Independent help with bright ideas_2

With expansion a top priority, e2v needed to standardise its recruitment processes and turned to RPO experts Independent

January 2012

With expansion a top priority, e2v needed to standardise its recruitment processes and turned to RPO experts Independent


Headquartered in Chelmsford, e2v is a specialised global technical business with sales topping $320m (£206m). Starting life in the 1940s as the English Electric Valve Company, it was acquired by GEC in the late 1960s, changing its name in 1999 to Marconi Applied Technologies as part of the rebrand of GEC to Marconi, and finally in 2002, following a management buy-out by chief executive Keith Attwood, the company renamed itself e2v.

Its specialist products include components for satellite and space programmes, devices for the aerospace and defence sectors, and medical and scientific imaging machines. Last year, for example, e2v’s Argus thermal imaging cameras played a crucial role in helping search & rescue teams find survivors following Japan’s earthquake.

The company was looking to expand, particularly in the UK, but with such specialised products and services, the roles required niche skills, such as design engineers. Dina Knight, HR director at e2v, has been with the company for over a year and her predecessor, an interim HR director, had set the wheels in motion for transforming recruitment at the company. “E2v didn’t really have a standardised recruitment process,” she told Recruiter. “There was an agreed list of suppliers, which the hiring managers used, but it was all fairly ad hoc.”

The suggestion was to bring in a recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) firm to try and standardise the recruitment. “I had used an RPO solution in my previous company so I’d been through it and seen the benefits,” Knight explained. The challenge was to control costs and introduce consistency in recruiting, and at the same time fill those niche, technical roles. And the RPO solution e2v decided on was HR consultancy and outsourced specialist, Independent.



Philip Clarke, director at Warwickshire-based Independent, said the approach came out of the blue. “The company was transforming into a hi-tech firm, growing and investing during difficult times,” he told Recruiter. However, he added: “They were very good at HR but the recruitment wasn’t very standardised. There was no co-ordination, with managers all going off to different recruitment agencies.”

Clarke explained: “Governance and control were needed so we put in a proposal. What could we offer to do very quickly to slow costs?” He told Recruiter e2v had a technical recruiter onsite, who placed lots of people for lower level positions but not what was needed for their hi-tech roles. “There needed to be more attention paid to higher-level niche roles. Some roles hadn’t been filled for six months plus.” Independent’s solution was to put five people on the case — two onsite and two offsite, with good support from Clarke. Independent helped the e2v team with talent mapping, highlighting exactly where the company needed those niche skills. “It was constantly moving, very fast paced,” Clarke said. “It’s a very positive business with high quality products. The roles were very niche and very difficult-to hire. We had some false starts in the beginning,” he admitted.

Knight said it wasn’t hard getting ‘buy-in’ from the hiring managers. “We needed to communicate to managers that this new way of doing things was to make their life easier,” she explained. And there was little resistance. So was she pleased with the relationship so far? “We took Independent on as a trial,” she said. “They sit in the HR team, for the delivery and tracking of vacancies. They do a very good job and are a good fit. They’ve narrowed down the number of agencies so we can get a PSL [preferred suppliers list] of about 20 agencies.”

Knight also revealed that the company recruited 16 graduates last year, with Independent helping with the screening. Clarke added: “We parachuted in an extra person to help with the graduate programme.” The time-to-fi ll for the specialist roles has greatly improved from an average of six months to three, Knight said. “From January to October [2011] we took on around 100 positions, with half through Independent,” she told Recruiter. “Independent worked very hard at it — they delivered and have done a good job. They have helped us standardise our recruiting and build our employer brand and identity.”

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