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Recruiter Awards 2014 Special

May 2014 | By Recruiter editorial team

Leading men

The Agency and In-house Recruitment Leaders of the Year are always tough categories but the cream always comes to the top, as they say

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ formula for either a leader or for the demands of leadership. 

But in their very differences, Chris Marsh and Raj Tulsiani each represent the spectrum of challenges faced by recruitment and resourcing leaders today. 

Winner of the 2014 Recruiter Award for In-house Recruitment Leader of the Year, Marsh is director of resourcing at international design, engineering and project management organisation Atkins. Tulsiani, voted the 2014 Recruitment Agency Leader of the Year, is chief executive officer (CEO) and co-founder of Green Park Interim & Executive Search.

At Atkins, growth — in the form of a number of new contracts around the world — means that that the company needs to “ramp up recruitment”, Marsh tells Recruiter. At the same time, as the economy appears poised for recovery, candidates’ confidence is still fragile — and so is that of line managers. 

Line managers have to find their feet again in recruitment after a few dry years, and persuading “anxious” candidates to move for new roles is difficult, Marsh says. Crucial to the Atkins approach now is to offer candidates careers instead of jobs. “Part of the advantage we have is we can offer different geographies; we have skill divisions with more than 20 engineering disciplines,” Marsh says. 

As a result, employees can already move to different jobs throughout the company but as Marsh considers his future priorities, improved internal mobility is high on the list. An internal careers portal “to bring to life” the proposition of offering a career rather than a job is among the improvements he’d like to make, Marsh said.

He credits his team with helping him to accomplish the achievements that led to his Award. To be a leader in his role, Marsh says he has to “have a foot” in different camps, those of the team and in the business, to analyse and interpret different needs, take on board feedback from the business, and “to really make business success our focus”.

As Green Park’s CEO, Tulsiani leads the business he co-founded in 2006. He also leads an informal external drive to get his clients and the wider business world to recognise and understand “the business case for looking at talent differently” in terms of ensuring that diverse talent is represented in UK executive suites, senior management and throughout the workforce of today and tomorrow.

He adds: “But not everyone wants to understand.”

Diversity and inclusion are a focus for Tulsiani, who is proud to be the leader of a minority-owned business, across and beyond the mandated equality strands of age, disability, gender, transgender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion/belief. He contends that too much of diversity and inclusion consideration is “still on a visual level” instead of taking into account often unseen and intangible facets of humankind. 

Further, he adds, often it is not enough for organisations to simply invest in diversity and inclusion programmes. “I have seen significant investment in diversity, inclusion and equality but many are investing in channels through people without enough experience or gravitas to make a difference,” he explains.

Tulsiani sees his role as “offering people potential solutions. People already know what the problems are, they need to know what the solution is”. 

In leading his own company, Tulsiani sees the challenge of leadership as “about how you build a business with a particular culture and set of values, and still manage the focus that try to tear you apart from that”. 

Marsh and Tulsiani: two different leaders and different organisations, representing the best of recruitment business success.

DeeDee Doke

Capp & Co join up with Nestlé

Strengths-based recruitment is gaining momentum as the best way to identify applicants who can add the most value to an organisation, despite not necessarily being the most attractive on paper.  

And it is exactly down to this reason that the nutrition, health and wellness company Nestlé, and assessment provider Capp & Co, were awarded the Best Apprentice/School Leaver Recruitment Strategy award at this year’s Recruiter Awards for Excellence.

Nestlé initially took the decision to partner with Capp & Co to implement a strengths-based assessment strategy, which would fit in with their Fast Start programme.

And when asked why they made this decision, Tom Banham, Academy recruitment manager at Nestlé, tells Recruiter, “for us, it was a no-brainer”, as Capp & Co were able to provide a service “that no other provider could offer”.

Having launched the Nestlé Academy in 2011, the company decided to launch its Fast Start programme in 2013, in response to the rise in tuition fees and increase in youth unemployment. The three-year scheme provides school leavers with the opportunity to work in a salaried training role while studying for their degree in professional business practice at Sheffield Hallam University.

Nicky Garcea, chief customer officer (CCO) at Capp & Co, says with so many other companies taking a similar approach, it was essential that they “made the Nestlé story unique”.

“We knew that the school leaver and apprentice space is an area where more and more people are beginning to do work, so we had to make our approach stand out. A lot of people working in the sector are still finding their way — but the work we’ve done has enabled individuals from a more mobile society to enter the workplace.”

Recognising that traditional competency-based assessments would not identify a young person’s potential — as their work experience would be limited at that early age — Nestlé decided to implement a strengths-based assessment strategy, which fitted the Fast Start requirement as it looks at the combination of aptitude and energy.

Eight core strengths were recognised as critical to business success and these were measured across a series of innovative ‘day in the life’ assessments including: commercial and motivational questions; an online situational strengths test; and an assessment centre in which candidates came prepared to share an identified commercial opportunity and risk for Nestlé.

“We looked at both a strengths-based approach and a competency-based, but decided to go with the former as it was the much more positive of the two.

“A student is able to demonstrate how good they are at performing a certain task, or demonstrating a particular behaviour without having had any past experience — which for them is obviously a massive boost,” explains Garcea.

According to Nestlé, 100% of candidates agreed that the programme stands out compared to other recruiters by using a strengths-based approach. 

Banham says the programme “involves a lot of out-of-hours working”, so it takes a “certain type of individual” to apply for this kind of role.

The programme brought through the exact type of candidates they were looking for, by finding applicants who were genuinely engaged and motivated to work in the food and drinks industry. Furthermore, Nestlé was able to successfully appoint 12 talented individuals with potential to progress in the business.

The quality of candidates at assessment centres greatly exceeded expectations, with 94% of senior business leaders in the company who were involved at the assessment days reporting that the calibre was similar or higher than that of graduates, particularly in terms of how they performed, and in their “want and drive”.

Matt Bodimeade

Kent County Council shines

A retention rate of 100% among your recruits since 2011 is an impressive achievement. But that is just achievement outlined in the submission made by Kent County Council, winners of the Best Graduate Recruitment Strategy at the Recruiter Awards for Excellence. According to the judges, the council “really impressed the panel with their intelligent use of resources to run a comprehensive programme”.  

The fact that many of the graduates on the programme now in its 16th year have progressed to senior positions, including director of property and infrastructure support, is testament to a strategy that clearly delivers. 

The strategy has been designed to attract and recruit graduates with the skills to meet a number of challenges, not least budgetary pressures, as well the ability to operate and manage in an environment of local government that is undergoing continuous change. According to Sue Goymer, recruitment manager in Kent County Council’s HR business centre, within whose remit graduate recruitment sits, graduates must possess “a strong customer service ethic, as well as the ability to manage and embrace change, and not be phased by it”. 

Competition for the council’s graduate intake is intense, with 355 applications for just six graduate trainee positions last year, and 142 applications in its ongoing recruitment drive for just two graduate trainee positions in its finance department. 

Goymer ascribes some of the success of the strategy to the quality of the placements offered to graduates. “They don’t go from department to department just to see what is happening there, they get involved in projects that make a difference”, adding by way of example “they could be identifying savings targets”.

For Alison Daragon, project officer in the council’s HR business centre and a member of the Kent Graduate Programme (KGP) team, much of the success of the programme lies in the ongoing support and development given to trainees.  

When they are not working on four six-month placements, over a period of two years all the trainees come together once a week to work on a project, she explains. As part of the day, the trainees also have the opportunity to speak to her about any problems they may have. “We have ongoing feedback from the graduates, so we don’t get to the end of a placement and find out that someone has been unhappy,” says Daragon. 

The HR team also constantly monitors the effectiveness of its recruitment by comparing how the successful candidates performed in the assessment centre with their performance during their placements. “This validates our recruitment process in the assessment centre,” says Daragon. It also allows the HR team to make any adjustment in the assessment centre should that be necessary.

The views of candidates themselves are also part and parcel of the programme’s design, as are the KGP team’s ongoing efforts for continuous improvement. For example, it holds focus groups of successful candidates to help it accurately pitch the message for the next campaign. In addition to a dedicated microsite site to attract applicants, the KPG team holds open days for internal candidates with degrees. 

“This has been very successful and attracted a lot of interest,” says Goymer.

Colin Cottell

Engineering success

Air Energi, the winner of Best Engineering Recruitment Agency, is no stranger to impressing in recruitment industry league tables. The oil & gas specialist climbed 13 places in Recruiter’s latest FAST 50 list of fast-growing companies, and maintained steady growth for the past three years in the top quarter of Recruiter’s HOT 100, which lists the firms with the highest gross profit per employee. 

On the night of the Awards, Dave Townley, Air Energi’s recruitment manager, engineering — Europe, felt “we were in with a chance”, although “we were up against really strong competition”, which included the winner of the trophy for the past three years, CBSbutler. “It was a great surprise, but we are confident in our niche business,” he told Recruiter.

The engineering recruiter operates in 50 markets worldwide, employs more than 430 staff and has 3,000 consultants on assignment at any one time. Air Energi impressed the judges with its deep understanding of the engineering market, which is best seen in its work in challenging places around the world. 

An example of this is when one of its clients prepared to enter the key facilities start-up phase in its oilfield in Kazakhstan. Air Energi was required to make a substantial contribution to the recruitment, mobilisation and ongoing assignment management of most of the new team. 

This meant mobilising 65 multi-discipline engineering personnel in a three-month period. This was a particularly challenging project due to the short time scales involved and the notoriously difficult Kazakhstan visa and work permit process, but one which Air Energi successfully carried out for its client.

Donna Chapman, vice-president Europe, Africa and group permanent workforce solutions, says part of Air Energi’s success is down to its growth of permanent recruitment, from virtually nothing before 2008 to a forecast £9m for this year. With Chapman’s background in permanent solutions, she has made it a “personal mission” to focus on this part of the business, employing dedicated permanent recruitment specialists to concentrate solely in this area. “We didn’t want to become just a supplier of expats [contractors],” she told Recruiter. She seems excited about where the company is heading in permanent recruitment. “We’re still scratching the surface,” she says.

Another area where she believes Air Energi shines is in attracting the best recruiters, although they don’t necessarily have to have a background in oil & gas. This is especially true when is comes to attracting more women recruiters into the industry. Demonstrable examples from within Air Energi, such as her own, helps with this engagement. “It’s also important for our clients,” she says, adding that companies such as Shell are really committed to diversity, and in getting more women contractors into the industry.

Appealing to female graduates is often too late, she believes, as companies are all fighting for a finite number of women who have chosen to major in the STEM [science, technology, engineering and maths] subjects. Much better, she says, would be to “go down a generation” and encourage interest in these subjects at school, before pupils have chosen which subjects they want to focus on.

Having attended several Recruiter Awards in previous years, she was disappointed not to have been there the year Air Energi won, “but the mood in the office has been great and the Award is proudly on display”, Chapman tells Recruiter

Townley adds that it was fantastic to be there and a great experience to walk through the Great Room at the Grosvenor House Hotel to collect the trophy on the night. “I was really impressed with the support at the event,” he says, “and winning the Award has created a real buzz around the office.”

Vanessa Townsend

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