Now the company’s managing director, Sasza Bandiera began his recruitment career with Oyster Partnership in 2008 as a trainee, having previously worked in sales for four years.
He reveals that since the day of the interview, he has gone on to develop a loyalty for the company and what it stands for, sharing, “It has been fantastic to be part of the journey so far and I have watched many employees work towards a career that they are proud of.”
Originally set up in 2004, Oyster now has over 60 employees, all based in the company’s London headquarters. Focusing on the property sector, the team recruit for contract and permanent positions in both the public and private sectors, primarily in the UK, but also across Europe and the Middle East.
In 2013, Bandiera became managing director of Oyster and he reveals that in the five years since his appointment, the company has gone through some significant changes, including the development of the business’ vision, mission and values. He explains, “It was important that communication was open to everyone at the business, and that they knew what I wanted to achieve.” The company has also gained a talent and HR team and a marketing team and seen the introduction of new divisions. With these changes now implemented, he is looking to open more divisions while continuing to invest in his people’s mental health, well-being, training and personal development.
Strong company values
Even though Oyster is always changing to adapt to the recruitment market, Oyster’s core culture remains the same. The company lives by its four main values: Dedication, proactivity, integrity, and understanding, Bandiera comments, “The people at Oyster are our strength. With an almost 50/50 male to female split they all come from an amazing range of backgrounds; geographically, educationally and in terms of level of work experience.”Bandiera adds, “We’re ambitious and the team are serious about the personal goals they want to achieve. They realise Oyster can be the vehicle for them to get there.”
The company continues to tailor and update its benefits package, which is already ahead of the market with high levels of commission and regular holiday incentives for employees, with a relatively new addition since 2016 being that each employee is able to take two charity days per year, which doesn’t count towards annual leave.
Oyster is also investing in the mental health and well-being of its employees with flexible working options and a weekly fitness Friday Summer bootcamp. Bandiera shares, “I think that our people can see that we are investing in them and we want them to stay at Oyster. The career path now allows progression to both management and non-management roles.” He adds that the key to ensuring staff remain engaged is to listen to them and take on board their feedback on how to improve the company’s offering.
Training key to success
As someone who has developed his career with Oyster, Bandiera is committed to training and development at the company. All new employees are now given a bespoke training and on-boarding package, which is produced and delivered by the management team. There is also a leadership training course and a programme for developing senior consultants into the next phase of their career.
Explaining the importance of this, he says, “I’ve made plenty of mistakes growing the business and have learnt the hard way lots of times. I truly believe that having the ‘right’ person with the ‘right’ attitude and principles to do the job is the most important thing in recruitment, then spending time developing them is the next stage. They’re not only the foundations of success, but the future too.”
When it comes to the current opportunities for the business, Bandiera highlights the ambitious plans he has to expand over the next five years. He is considering the possibility of international expansion and is looking to bolster eight teams and start three new divisions in the next year.
Key to this growth will be the continued development of the leadership team, which in turn will support further expansion. Finding new talent is, however, a current challenge and something he doesn’t see changing anytime soon. He says, “London is a very competitive market. It is vital that businesses stand out and are different in the right way.
Luckily, the edge I believe we have is a natural one – our people!” For Bandiera, people are also the key when it comes to retaining talent, and he shares that the importance of a great manager can never be overestimated.
In addition to the challenge of finding talent to join the business, there are also skills shortages affecting the sector Oyster operates in. After the recession, the company noticed a decrease in skilled workers and those taking property-related degrees, as people opted for more technological-based roles.
This has led to skilled workers demanding higher salaries, with some having salaries of over 50 per cent above the market rate. Whether candidates are in high or low demand, Bandiera stresses, “Candidates are as important today as they have been from when I started working at Oyster in 2008. Candidates are everything in recruitment and always have been.” Technological advancements, particularly the increased use of video, are impacting the Oyster business for the better.
Bandiera shares, “A key investment for the business has been in video advertising. People love to watch video online nowadays. It’s quick, easy and less time-consuming in comparison to reading a long article – it just makes sense in the busy world we live in.” Artificial intelligence, in comparison, is relatively new to the business, but he adds that the company is looking into the benefits and possible working partnerships it will bring.
As a company that operates in both the private and public sectors, IR35 was one piece of legislation that did have an effect on the Oyster business. The team, however, were prepared for this, and longer term, it’s proved to have some benefits for the company. “We have forged even better business relationships as we were so well prepared and understood the legislation,” Bandiera shares, “People were happy with our knowledge and advice, so inadvertently used our services because we went above and beyond to ensure our procedures were seamless.”
The Brexit result also had an impact on Oyster, with the property sector rocked by the vote to leave the EU. In the months directly after the result, many funds and investors suspended trading within their UK property funds, which led to recruitment freezes and professionals being less inclined to move jobs.
Longer term, however, things have been quite different: “The general consensus was that the result would have a negative effect on investment into the UK market, however, the reality is in fact the complete opposite. With the weakening pound against the dollar, euro and yuan, foreign investment is soaring, namely by those looking to ‘grab a bargain’. Thankfully, investment is on the up, confidence in the market is being restored and our clients are once again on the hunt for individuals of the highest calibre.”
Building robust relationships
During his 10 years in the industry, Bandiera has seen a rise in the use of social media and related tech platforms in recruitment. This rise in technology has seen recruiters spending more time off the phone, which is something he is keen to change. He shares, “I feel not using the phone loses that magic touch of building robust relationships.
This is something that I am passionate about; it’s the most important part of recruitment!” He is certain that technology will continue to play a greater role in recruitment in the coming years, making it more competitive. There are macroeconomic factors, however, such as skills shortages that he thinks will continue to impact the industry. Therefore, he emphasises that having a niche business and building strong, long-lasting relationships remains the key to success.
When asked what he enjoys about working in the industry, Bandiera reflects on his time as both a consultant and as an MD. As a consultant, he reveals, “I loved talking through a client’s problem and listening to what they wanted, understanding their issues and then spending all night and day taking that to market until I found the right professionals.
Calling the client when you’re excited to pitch to them is like nothing else.” Now in his leadership role, he says the biggest reward is seeing a trainee join and then grow with the business. For Bandiera, Oyster is supporting people to achieve things both in and outside of the office, because of the opportunities available.
Throughout his career to date, Bandiera has been able to grow with the support of key mentors. He explains that during his career at Oyster, founder, Daniel Whomes, now his business partner, had a huge influence on his career, “Dan hired me, and from that moment, encouraged, motivated and mentored me, helping me to work up through the business to the top.
He has backed me every step of the way and without Dan, I wouldn’t be where I am today. It is amazing to think that ten years ago I joined him as a trainee and I am now his business partner.” Oyster also brought on two interim non-executive directors at important stages to add their vast experience. Bandiera was able to learn from Russell Clements (ex-CEO of SThree): “Russ brought a PLC global business angle to Oyster that we’d never seen before”. More recently, Paul Flynn (ex-MD and co-founder of Staffgroup) has advised Oyster and Bandiera says, “Paul has coached me through further aspects of running a business and all its intricacies. He has pushed and tested me, and shown me that anything is possible.”
Learning and growing with the help of his mentors, Bandiera reflects on the key to great leadership. He explains that a company’s vision, mission and values will keep the business aligned, but it is also vital to, “Live and breathe what you preach, support your team through thick and thin, delegate and give autonomy to those who are wanting and willing to learn. As MD, I realise that the management team are developing the next generation to ensure success – the key is to listen to them and build their career.” With this focus on looking after his staff, it seems Bandiera is set to grow Oyster in the coming years and expand its offering.