When Small Is Big
Development opportunities and receptive leaders create a standout company
They say big things have small beginnings and this saying rings true for Charlton Morris. The recruitment firm launched in 2013 in a confined building in Leeds with no windows and a small staff of about a dozen. Ben Robinson, an associate director at the recruitment firm, remembers walking into the building in 2014 as a fresh graduate and feeling a sense of claustrophobia. But the feeling dissipated as the company started expanding. His journey followed a similar trajectory as the company that launched his career.
Robinson started as a consultant with Charlton Morris, his first and only job out of university where he was drawn to the company’s atmosphere, despite the office building. He also liked that its small staff had a common goal of growing and working hard to establish themselves as a name in recruitment.
It worked. The company has been named a Best Staffing Firm to Work For in the UK for the second consecutive year.
“I’ve never looked outside of the organization and never wondered if another company is doing better,” Robinson says. “I’ve always been confident and completely assured that we’re pushing and doing our best and leading the way in terms of being a progressive company.”
Robinson worked his way up the ladder and in 2018 he was appointed as associate director where he now manages a staff of seven. In this role, he continues to learn how to manage people, develop incentives and targets and think of new ways to work as a group all the while continuing to develop as a leader.
Similarly, Charlton Morris has developed quickly and significantly every year since its launch.
The small office from 2013 is now history and the company is now headquartered in the center of Leeds with a much bigger office and 69 staff. Its growth has also led to the company expanding into Copenhagen and New York.
For Robinson, the biggest reason for sticking around with the company was the development opportunities, which he describes as clearly outlining each step needed in order to reach the next level of one’s career. He also credits the leadership’s receptivity to new ideas as a big reason for staying. “I’ve spoken with other companies in recruitment and not many other people can offer the same opportunities that they do here,” Robinson says. “The directors are very open and they will take any idea that’s good and worthwhile and implement them.”
He added that the company’s culture of being able to bring in as many good ideas as possible has led to its growth. For example, the idea to open offices in New York and Copenhagen came from staff who started with the company as little as three years ago.
Young and Hungry Graduates
Charlton Morris hires almost exclusively university graduates. Kris Holland, a marketing manager for Charlton Morris based in Copenhagen, says the company does this because it wants people who are “really hungry and ambitious and want to get out of university and get ahead.”
Holland says, “Our recruitment methods have shifted in recent years as we put out more of a name for ourselves.”
This has enabled the company to become pickier in whom it hires; Holland says the company looks for people who are determined, outgoing and motivated.
“Another common trait is the ability to get excited about the company and where the company is going,” Holland says. “You want the workers to be excited about working for us — not just where we are now but excited about where they could be in two years.”
New employees are assigned a training manager who helps with their development for the first nine months in every step from sorting candidates to post-placement.
The company also invests its profits back into the company in the form of new training and development tools to help employees progress in their careers.
Work Hard, Play Hard
For Charlton Morris, keeping its employees engaged is fundamental to its ongoing success in the business.
“We want them to be engaged with their role, with their clients, and to be engaged with the company at all times,” Holland says, adding that engagement is a key factor in the company’s high retention rate.
To keep employees at Charlton Morris motivated, the company also offers perks such as extended lunches four days a week, a shorter working day on Friday, and a health allowance every month that employees can use for a gym membership.
Charlton Morris also breaks its year down into 13 four-week periods; at the end of each period, the company rewards accomplishments with a number of prizes, such as for the top biller or top newcomer. The company also recognizes other categories such as employee of the year and top manager.
“Part of the business is to create a culture where people are happy — a winning culture,” Robinson says.
On a recent Friday when the team hit a target they went to “one of the nicest restaurants” in Leeds where they enjoyed free drinks. “It’s a good way for some people to get to know others in the office because the company has grown a lot,” Robinson says.
Another opportunity for employees to bond is Charlton Morris’ work with charity. Last year, staff ran a 10 kilometer marathon together, raising money for charity and building team spirit along the way.
The company also offers unlimited holidays.
That’s right. Any employee who has worked with Charlton Morris for more than two years can take as many holidays as they want — as long as they meet their targets and responsibilities.
Tom Maskill, director of development at Charlton Morris, says this is just one of the many forward-thinking ways in which the company makes sure its employees are happy.
Last year the company also showed it was willing to experiment by adding a “mental health wellness day.” They shut down the office for a day to give employees the opportunity to do something they normally don’t have the time for, such as seeing family or receiving a massage.
Maskill says the new initiative is still in its early stages and the company wants to develop the initiative to allow for a “balance of both physical and mental well-being” to create an environment that keeps employees happy and motivated.
The Future Awaits
Charlton Morris is still very much evolving. In fact, it is now in the middle of a transition period focusing on digitalization.
The recruitment firm is now phasing out its office white boards and upgrading its systems.
“Our profits are being pushed into the business and we’re looking to continue to advance technologically and we are committed to continuing to be the best,” Robinson says.
Charlton Morris has come a long way from its tiny windowless office, but its staff remain committed to the common goal of growing.