From Cynicism to success: How this healthcare Recruitment agency built a thriving offshore team of 200+

Are you a healthcare recruitment agency owner or a leader? Want to know how this healthcare recruitment company built a successful offshore team from initial scepticism?

Learn from Jason Stewart, CEO of DRC Locums Limited, on how they overcame reservations about offshoring and built a successful offshore team of over 200+ professionals. Get complete transcript of the LinkedIn Live Show.

Building a Thriving Offshore Healthcare Recruitment Team

Ketan Gajjar

And we are like. Hi there, Namaste kem cho from very APNA, Ahmedabad. Welcome to the Recruitment Curry show. I’m thrilled to host Jason Stewart, CEO of DRC Locums today on the Recruitment Curry show. Jason, welcome to the show.

Jason Stewart

Thank you very much Ketan. It’s fantastic to be here. Always good to catch up with you. I’ve obviously known and worked with you for quite long time a well-known individual in the offshore recruitment industry. So yeah, fantastic to catch up.

Ketan Gajjar

Thanks. Thanks very much, Jason. And then today obviously offshoring is one of the most, hottest topic in the market especially healthcare recruitment being a concept back in 2010, 2013 which is when obviously, we caught up Jason you know having a discussion about offshoring and now that there are several recruiting agencies, developing offshore teams, some have worked really well. You have tried. Tested and which is the topic of the show today.

How did you, progress from obviously being a cynic once Upon a time to now having a very large team in, obviously surprising, 200 plus team members in couple of countries and multiple cities.

We want to talk about, your lessons, your learnings. And then for starters, what were your top, major doubts when you thought that, OK, fine. Should I have an offshore team for my business?

Jason Stewart

Yeah, I mean, and that’s a very, very good question. And it’s, I guess it’s how am I gonna manage it. How am I going to hire people 3000 miles away? Uh, how am I going to communicate with them? How are their communication skills going to be? How are my candidates and clients gonna react to being called from India, the Philippines, Pakistan rather than Manchester or Birmingham? Or, you know, Milton? Means umm, so those were very real doubts that we had when we started on our journey. I think I’ve seen the market change rapidly over the past few years and we wanted to expand rapidly in the UK, but there is a real war for talent. I think the unemployment rate in the UK is the lowest it’s been in about 40 years, so trying to attract good people into the business is tough. You know, we hire experienced people, we hire a. Entices.

But we really wanted to ramp up our sales force and we were that was proving really difficult in the UK. We could have opened a number of offices across the UK, but then you’ve got similar management challenges that you have in. If you open up in India, so we really wanted to explore the market in India. We came out, we met. With you guys, we could see some really fantastic work going on in the offshore industry and, we were pretty convinced pretty quickly that we could build a substantial operation out there and that’s exactly what we’ve done.

So we’ve got now 6 offices. Across couple of countries across India and Pakistan, we’re opening another 2 offices in the next 6 months. So we’re really excited about that and we just see constant growth in the offshoring marketplace. So yeah, so it’s.

But, we had to overcome a lot of scepticism. You know, you speak to your team. And the first thing. They’re looking at is. You know why? Why do you wanna do that? Why not just expand the current team, expand the current office. Let’s  get some more floor space and let’s just do that. Why do you want to go 3000 miles away to explore building an office there.

When we can do it in the UK and you know that’s very real. It’s very normal. I fully understand that these are issues that you have to talk through with your team. You also need really a management team that understands it’s all about narrative and what you’re trying to do with the business. And it was really getting that narrative. Right.

For the rest of the team in the UK, that actually it’s a good thing for everybody. The thing for the team in the UK, because we’re gonna expand as a business, there’s more opportunities, there’s gonna be more clients coming on board, more candidates coming on board and you know we’re just gonna, we’re gonna grow as a business and you know, we’re gonna become an international business.

So there’s great opportunities internally for good individuals. To do a lot of traveling, to take on a lot of responsibility and to grow business offshore. So that was kind of the rationale that we used. We had seen some other businesses go offshore and be very, very successful.

So we could see there was. To it, I think there was also the push factor as well, which is you know we have seen a lot of margin compression in UK healthcare recruitment. So it’s really been led by UK healthcare. I haven’t really seen the IT and the finance go out, but it is starting to go out now. They’re starting to explore. The offshore space, because of all the pressures I’ve just talked about, but certainly we had margin compression and that really kind of helped push the process as well because we had to look at the costs.

Ketan Gajjar

Sure. Now, definitely so, in terms of the triggers, there were 2 triggers I were to read correctly one is attracting Talent. And then to enable the scale that you’re looking at because what you’re looking for is not a couple of people, but actually, hundreds of people to help scale the business and so is the margin pressures, isn’t it? These were 2 major factors.

Jason Stewart

Absolutely. I mean we are up to about 250 salespeople now and you can only really expand that rapidly with an offshore solution. Trying to do that in the UK, apprentices, we get apprentices on board. And they’re a fantastic, you know, group of individuals, they are highly motivated. They want to learn and they do a great job, but they can walk outside and walk into 15 or 20 different roles quite easily. So trying to attract that, that level of talent in the UK is really, really tough. Whereas with an offshore solution, it’s a lot easier. There’s a huge amount of talent. In India, there’s a massive amount of talent, highly educated, excellent communication skills, and we found it to be, you know, fantastic for the business and very successful.

Ketan Gajjar

So that was my next question. Of course that there there’s a lot of bad press, that has been going around over the years about the communication skills of offshore resources. How did you overcome that? Because I’m sure that was one of the major, factors during the internal discussions that, oh, you know somebody based in India, they’ll have, you know, mother tongue influence, you know, they’re going to be talking to candidates in the UK or my clients in NHS in different roles.

 How did you overcome that? I’m sure you know you would have interviewed a number of candidates or, you know, prepared a sort of a qualifier benchmark for the type of people you want on board. So what was the process?

Jason Stewart

Yeah, I mean, it certainly starts at the interview process. Obviously, you want to see that they have good communication skills. We do all our own interviewing, right? We don’t leave that to any 3rd parties to go and do so. We interview everybody to make sure they are the right individual with the right communication skills and they have the right motivation. You know they want to see. So they want to be in recruitment and they want to be in recruitment for the long term. So I think really good hiring is very. Important really good qualifying of those future recruitment consultants is really important, but actually we found that the communication skills were excellent, so we didn’t have any issue with communication skills.

 All of our team, they have excellent English communication skills. They have no issues dealing with our clients or candidates. In fact, a lot of our candidates are from all over the world so they don’t really care where the person sits, right, as long as they get a good job. That’s what they care about.

Many of our candidates are from the Indian subcontinent, from Africa, from South America. And you know that those, those language issues aren’t really an issue as long as you know, they get the right job. So we didn’t actually find that too much of a problem and. In India, the communication skills are excellent, but you have to do the work to do the interviewing to get the right people on board so that that hasn’t been a barrier for us at all.

And you know, we have we got a client team in India. They’re speaking directly to all of our NHS clients and they have no problem with that communication. So we haven’t had any negative. Feedback from candidates or clients around that.

Ketan Gajjar

That that’s a big plus, definitely. And then this links in very well with your earlier point of the resistance you face from the team. And one of the major sort of factors that that I’ve sort of experienced is.

The cultural, you know, approach or culture, you know, sort of exposure to the culture of the destination, you’re offshoring. You. How did you overcome that? Because you know it’s very important from the onshore team and the offshore team if they were to work together.

 You mentioned about the one team approach that you know we’re gonna be doing this and these are the objectives you want to achieve as a business.

It’s not us. Versus them so. How did you take your team through that process to work through so many people, being in different cities in different countries.

Jason Stewart

Yeah. I mean, I think you have to develop a good culture in your office in the UK to make it open to, you know, dealing with international offices, right? And the way we do it, we do a huge amount of communication through zoom with the team in India. We’re constantly on zoom for hours. Every day. So there’s a huge amount of communication. There’s a lot of travel between the offices. Few of the management team who just got back from Dubai, we had, you know, an incentive weekend for the India team in in Dubai.

So there’s that constant meeting of the team and that’s very, very important, because if you meet the. The team then you get a completely different perspective on the individuals that you’re dealing with. So if it’s all very remote, if you’re dealing with them through, you know email or whatever and zoom to a certain.

And then it’s just not the same as going out there sitting down with the team, meeting them, getting a bit of their background, a bit of their life story, a bit about what motivates them and you find the sales guys in India are exactly the same as the sales guys in the UK, as I’m sure salespeople are anywhere around the world, they’re motivated by the same things. They want nice things. They wanna work hard for those things. You know, if they have an argument with their girlfriend, they come in, they don’t pick up the phone. They sit there, they’re a bit grumpy. That happens here in the UK, just as it happens in India. So actually, you know, you I look at the team in India, I look at the Vishaka and I see exactly the same issues and motivations as I do with the team in the UK. There is absolutely no difference whatsoever just because they’re sitting 3000 miles away. Doesn’t mean they’re completely different people. They’re not, right. So they are. It’s all very similar and you know we, we find we don’t have a problem with that. But the key is you’ve gotta communicate with them. You’ve gotta know who they are.

You know, I know the name of pretty much everybody in every office right across India. Right. And that’s very important. And they actually they care when you care, right? So if you show interest in them, well guess what? They show interest in you. I mean, you know, we I’ve seen competitors kind of do it and they set up in India and it kinda doesn’t work. And they say, oh, it didn’t work cause the Indians don’t. They don’t get what we do. Right? Well, actually, it’s not that they failed. That you failed, right? Because you didn’t go and visit. You didn’t know who they were. You wouldn’t do that with an office.

Say, I set up an office in Manchester. You wouldn’t never go up there, not know who the people are and just say get on with it and then suddenly it fails and you go. Oh well, people in Manchester don’t know what they’re doing. Well, that’s complete nonsense, right? If you set up an office in Manchester, you’d go up there. You’d spend time up there. You’d, sit down with the guys, you’d motivate them. You’d be in constant communication with them, and that’s how you build successful offices, just cause it’s 3000 miles away. Doesn’t mean you do anything different. So I think that’s how we overcame those problems and I think you know we’ve got a very similar culture in India as we do here in the UK and it’s very, very positive and you know very good.

Ketan Gajjar

So at the end of the day, and obviously it boils down to a couple of things. One is you know the commitment from  the top management and  the middle management to make sure that yes, we’re going to make this work. There will be concerns, but knowledge transfer, training and development and you give the analogy of spending time with your team and I think that’s one thing that you guys did very effectively of inducting and then onboarding the team members offshore, putting them through your training and development program as well as. Because every agency has a different way of working, different way of approaching the candidates and then obviously made front office Middle officer. Office and then and 3 is obviously making sure that there is consistent communication. You know more through zoom and then then obviously you know in advanced stages is through exchange programs either the onshore team members you know travel offshore or you know vice versa.

Jason Stewart

Yeah, exactly. I mean, we’ve got a training team in India, so they really help drive the process. But we are also training on zoom on a regular basis and then we’re going out there and we’re training face to. Base as well. So there’s that constant communication both face to face and on zoom and you know virtually that really works for us and it it’s just that you’ve gotta constantly train just as you would train somebody in the UK.

There’s absolutely no difference, and that’s where it fails. If you don’t put that time in, you don’t have that commitment from your management team and from the rest of the team in the UK. It’s just not gonna work if you just if it’s one or 2 people who are kind of driving the process and nobody else believes in it, then you’re really gonna struggle to get it up and running because it’s just gonna be. To fester, you know there’s gonna be no interaction. And guess what? If you open any office anywhere in the world, whether it’s up the road or, you know, in another country and you don’t interact with it and you don’t train the people properly, it’s not going to work. And that’s, that’s where we’ve seen others fail. Although I think people are getting better at it, the  penny is dropping.

You know, I fly into the airport named about a lot and I’m starting to run into a lot of competitors on the flight and in the airport and at the hotel and all this kind of stuff because there’s a lot more people going out there doing, you know, what we’re doing. So certainly that there’s that drive to offshore. I personally think you know that’s the kind of future of recruitment it’s gonna be. If you’re dealing with a human, it’s gonna be in an offshore office and the rest is going to be through technology. That’s really the future of recruitment. So it’s, you know, it is a, a, a process that is going, I mean it’s moving, it’s going in that direction. You know, finance and it are now starting to move out and offshore as well and certainly you’ve gotta get that that that initial training and get the office up and running. But once you do, it’s it pays huge benefits.

Ketan Gajjar

Totally, totally. And then, one thing from my experience working with several agencies is I’ve seen is the offshore or rather agencies are now or companies are now looking at. It this way, go where the talent is, number one and 2 is you know there is less capability bias and then you know it’s more so from you know the analogy is more so from the healthcare perspective that if the offshore resources can book candidate into a 4 hour shift they can book them you know somebody to. A 40 hour shift.

Yeah. So how did you, how did you manage that? You know, because you know one, there is a, you know, proximity bias because of the distance and then, you know, the proximity bias, you know, breeds the capability bias that, OK, fine, you know, onshore can do everything and offshore can do probably 10% of what the onshore can do.

Jason Stewart

Correct. Yeah, I mean. Yeah, I’ve seen competitors do basically what you’re talking about is take the lower value jobs, give that to the offshore team and the team in the UK sits on all the nice long term high margin bookings. That just doesn’t work. That will fail, right, because you really need a level playing field. You have to have a level playing field, so everybody’s motivated. There is no reason why someone who’s booking a, you know, a short. Job for a couple of shifts over a couple of days couldn’t do. Uh 6 month long term booking. They’re absolutely capable of doing it and our offices in India do both. So you have to have a level playing field because that motivates the team in India, right? Because they see they’re not going into a fight with 2, our arms tied behind their back and also what you get you get an uplift in performance in the. UK because if you have that where only the best shifts or only the best. Jobs are kept in the UK, then people get, you know, they sit back a bit and they think, yeah, this is all kind of protected. This is my business, right. Nobody else can touch it. As soon as you introduce that element of competition, you get an uplift in the UK in performance as well. And we have certainly seen that there is no. Doubt about that.

So you? Have to have a level playing field. It’s the only way it works. You do get disputes, there’s no doubt about that. But if you have, you know, very clear, transparent rules around database contact candidate. Contact that sort. Of thing that can all be over. And you know, and that works extremely well and you’ll see the benefits of that. And you’ll have a very highly motivated offshore team that will improve its performance rapidly if they just get left with the scraps that that never works because it’s tough. It’s tough enough to start up right from scratch. And if you’re getting the toughest jobs. Chance of you succeeding is, you know very, very low. And then in the UK, people say, oh, there you go. It didn’t work well. It didn’t work because it was set up to fail in the first place. That’s why.

Ketan Gajjar

Totally, totally. And in terms of the activities, you know, again, there’s a myth that the offshore can only deliver, you know, on certain functions. Let’s so let’s say, you know, offshore is good at back office. You know anything which is transactional, you know offshore will do it very well. But the moment you give them sales or you know a bit of compliance, there’s a hiccup.. Overall activities, you know, in, in, in your structure that you have you know are delivered offshore, Jason is it just sales or back office or if you can talk?

Jason Stewart

It’s everything. So we have a client team that deals solely with our clients. We’ve got a candidate team deals solely with the candidates. We have a compliance team, got about 45 people now in. Clients dealing directly with all the doctors and nurses, and we’ve got a full finance team as well everything. So basically we do the full life cycle of the recruitment out in India and with that we find there’s no issues with that. So you know the people dealing with the candidates are very, very good at what they do. The guys dealing with the clients are very, very good at what they do. So there’s no. You know, just saying that you can only do back office jobs or you can only do middle office jobs is just again a bit of a a bias that people have that just isn’t. You know, we haven’t found that whatsoever. You know you can do the full life cycle out in India, no doubt about that. Again, the English skills are excellent. You know, we have no problem with that. The team members that we have are all highly educated. They have university degrees. They’re, you know, very smart people and they do. A great job.

Ketan Gajjar

You know, I’m sure this is also down to 2 factors. One is the service provider, the knowledge you know of the service provider. And 2 is, you know, the amount of time you invest in hand holding and training your offshore team to work as your processes, because you must have those checks and balances in place to make sure that you know they are following your process. And then you sort of covered it earlier that if you leave them to fend, you know, on their own, it’s not going to work. So making sure that that knowledge transfer is done through and through, you know, after the transition those reviews happen, you know core elements. So how do you manage, you know from performance perspective? Because that’s another question that. A lot of people have. And you know, this is from my. Experience that OK. We know we’re going to be having. A team of. 5 You know, recruiters offshore, what happens if you know they don’t work out, so how did you? Welcome these challenges. When you started, you know, back in 2017, especially with, with, with your sales and you know compliance, Middle Office.

Jason Stewart

Sure. So we developed a kind of suite of information on KPIs, which is all the basic stuff of call times, number of dials, you know, number of referrals, reactivations, dropouts, all of that information. And we have on every single RC, right throughout all our offices. So we can see at a glance who’s doing what. He’s doing well.

He’s not doing so well, so we manage, you know, very, very closely all of those metrics. And with that, we can see. We you know how we’re how we’re doing and we have a very granular, you know, overview of the business. So it’s a it it’s we got a lot of detail there that we review and that is that really helps us manage all of those operations out there.

Ketan Gajjar

Sure. You know, obviously we’ve got, you know, a couple of 100 people working offshore and attracting their talent to work for you. You know is. Is obviously not being an easy job, especially in a highly competitive. Of it. So what factors do you put in place to make sure that you know people want to work for DRC? And then I’m sure you know, obviously there are the things you mentioned about the bike trip that, that that you did for your for one of your teams. Apart from that, what tips would you have for you know, others who want to, you know, leverage this model?

Jason Stewart

Sure. I mean we pay them well compared to the local market. So you know successful people are well paid. They’re incentive trips, we’re transfer. Current we give a huge amount of communication so they anyone joining our company has access to the senior management team and that’s, you know, crucial, right. So they know if they’ve got an issue, they know who to go to get the issue fixed, right, whether that’s their line manager or their team leader. You know their Dom, they’re director. One of the guys in the UK who they can speak to, so there are lots of. Different sort of individuals that they can go to solve the problem and recruiters like that because they come up against issues you know every day and they want to go to somebody to get them fixed and we help them fix those problems, right. So we help them become more successful. And with that, they can see they can grow, they can. You know, build more gross margin, they can get more Commission, they can go on incentive trips. So it becomes a good virtuous circle. So yeah, it’s that interaction that they have and the ability to solve their problems and help them grow as individuals. That is extremely important and that motivates them and that’s why they come to join DRC. Because they get that kind of interaction.

Ketan Gajjar

Totally. Totally. And you know, this is a very, you know, crucial point. So you work with more than a couple of service providers in offshore. What’s the logic behind, you know, working with multiple parties and you know, essentially, you know, somebody would work with one partner to make sure that you know everything sort of in one place, you know, one stop shop, what triggered you to work with? You know, multiple suppliers.

Jason Stewart

Sure. So offshoring, uh, you know, is pretty strategic for us as a company. So those suppliers are really strategic and I simply don’t want all my eggs in one basket. That’s just not good business, right. So I don’t want all my operations just with one supplier. Occurs when it comes to negotiations then. That supply has a lot. Of power. So I’ve, you know, spread the risk with a number of suppliers and that really works for us. It gives us competition. Between suppliers in India, which is really important, keeps everybody on their toes and also it’s good for internal competition with the sales teams because they’re competing against each other, right? So it gives us those 2 benefits and it just means that in negotiations I’m in control, right? I’m not sitting there, you know, at the end of the desk with somebody. Saying, you know, here’s the next set of pricing that we’re going to agree. We don’t have those kind of conversations. So it’s really important that you don’t have all your eggs in one basket. That’s been, you know, one of our key strategies that we’ve had right from the get go.

Ketan Gajjar

Sure. So the and then that raises the question of maintaining quality, you know, because you’re working with multiple parties and then you know then you know obviously managing the performance, the logistics, the, the sort of challenges that comes, you know with OK, fine. You know how much time I’m going to dedicate with, you know, with supplier and which team? How do you guys manage it?

Jason Stewart

Well, we, we spread ourselves between all the operations equally. So we’re constantly, you know having an update with each of the offices and you know it’s just that communication between officers and. Importantly, the suppliers know that, so they know how much you know how on top of our business we are. We know each of the individuals. We’re the first one to hear if somebody ‘s unhappy, right? And if there’s somebody, you know, we want to ensure they are happy, then you know we let the supplier know about it. So we are all over our business and they know that and that’s really crucial to that. Kind of relationship and that really helps us manage, you know the various suppliers.

Ketan Gajjar

Definitely so. And then one of the aphorisms that I have is that, you know, if you want offshore to be successful, you know, treat your offshore team members just like you treat your onshore teams, do you, do you agree with this Jason and you’ll?

Jason Stewart

Ohh totally that’s that. That’s it’s going to be transparent. It’s gotta be on a level playing field and they have to feel that they’re part of the team. And they’re equal to every other team member. You know, in the business. That’s absolutely. Crucial if they feel like they’re the poor cousins or guess what they’re gonna perform like the. Poor cousins, right? They’re not. They’re not gonna. You’re not gonna get the best out of them if they’re sitting there thinking, well, we never hear from these people in the UK, we don’t get any of the good jobs.

You know, we’re sitting twiddling our thumbs. We get no direction, we get no training. Well, guess what if that’s how they feel? Well, it’s no surprise they’re not gonna succeed, right? And they’ll move on somewhere else. So it’s absolutely crucial that you know, they see themselves as equally important as anyone else in the business and that’s how we treat everybody.

Ketan Gajjar

So in summary, you know to make offshoring successful irrespective of the sector. You know you want to make sure that no one is, you know, you’re committed and you know that there’s that messaging, you know, across the team that you know it’s just one of our branch offices and then we have to make sure that you know we make it work and then we do exactly everything to. Make those people successful as we do in house. Would that be?

The idea for anybody who wants to start, you know obviously then working it backwards through in terms of, you know, scoping out what activities they want to offshore and then you know working in tandem with the offshore partner rather than you know just giving all through, OK fine, start from tomorrow and you know, there’s 5000 pounds worth of GM, you know, KPI from month one onwards.

Jason Stewart

Yeah, I mean.

Ketan Gajjar

Would that work?

Jason Stewart

You know, you have to. You’ve got to sell it to your UK team, that it’s not about replacement of jobs. You’re not taking what they do and offshoring it. This is a complex. To the office in the UK to the team in the UK and also what it does for the team in the UK, it gives them fantastic experience and fantastic, you know, potential for their career going forward because there’s so many opportunities. You know we have people who were running small teams when they kind of came on board. Of 6 or 7 people, and they’re now managing offshore teams of, you know, 100 people. So there’s a huge amount of scope for individuals in the UK to interact with offshore teams. It’s really good for their career and it’s good for their prospects. So it’s a win win. For both parties.

Ketan Gajjar

Totally, totally. So if there’s a one giveaway, you know from Jason Stewart, you know about offshoring and, you know, moving from doubting the model to making it work, what would that be?

Jason Stewart

Uh, go visit, get on a plane and go visit, you know, and go visit some of the operations in Ahmedabad, go visit RPO Arena. You know, go and meet the sales guys, go and speak to the sales guys. Right. You’ll be absolutely shocked at what they’re capable of doing and what they’re billing because they, you know, there’s some fantastic. The billers I know this fantastic billers in your office K town right outside your door there, right? And so get on a plane and go visit these guys and see what’s going. On that, that’s that would be the one thing that you know everybody that goes and sees the operations out there. They’re always shocked and they come back and they go, wow, I didn’t realize all of that. Was going on. So it’s really about visiting India and seeing what’s, you know, going to visit the operations.

Ketan Gajjar

I mean as you already you know visited so many times and you know I wrote this blog last year. You know that, you know India or other Ahmedabad is now mini Milton Keynes or many Skipton you know? When it comes to healthcare recruitment. And then you know, there are at least a couple of 1000, you know, recruiters, you know, working in the industry for some of the largest and mid sized, you know, healthcare staffing companies, you know from the UK and now you know. Offices in Ahmedabad. So I think it’s for the companies to leverage the model, of course, you know, you won’t make sure that there’s commitment, but you really did Jason, you know, have a conversation go visit. See for yourself, because this is exactly how things work. And you know you’re one of the businesses that have leveraged it very well.

Jason Stewart

Yeah, I mean it’s very exciting. Our plans are to open another, you know, 5 offices in the next couple of years. There’s so much talent in India, so you know, so many people who have great communication skills, well educated, highly motivated, and it’s a great place to do business. So yeah, we see it as absolutely. Forward to our business going forward.

Ketan Gajjar

Fantastic. Fantastic, Jason. Thank you very much for sharing your insights and being on the recruitment cover show and yeah, look forward to many more insights in the future.

Jason Stewart

It’s great to see you Ketan. All the best. Thanks very much. Cheers. Take care. Bye bye.

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