Ordering staff online

Case study: Compass Group
The business

Compass Group is one of the world’s largest food service organisations and the 10th largest employer in the world, running services such as staff restaurants, coffee shops and cafes, and corporate hospitality. As a business-to-business operation, brand recognition is limited, but its clients range from military bases and universities to airports and hospitals, with brands including Upper Crust, Burger King and Moto.

In the UK and Ireland, Compass Group has a turnover of around £3bn and is one of the country’s top 10 employers, employing more than 110,000 people at around 9,000 locations. It mainly services retail, travel and business sectors, and education, sport and leisure, healthcare and government services.

The challenge

The UK represents a thriving new-business area, and all divisions are tasked with increasing the number of portfolios they operate. This means that new contracts often need to be staffed quickly, with appointments ranging widely from catering assistants and customer service professionals, to project managers.

Traditionally, the group has relied on recruitment consultancies and print advertising to source candidates. This was time-consuming and slow, and meant the company did not always secure the best candidates ahead of competitors. In addition, internal talent was not always made aware of other opportunities within the group.

Brand recognition needed to be addressed – candidates’ impressions of the group varied due to differing house styles – and the sometimes ad-hoc communications during the application process needed to become more systematic.

Two years ago, Compass appointed Jane Moger to the newly-created role of resourcing and retention director, to see if there was any benefit in developing a recruitment system that would enable the divisions to work together. Moger, who is now HR director of Restaurant Associates, first undertook an overview of the UK market and, as part of the overall strategy, investigated how an online system could support recruitment.

“As a large employer, we needed to look at online recruitment. We were prepared to devote our time and effort to evaluate what it could do for us, although we did not see it as a panacea to all our recruitment needs,” she says.

PeopleBank (part of the Guardian Media Group company Workthing) was brought in to create the recruitment site (www.jobsatcompass.co.uk) after Compass explored a number of online providers.

Compass wanted to develop a customer-friendly system and to see enough of a return on its investment to cover the initial set-up costs. A steering group of eight was created to see the project through, comprising HR representatives from each sector of the group.

“We would be setting standards for recruitment generally,” says Moger. “We did not want people to think that every other route to recruitment would shut down as soon as this system came online.

“Certain jobs – such as kitchen porters, for instance – may still need to be recruited through job centres and such. We were clear that it would be a small but growing part of our recruitment strategy.”

The outcome

The main benefit of the online system is its help with high-volume recruitment. The site can also be used proactively, linking with the Workthing jobs board and using the Workthing database to alert people to specific roles, such as operations or chef roles. Moger says: “We realised that while the high-quality candidates we want may not be job-seeking, we can still target them through other databases.” An online database of candidates interested in working for Compass has also been developed.

Compass trained 34 people, mostly HR administrators throughout the group, in using the system and in online advertising. The administrators are responsible for posting vacancies online, screening and sorting applications and communicating with candidates on the status of their application. HR departments will typically draw up a shortlist of people for the manager to consider for interview, although in some parts of the business, the operators have more responsibility for selection and recruitment.

The company also found the need to encourage those outside of HR to work differently using online recruitment.

“People tend to think: ‘If it’s Friday, we can’t run our recruitment advertisement until next week’s Caterer &Hotelkeeper magazine, and then we’ll need another 10 days for the close date’,” says Moger. “But HR can now hit on candidates today, and get them in for interviews very quickly.”

The group did not set a figure for how much recruitment it wanted done online, but some 18 months later, the figure stands at around 5 per cent of all recruitment, and set-up costs have been covered through savings generated by online recruitment. Recruitment spend in 2003 was also reduced by 5 per cent.

Recruiters now have a database of some 7,500 candidates at their fingertips. They can communicate regularly with jobseekers to inform them of new recruitment drives, or to match candidates to vacancies.

Learning points for HR

  • Involve all divisions from an early stage

  • Secure funding on an ongoing basis, as continual investment in online development is required

  • Take care in selecting the provider. Compass had a choice of 30

  • Consider employing dedicated recruitment people to work on the system you devise

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