Nakama News – Our Group CEO speaks to Shortlist

Nakama Group plc CEO, Rob Sheffield speaks to recruitment publication Shortlist on the HR challenges of growing a business.

Read the full article here:

Short list:

Top recruitment executives share their hindsight regrets


Creating a high performance culture.

At the recent Vivid talks in Sydney I had the privilege of listening to a variety of industry experts talk about a range of topics, from the multi generation work forces that employers are now dealing with to leadership, C21 talent and culture. Speakers ranged from the engaging Dr Fiona Kerr, Paul D’Arcy and Rahaf Hafoish, to name a few. The emphasis on most talks that day was around leadership, change and culture going hand in hand.

This struck a huge cord with me especially, based on what we are doing at Nakama and being able to observe many of the organisations we work with. For our clients and for us, finding good talent is key and the word culture gets used a great deal. What makes a great culture? How do some organisations quickly align with a common set of practices while others don’t? Being a multi geographical organisation, how do we continue to coordinate and integrate efforts globally? We are well on the way to setting clear values, expectations and processes, but how does any organisation prevent them from falling behind, or in some cases, operating behind the curve every step of the way.

Leadership within an organisation is the driver for culture. What interests me is how and why some organisations and leaders are able to achieve significant and lasting performance that catapults them ahead of the competition (or falls flat). What is the criteria for success vs. failure?

One of our training partners has continued to do great work with us on what defines our Nakama culture. Most of you will remember the breakout session, looking at how we define culture as “the way things get done around here.” This drives behaviour and ultimately performance. If a business, no matter how large or small, is able to define and set very clear and aligned values and processes, it has been proven that it will consistently outperform those that cannot. That does not mean that we should not look to evolve. One of the take home points for any leadership group is that you need to understand what you need to do to stay relevant – when to pivot according to the environment you operate in.

So what does a business and leadership team in today’s environment need to deliver high performance? There are numerous opinions on this. The 4 that resonate the most with me are:

  1. We must understand that we don’t work the way we used to and that we need to lead and manage differently. The workplace is changing and that includes traditional business models. We are now in a commercial environment where adoptive leadership is increasingly important. Agile workplaces are quicker to grasp this than traditional business models.
  1. Businesses and leaders within must have the ability to identify and to let go of the existing behaviours and practices that are no longer contributing to success. Getting people to acknowledge and understand that certain ways of doing things are no longer effective and actually getting them to change is a challenge all businesses face. Businesses that get this right take the time to change behaviours that are no longer supporting the desired goals. A common failure is that management dictate change and this in nearly all cases leads to failure. It is a big deal for people to be comfortable with giving up the way they’ve always done things. Some take it as what they’ve been doing all along was wrong.  Fear is a huge factor: “I might not be able to succeed if asked to do things differently!” Most importantly, leaders need to be role models for the behaviour and expectations, as if they don’t, then nothing will change.
  1. The ability to include all relevant stakeholders in the conversation is key. You cannot build a culture that is not centred on a collective concept. Leadership within an organisation has a huge responsibility for developing and demonstrating the culture, however it is not all down to them. Stakeholder input is key and if you have an environment that develops trusting relationships then you have a much stronger chance of the collective contributing to, and creating, the culture.
  1. Last but not least, everyone needs to be able to take a long hard look in the mirror. We operate in a world where we are constantly bombarded with information and the speed of business and change is moving faster than ever before. If you cannot take stock, pause for a moment to think and answer the simple or difficult questions, then you run the risk of continuing to do things exactly the way you always have. The challenges that businesses face now have changed and evolved over time, just as the culture of an organisation needs to. If you are able to pause then you are going to be far better positioned as an individual or organisation to identify the need to change or not, in order to keep pace with the market and drive results.

Leadership within organisations needs to navigate and change or overcome deeply rooted assumptions and behaviours within the environment that are preventing success. This can only happen if you are willing to take a long hard look in the mirror, ask the difficult questions and dig deep into what needs to change. That is the only way you can encourage people to let go of the traditional behaviours that, in many cases, no longer serve the purpose and goals of the organisation.

Rob Sheffield is Nakama’s APAC CEO and is based in Sydney.

Meet our new NAKAMA Managing Director


Name – Josephine Garniss (AKA Jo)

Title – Managing Director, Singapore

Sector – Technology

What am I known for professionally? Probably for having worked in recruitment since last century!!!  Also for being in Singapore working across the Asia market for seven years, an opportunity I’m very grateful for.  I suppose longevity isn’t such a bad thing in our industry.

What do I have a knack for? Making people feel comfortable.  I’ve been complimented on my ability to work with people from all sorts of cultural backgrounds.  I enjoy the challenge, and occasional frustration, of working a diverse market.

Where can you find me when I’m not working?  Usually on a beach somewhere in SEA… One of the reasons I love living in Singapore is the ease getting on a plane on a Friday night for a couple of hours and finding yourself in some pretty special places for the weekend.

Favourite App – Until recently I’ve had a long standing love affair with a BlackBerry (the dumbest smart phone around), so I think it is too soon for me to name a favourite… it’s a whole new world for me at the moment!

Social Media channel of choice – Twitter for work, Instagram for play.

What would be impossible for me to give up? 95g cans of Sirena tuna (in oil), because you can’t buy them in Singapore.  I buy them in slabs of 36 when I’m at home and if you’re coming from Australia to stay with me it is an unwritten rule of entry to our house…

Any secret talents? If I told you it wouldn’t be a secret…

Jo is based in Singapore and can be reached on +65 9235 5730 or

The true meaning of Kaizen

Working for Nakama I am often asked when meeting people ‘Oh are you a Japanese company?’ and of course the answer is no. The name Nakama was selected due to its translation around circle of friends, partners and associates. I like this and I like Japan so it’s not surprising that Nakama isn’t the only ‘Japan related’ (in some sense of the word) business I have gravitated towards and learned from during my career.

Upon arriving back in the UK from my post-University travels I stepped into the professional work place and found myself working with a businessman by the name of Mr Kurahashi. Kurahashi san was the GM of the European arm of a Japanese car parts manufacturer who supplied plastic components to the European market, mainly Toyota. It was a small satellite office comprising of me plus 4 other members and my role involved assisting him in dealing with buyers, logistics and managing the European based factories we employed as suppliers to make the parts.

Kurahashi san and I traveled across Europe to places like France, Poland, Germany and Hungary together and what I learned from him during those endless hours in airports, taxi cabs and hotel lobbies will forever stay with me.

One of the things he taught me was about the Japanese meaning of ‘Kaizen’

Kaizen is the practice of continuous improvement based on certain guiding principles and by making many small and ongoing process improvements.

I could see how this was absolutely relevant in the manufacturing world in which we were operating, certainly where production and logistics were involved, making production more efficient and supply chains more streamlined.

It made sense. However, it wasn’t until in later life that I realized that Kaizen can be adapted in any working environment and is something that should be continuously developed, especially in my field of recruitment. The value of an always developing and efficient recruitment process; at every touch point along the way, can benefit businesses immensely and save millions of dollars.

The time it takes to, post, screen, interview, select, discuss, reference check, survey salaries, have a contract printed, posted out, stamp placed on the envelope(!), verbally make an offer and then finally accepted, plus on boarded in some organisations can involve a variety of different peoples time during the course of the entire process, and then all of that work is only equal to one hire, who may in turn chose to ultimately join a business or not, at which point the process may need to start all over again.

Therefore, the need to have consultants in our business who build close relationships with their clients that are constantly worked on and tweaked to be highly efficient running processes (or machines) is a majorly important part of what we need to do if our clients are to get good value from our services.

You see the other lesson Mr Kurahashi taught me was that ‘people do business, with people who it is easy to do business with’, which rings true in an ever improving and streamline process for repeat and long lasting relationships.

This also has to work the other way. All recruiters have their ‘favorite clients’, and the pre-conception on this is that ‘a recruiter’s favorite client may simply be the one who gives them the most business’. From my experience this is generally NEVER the case. It is actually the client who is ‘easy to work with’ and who they have a great understanding and efficient & ever evolving working process in place; this is generally the client who gets the recruiters undivided attention, best candidates, and thus get the most value from it.

Therefore, by working on a little process improvement every single day, it goes a long way to building long lasting, efficient, ever improving relationships and streamlined recruitment processes. These in turn are what create healthy business transactions in our sector, that are only good ones ‘when both parties get value from them’… another wise piece of wisdom passed on by the great Mr Kurahashi.

Adam Williams is Managing Director of Nakama Hong Kong.

Commercial experience vs a degree

When hiring, does a degree outplay commercial experience? Discussions about the value of a degree vs hands on experience have been around for a long time, but choosing which has more value is tough.

On one hand, education demonstrates the ability to learn, however commercial experience is also essential, especially in an industry that moves as quickly as the digital market.

There will always be circumstances where experience trumps education, and vice versa. It could completely depend on the needs of the hirer.  For example, some organisations have HR policies in place which mean they can only hire candidates with degree backgrounds.

There’s no right or wrong answer, and in most instances, employers will weigh one against the other equally to find the best person for the job.

Recruitment has changed over the last 20 years and what we’ve noticed is that gone are the days when hirers would only fill positions with degree educated candidates. Now a candidate who demonstrates day-to-day commercial experience and knowledge is just as important as a candidate who has a degree.

There’s an industry saying; it’s not a degree that makes a person successful; it’s how they apply it. So regardless of educational background, an employer will hire the candidate who demonstrates the most motivation, ambition and drive, because that’s what drives a business forward.