Sarah Fletcher spoke to Andy Hill, head of executive resourcing and development at Vodafone, about engaging and developing employees and why a teaser campaign is the key to improving career opportunities.
Attracting job candidates isn’t difficult for Vodafone, but that’s part of the problem. As head of executive resourcing and development, Andy Hill faces a recruitment challenge: how do you manage a huge volume of applicants, leave even the unsuccessful candidates feeling warm about the experience and develop the talents of current staff? Further, how do you use the company’s brand identity to improve the recruitment process?
Vodafone’s brand is Red, Rock and Restless – “Red passionate, rock solid and restless to achieve,” explains Hill. Using this as a mission statement and guideline of the type of people the business wants to recruit, how does the process work?
Disappointment is inevitable, argues Hill. Given the huge volume of candidates applying for jobs, “a lot of people will be disappointed,” he says. “Lots of these unsuccessful candidates will be Vodafone customers and we’d like them to stay that way. It doesn’t take a lot to lose them.” Consumers can move fairly easily and cheaply between competing mobile phone providers, so creating a pleasant recruitment experience is crucial.
This, however, is problematic if the candidates fail to turn up for the second stage of interviews. The company suffered a “huge drop-out” when the candidates that had passed the initial CV screening process were then invited to an assessment centre. Hill suggests this was due to applicants feeling uncertain and intimidated by what may be expected of them.
The solution, Hill says, was to make the process as transparent as possible, clearly outlining an information pack the competencies required from applicants and a detailed agenda of the day’s events. This strategy produced an “almost immediate improvement” in attendance rates; which increased by 15 percent over the first six months of introducing the changes.
Almost two thirds of vacancies at Vodafone are filled by existing staff, which is largely due to an initiative to make employees more aware of new opportunities within the company. In the first 18 months of this programme, 71 percent of available jobs – around 1,800 positions – were filled from among the current workforce. This figure is now around 60 percent, which, Hill estimates, is around 30 to 40 percent higher than the industry average. Such impressive figures are the result of a drive to improve the transferral and sharing of information across the company, creating a “very open and transparent” system of email alerts and vacancy updates on the organisation’s intranet.
New vacancies are made available to employees for ten days before the job is advertised externally, and to improve development opportunities, Vodafone interviews applicants that meet 70 percent of the role’s criteria – if the candidate is successful, the company provides training to improve this match.
Obviously, the success of this recruitment programme relies upon employees actually wanting to develop their careers and being aware of where their role may take them. “The perception of career opportunities is not always good; it means so many things to so different people,” says Hill. In 2005 he embarked upon a campaign to improve staff awareness of development opportunities, which was, he says, “the biggest project I’ve ever undertaken in my career”.
Staff are often unclear about what exactly their employer wants from them – often even a job description or key performance indicators only provide a rough guide. Also, although a reward package and development opportunities can have a huge influence upon retention rates, many organisations are poor at communicating to staff exactly how they could benefit by working for the company. This logic guided Vodafone’s “It’s All in Front of You” campaign, which aimed to clearly lay out what the firm would do for the employee and what was expected in return.
Overnight, inspirational messages appeared in every Vodafone building across the country; on windows, staff were greeted in the morning with a sticker saying “Window of opportunity”. On lifts, the label “Lift yourself higher”; on steps, “Step up”. This carefully marketed teaser campaign interested employees enough to make them willing to participate in the company’s Career Week.
Through a series of events and a career bus which travelled the country, staff were trained on how to network, identify their career assets and prepped on interview technique. The programme involved staff in call centres, an area of business which is infamous for its especially high turnover rate. Boasting a 96 percent attendance rate, Hill says this strategy improved retention figures, increased the number of visits to the internal careers website and increased the volume of internal applications.
So what’s next? “The next stage is how we align it to our market strategies and to the brand; how we evolve it,” says Hill. By promoting the image of Vodafone employees along the Red, Rock and Restless brand, the company will continue to improve its recruitment process and retain those staff that are “red passionate, rock solid and restless to achieve”. With an internal recruitment rate of 60 percent, it seems that the strategy works.