Personnel Today Awards – RAA Sprague Gibbons Employer Branding Award

Gary Davies – Award judge

Gary Davies is professor of corporate reputation at Manchester Business School. He was previously at Templeton College, Oxford, and prior to that, he was professor in retail marketing at what is now Manchester Metropolitan University. He is a visiting professor at the Waterford Institute of Technology in the Republic of Ireland, where he heads The Waterford Crystal Centre for Marketing Studies. His commercial experience includes the Mars Group and British Aluminium.

RAA Sprague Gibbons is an independent recruitment advertising and communications agency. As 95% of its new business comes from recommendations, it does not undertake formal pitching, allowing its team to concentrate on developing intelligent strategies and building employer brands that attract the best people for its clients.

AXA UK
The team: Resourcing
Number in team: 47
Number of employees the team is responsible for: 13,000

About the organisation Part of the asset management and insurance giant Axa Group, Axa UK’s main markets are life insurance, health insurance and general insurance.

The challenge Axa already had a powerful and distinctive brand – The Axa Plan – and wanted to put the same effort into the development of its employer brand.

What the organisation did

  • It based all its ads around the engaging and graphically striking Axa Plan format.
  • This includes advertorials, collateral material and promotional material (such as branded mugs) given away at recruitment fairs, as well as a theatre event, radio commercials with a text messaging response mechanism, and an innovative walk-about presentation using Adscreen portable video technology.
  • It has also driven the marketing of a major employee referral programme.

Benefits and achievements

  • The recent promotions will save a projected £300,000 in recruitment costs.
  • In addition, 43% of external hires in 2006 were sourced by direct attraction methods, with agency hires reduced from 39% to just 23%.
  • The scheme has helped to create a distinctive identity for the company, and given it a more visible and positive profile in a crowded marketplace.

Cross Keys Homes
The team: Communications and continuous improvement
Number in team: 5
Number of employees the team is responsible for: 250

About the organisation Cross Keys Homes was set up in October 2004 to take ownership of and manage Peterborough Council’s 10,000-strong housing stock.

The challenge Cross Keys Homes inherited just under 200 staff and has recruited a further 50 over the past two-and-a-half years. As with any major organisational change, the company faced a challenge embedding the new culture while getting the best out of people and continuing to retain and attract high-performing employees.

What the organisation did

  • Held a branding focus group led by a marketing agency, involving staff from all levels. They brainstormed how the firm wanted to look and feel, and came up with the strapline: ‘You’ll be at home with us’.
  • Developed a set of ‘driving forces’ – ambition, challenge and spirit – for staff to live by. The strapline used in all recruitment advertising is: ‘Do you have a driving force to make a difference?’
  • The employer brand is communicated through: an annual staff conference newsletters to keep teams informed of each other’s progress publicised achievements on the website intranet pages for each team rewarding voluntary work and weekly and monthly meetings.

Benefits and achievements

  • Staff satisfaction levels are at 73%, with a staff turnout of up to 76% compared with just 55% across the housing sector.
  • Cross Keys has also seen an increase in customers’ quality of life. Recent comments include: “I congratulate Cross Keys on your achievement in the relatively short time since you took over the housing stock.”

Crown Prosecution Service
The team: National Recruitment Business Centre
Number in team: 30
Number of employees the team is responsible for: 8,775

About the organisation

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is the government department responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales. Its remit includes: advising the police on cases for possible prosecution determining the charge in all but minor cases preparing cases for court and the presentation of cases at court.

The challenge The CPS has historically had an image problem. It was failing to attract the right calibre of candidate to join what is effectively the largest firm of lawyers in the UK. A history of employment tribunals, claims of discrimination and service failures made it an unlikely first choice for applicants, who instead were enticed by City firms. It needed to focus not only on its employer brand, but also on getting the basics right in the business by developing its services.

What the organisation did

  • Worked with brand consultants to launch a new, strong and easily recognisable CPS recruitment brand, demonstrated in its literature, website, exhibition stands and advertising.
  • ‘Evidence bags’ were created to accompany recruitment literature to highlight CPS careers. These were handed out at ationwide legal and other specialist recruitment events at universities.
  • Developed strong links with the national press and legal publications.

Benefits and achievements

  • It now has distinctive employer branding that presents the organisation in an honest, yet positive light, clearly demonstrating its purpose.
  • Development of a future talent pool of candidates.
  • Positive feedback from senior internal colleagues, major stakeholders, candidate focus groups, new recruits and competitor organisations.
  • Recognition from legal trainees, who voted CPS best public sector recruiter and trainer of legal staff.

ITV
The team: HR
Number in team: 64
Number of employees the team is responsible for: 6,000

About the organisation ITV is the UK’s largest commercial broadcaster. It sells advertising on behalf of all 15 Channel 3 regional licences. ITV also produces much of the programming broadcast on the ITV channels.

The challenge ITV’s employer brand strategy was part of a huge brand positioning and culture project that began in 2005. An audit of staff and viewers found that both groups regarded ITV as a number of disparate brands, such as ITV1, News, CITV etc. The aim was to encourage them to see it as ‘one ITV’.

What the organisation did

  • Engaged employees at all levels through the audit at an early stage, so that they felt involved in the development of the brand and engaged with communication activity.
  • Developed a new set of values, which were communicated through booklets, an internal logo and a variety of internal and external communication materials.
  • Created a new employer brand strapline reflecting the cultural change, which states: ‘Everyone will be watching you’.

Benefits and achievements

  • An improved response rate to new employer branded recruitment advertising.
  • The exhibition material has attracted a wide range of candidates, including an increase in those from ethnic minorities.
  • Total buy-in from senior managers, and the internal audience is buying into and appreciating the new materials.
  • The employer brand now plays a completely integrated part in ITV’s communications strategy.

McDonald’s Restaurants
The team: Reputation Team (HR)
Number in team: 5
Number of employees the team is responsible for: 67,000

About the organisation McDonald’s is the world’s largest and most well-known fast-food chain, serving more than 2.5 million customers in the UK every day.

The challenge McDonald’s has possibly the most famous (or infamous) employer reputation in the world. The term ‘McJob’, coined by Douglas Coupland in his 1991 novel Generation X, and defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘an unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects’, was always going to be a tough one to rebrand – especially as the company is frequently name-checked in the obesity debate.

What the organisation did

  • Launched a hard-hitting campaign of press and in-store posters that outlined its substantial career benefits with the strapline ‘Not bad for a McJob’ – a traditional medium, but with very unusual wording. This was run in conjunction with an employee intranet and internal video.
  • This was also the first time the term ‘Mc’ had ever been used in corporate communications.
  • Launched campaign in May to change the definition of ‘McJob’.

Benefits and achievements

  • The campaign generated huge press coverage, much of it positive (a nice change for the company).
  • The McJob campaign was tested on two groups – graduates and customers. They were asked: ‘Would you consider applying to work at McDonald’s?’. Before the campaign, 22% said yes, which increased to 33% after the campaign. Asked: ‘Would you recommend McDonald’s as an employer to others?’, 51% said yes before the campaign, which rose to 86% after.
  • Staff retention is now at an all-time high.

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