Yes I was at it again! 5.30am on a 4 degree Celsius dark and windy morning- I was donning the lycra, extra thermal base layers and preparing for a long cycle to my holiday destination for the next 5 days. The end goal was to meet the family 102 miles north at Center parcs just past the Lake District. I had planned the route about 5 times, google mapping the roads to make sure they were suitable and more importantly weren’t busy dual carriages ways and even included a 10 mile uphill segment into the exposed hill tops of the picturesque lake passes.

The early morning cycle went well, no punctures, no wrong turns, and only a bit of a sugar and mental crash going up the 10 mile hill from Kendal to Shap. In fact I was there before the kids so I got some extra brownie points and was rushed off to the swimming pools to entertain them – which was just as tiring. Now for some people this distance is a walk in the park. For others it would be a similar challenge to me or even more. But as Dave Brailsford (GM and Performance Director for team sky- GB Cycling team) it’s all about “aggregation of marginal gains”.

Whatever we want to be in life, whatever sports we do, whatever challenges we set ourselves, this aggregation of marginal gains can be applied to help individuals achieve their goals whether it be short term, long terms or at those difficult plateau/ sticking times.

Over the last 8 years in manufacturing and engineering I have always set myself targets, or been set targets, KPI’s to hit and mostly they have been surpassed and other times it has been a close thing. In order to grow constantly though it can be a difficult thing to achieve, mentally. I have my goals for a set period but when times get tough, whether its head hunting for a technical role or starting a new market from scratch we can get caught up in the moment- firefighting. This is the time we need to look at those marginal gains – the 1 percent margin for improvement in everything you do. If you improved every area related to your work/hobby/ cycling by just 1 percent, then those small gains would add up to remarkable improvement.

In recruitment these marginal gains can cover areas such as CV searching, business development, technical knowledge, lead generation, and back office admin tasks. In order to improve our recruitment process we started from scratch with every single process examined and re examined and talked through. Only when you have got down to every detail can you start to build a better picture of the 1% improvements which can then be improved upon.

Dave Brailsford and his team at GB Cycling searched for 1 percent improvements in tiny areas that were overlooked by almost everyone else: discovering the pillow that offered the best sleep and taking it with them to hotels, testing for the most effective type of massage gel, and teaching riders the best way to wash their hands to avoid infection. They searched for 1 percent improvements everywhere.

All too often we set ourselves goals which have to be something of a large scale, like losing weight, cycling a century, billing 30k a month on a new desk. But these moments are not a one off stand alone achievement- they are a combination of a large number of decisions, achievements and actions. The cycle I did last week was a combination of marginal gains/ improvements in training, preparation, mental ability over the last 2 months. A goal of a 1 in 2 placement figures on all vacancies taken on in our recruitment process has been achieved recently but again this was through a number of marginal gains in different areas of recruitment over the last 6 months.

There is power in small wins and slow gains. Improving by just 1% can sometimes feel too small and inadequate but remember it’s all about the aggregation of all of those marginal gains. So what are you looking to improve at work today?

~ Carl Boslem