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Five minutes with rising star Cameron Norton

Cameron Norton was a Principal Consultant with Davidson’s Executive and Boards team when he was named SEEK’s 2019 Recruitment Consultant of the Year.

In January 2020, Cameron moved to Expert360 to take on the role of Enterprise Sales Manager and to grow the Victorian market for the online talent platform geared towards experts in their field.

The SEEK Award was a fitting honour for Cameron, who was one of the first consultants in Australia to embrace the use of video throughout his recruitment processes with a goal of enhancing his service to clients and improving the overall candidate experience.

The Brief spent five minutes talking with Cameron about his career – past, present and future.

What’s you background in the recruitment industry?

I have been working in the recruitment industry for almost six years as an Executive Recruitment/Search specialist with a focus on the community and public sectors (local and state government). Prior to recruitment, I worked across a number of generalist HR roles within a Victorian Government department.

In 2020, I have joined Expert360 which is essentially an online talent platform for matching experts (on our platform) to the workforce needs of clients that are embracing project based working. I joined Expert360 as I view project-based working as an approach that organisations will need to utilise in the future world of work. I was keen to expand and stretch myself from a personal development perspective and felt moving into a “new-age” type of organisation would provide the greatest growth whilst also being able to have an impact for my clients in changing the way they engage talent, and therefore changing their outcomes.

Why has strong communication with clients been such a focus for you?

When I first joined the recruitment industry, I heard many people say “recruiters don’t get back to you” or “I’ve gone for an interview and haven’t heard anything for three weeks – what’s happening?”. From this, I assumed there was a problem from a process perspective and felt there were a number of things that could be done to change this view of recruiters.

I was fortunate to gain good fundamentals in recruitment as a new recruiter that meant that my processes tended to be fairly well ran and consistent from the beginning. As I evolved as a professional and the volume of processes, clients, candidates and pressures increased, I could see exactly why it became hard to stay on top of things.

Innovation is spawned from necessity many times and this was certainly the case for me. At one point I think I had 27 retained executive level recruitment processes that I was working on. If you quantify what this means, it may look like 10 active candidates per role which equals 270 candidates wanting to know what’s happening, plus 27 clients and then all the other candidates that were calling in to learn more about a job, request a position description etc.

At the peak, there could have been over 400 people you were needing to interact with in one working week. To do a good job with that level of volume is very difficult.

At first and in response to the volume problem, I started to record videos (using the VideoMyJob app) to capture everything I knew about a role that I could quickly send to candidates that wanted “to learn more about a role”. Accompanied with the link to the video would be the Position Description, a recruitment timeline/process flowchart and the link to apply. This meant that candidates had everything they needed to consider the role and I had still maintained some personal touch in delivering the message while achieving leverage through recording the one video as opposed to having 100 of the same conversation on the phone. This cut down the traffic on the phones without losing the personal touch.

From there, the approach moved to weekly updates to active talent pools to advise of their application progress, videos for assisting with interview preparation and then also congratulations videos for successful candidates.

When I first started using video as a communication tool, it meant that I was different as a consultant (as other recruiters weren’t doing it), it was memorable and maintained the personal touch. Candidates seemed to love it and I received a lot of feedback across the journey that motivated me to stick with it.

What was the reaction of your clients to this approach?

At first they didn’t have too much of an idea that I was doing it as it was at the recruitment agency side of the process. Candidates started talking about their “experience” very positively and as I started to share examples with my clients throughout the processes they too loved it.

It represented that they were working with an innovative recruitment firm and consultant and this reflected well on their own organisation’s brand.

How was it accepted by your colleagues in the industry?

A lot of people are what I would call “keen observers” – they watch with interest to see how others go about things and what results they get but are reluctant to do it themselves.

I think there is a fear of failure and judgement in doing things differently and I often had people say that they were worried that they “would look silly on video”. There is often a natural resistance to doing things differently and stepping outside our comfort zone. What I tried to convey to many who had this fear is that “nothing incredible is ever created in your comfort zone”.

I made many mistakes along the way and when I first started with the video messages, I was often jeered by others about what I was doing. That to me, though, meant that I was on the right track as it was challenging the status quo and the norm. Nobody talks about what you are doing if you stay within the lines.

What did being named the 2019 Seek Recruitment Consultant of the Year mean to you?

It really was a great honour and represented the culmination of a lot of hard work. I describe it to people as “an overnight success” as I worked overnight many times to achieve the success. That’s what isn’t seen on the highlight reel and it’s taken a lot of sacrifice, commitment, discipline and desire.

The award to me really represented a pinnacle moment in my family’s evolution. You see, my grandad worked really hard with his hands on orchards doing laboring jobs to provide an opportunity for my dad to live a better life. He used his hands to build a better future for my dad.

My dad was able to build a career working in a trade after getting qualified and this gave him the chance to work with his hands and his head. A bit of labour but also plenty of thinking and that was his vehicle to provide greater opportunities for my brother and I.

Thanks to my grandad and dad, I had the opportunity to go to university and now work in a professional setting where I work with my hands, my head and most importantly my heart. I say my heart as what I do has the opportunity to change people’s life and it goes beyond my own family unit from an impact perspective.

Long story short, the SEEK award has reinforced my belief that people that work through their heart, push the boundaries, ensure an amazing customer experience and most importantly “care”, will be successful now and well into the future.

How do you see the recruitment and staffing industry evolving over the next 10 or 20 years?

I see the industry evolving to embrace technology platforms, hence the reason I have made the shift to Expert360.

Traditional recruitment models of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s were really good and served their purpose but now technology enables greater impact. I think that businesses in the future that use technology (or create it) are the ones that will thrive across any sector. Those who don’t will potentially die out as consumer behaviour starts demanding everything in the “now economy”.

The challenge will be to embrace technology without to losing the personal touch. People still want to deal with people and technology needs to be used as a tool for leverage.

The future to me involves much more automation and the “talent on demand” mentality which means things will move faster but people will still be wanting a personal and memorable experience.

What innovations do you believe will play a key role in the future of the industry?

I see a shift in how the modern workplace is composed. I think the project-based economy – the gig economy – will become more prevalent and be a place where people will be trying to integrate work and life as best they can. Money, to the incoming generations, is no longer the motivator it once was. People want a well paid job but they don’t want it to come at the expense of everything else in their life. I think we will move into an era where this plays out more and more and traditional models of employment will start to disintegrate.

My other view is that we will be living a lot longer and working a lot longer than our parents and grandparents. I’m 33 at the moment and see myself living to 100 or 110 (more than 30 years beyond my grandparents’ life expectancy). That means the workplace of the future will need to change as we are geared to a model of living that only really accounts for a life expectancy in the 80s.

This current model has our first 20 years as childhood, schooling, training/schooling including university. From there, we work 40 years and perhaps (if we are fortunate) retire at 65. This means we need to fund 15 to 25 years of retirement if we live into our 80s. Now you think what happens when we live to 100 plus. We need to fund retirement for 35 plus years or work longer. The model will need to change as will how we think about our own lifecycle.

I think the model will shift so the first 20 years are schooling and training; the next 10 to 15 years are working; then maybe there will be a short break to reskill and retrain and change career; then another 10 to 15 years working; then reskilling, then working again and so on.

There may be breaks between employment to refresh the body and mind and even the “full time work” concept may change to ensure we take care of ourselves better physically and mentally.

Finally, from a technology perspective, I see a shift away from the desktop environment where you use a mouse and keyboard towards a more interactive computerised workplace with audio recognition/speech recognition to get your work done. You think about what’s happening with having a Google mini or Google Home and what you are asking it to do around the house. This will get amplified beyond the home environment in the future as the next generation of kids are the ones that are really embracing the Google technology. That to me points to a future shift in human behaviour that we may not see for 10 or 20 years but we will see.

From a recruitment sense, this means that in the future people may not be applying with a resume or writing out key selection criteria responses and operating in a traditional recruitment sense I see an application becoming more of a video pitch to a potential employer. A four or five-minute video outlining your career experience and how relevant you are for the role. The “why” for why you should get the job.

Getting digital, enhancing your “transformation asset” (your ability to evolve as an individual) and ensuring you deliver value in whatever capacity you are in, will safeguard you for the future. Regardless of how things change, move or shift, if you can embrace the challenges and find opportunities to work in the new world, you will do well.

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