manage the transition when staff leave, and onboarding new staff. It actually means there’s something really predictable, and a clear structured system and procedures and policies for new staff to be orientated with – that means that you’re not leaving a whole lot to chance. There’s a whole lot of other stuff like different individuals’ personalities and capabilities, and their motivations that influence whether they’re going to be successful – but certainly by having a really strong foundation with a quality management system and all components of that means that there’s a really clear system and process that we can train staff on, and ensure they’re buying into what we’re trying to achieve.

And ultimately, if you can set that foundation, that means that all staff have a better chance of achieving the results we need as a business.

5. So it sounds like it provides a lot of clarity in a lot of areas.

Yeah, that’s right. It provides clarity and consistency. They’re two real things that – when you’re talking about trying to deliver quality services – there’s not too often that the word ‘quality’ is associated with inconsistency or lack of clarity, so where you can have that consistency and certainty about the way we do things, then that means that the service quality is hopefully going to be better, which translates to better results for us as a business.

6. Before you were certified, did you expect being certified in 9001 to have such a huge impact?

I wasn’t actually with the business before we were certified. But I can comment that when I joined Ochre nearly 6 years ago, probably the certification then was viewed as necessary evil in some ways – it was something that we knew that we probably needed to have. Whereas now, it’s a really integral part of our business for some of the reasons I’ve spoken about – when it comes to having the checks and balances in everything that you do that ensure that everyone’s on the same page and everyone’s all pointed to delivering a quality service, and making sure that we’re compliant with our statutory obligations, and making sure that our governance systems are in place and really effective – all of those things are really important now.

So rather than being a necessary evil, it’s actually a really important part of our business in making sure that we’re operating effectively. And as I said, I think the thinking on that has changed – people buy into it now, and it’s almost a culture within our business. And that’s a really important bedrock for us to be able to confidently focus on some of the other things like bringing in revenue, which is obviously of paramount importance.

If we didn’t have that basis, where we were confident in our quality system, potentially then you can focus on just bringing in revenue. But eventually, you might find out something wasn’t done correctly and you’ve got big problems on your hands. So it gives us a bit of confidence, which is great.

I probably never envisaged 6 years ago that the quality system would be something that everyone buys into so much, but it is. And that actually makes it a bit easier to operate – when everyone’s on board and doing the same thing.

7. Was there anything else that you wanted to mention?

I’d just say that in our experience – and this isn’t scripted or prompted or anything – certainly part of that journey over the last 6 years that I’ve been here has been working closely with Dianne, and more recently Donna – that’s been really important. Because if Dianne just took the approach of coming in and auditing us once a year and re-accrediting us once every 3 years, then we potentially might have been in a different situation.

But what Dianne’s done really well is that she understands the industry, and she’s taken an interest in our business, and that’s actually allowed her to consult with us really effectively. That’s given us a lot of intel and wisdom that we can use to apply in improving our system, and that’s a big part of why we’ve been able to get the results that we’ve had – it’s because of the support Certex, through Dianne and Donna more recently, have been able to give us.

So I guess just a plug for Certex in terms of the service that they’ve provided and that’s been a big part in our success too.

And I promise you she didn’t twist my arm to say that!