The Ri5 interview: AIA Worldwide and Thales

The Ri5 interview: AIA Worldwide and Thales


In a relationship that has lasted for more than seven years, AIA Worldwide and Thales have achieved significant milestones in recruitment, innovation and employer branding.

Their combined work has had a global impact and its effectiveness has been recognised at some the industry’s biggest awards ceremonies – most recently at the 2016 Recruitment Marketing Awards, where AIA and Thales took home the awards for Best Recruitment Website (over £50k) and Best Use of Video (over £10k).

When the organisations initially came to work together, Thales was relatively little-known and faced a challenge when it came to its employer brand. This is where AIA came in.

As Owen Poole, global employer marketing manager at Thales, explains: “We’re a major global engineering firm, but we weren’t part of the conversation when people talked about global employers.

“We wanted to establish Thales as a brand of choice – even our target talent audience weren’t necessarily aware of what we are and what we do; we simply weren’t a household name.”

The solution was ‘Together we…’, an employer brand that would enable Thales to showcase itself as a ‘go-to destination’ across all platforms as well as at live events and on-campus. 

Kathryn Kempster, client partner at AIA Worldwide, explains that a key consideration in creating the employer brand was to put existing Thales employees at the heart of it and take them on a journey alongside its creation.

“Thales asked its people to outline what it meant to work for the organisation, and why,” she says. “The feedback was outstanding – it took the form of a competition with a prize of a visit to any other Thales site; we ended up awarding three prizes.

“It really brought stories to life for a global, diverse organisation with lots of varied roles. It started with selfies and stepped up all the way to videos, and these formats really helped to bring people to the heart of the process. It also had a huge knock-on effect in terms of employee engagement.”

Poole adds: “Subsequently, we’ve looked to build on that engagement, particularly within the social space – it’s helped to increase reach and interest. It also helps that our CEO is a LinkedIn influencer – that’s a great way of getting the word out there!”

Kempster also points out that a degree of maturity was required when putting together ‘Together we…’. With some markets calling for a different cultural approach to others, creative concepts had to be flexible in how they could be implemented. In addition, during the rollout it was crucial to consider resource within Thales’ own structure, as some functions of the business offered more opportunity than others.

This approach subsequently helped to take the employer brand beyond the UK; it has since been rolled out globally, into territories including the US, EU and China.

Fast-forward to the past few years, and the AIA / Thales partnership has become known for another success, this time in the form of its Project Arduino initiative.

The project grew out of Thales’ need to engage with engineering students; potentially a rich pool of talent for the organisation’s niche roles for which early talent is crucial.

Arduino itself is a piece of tech; an open-source microcontroller board, popular with engineers and hobbyists who use it to build a range of projects of varying scales and uses. Thales saw this as a way to reach out to engineering students, who were familiar with Arduino, but perhaps less familiar with Thales as an organisation.

A competition was launched in the UK in the autumn term of 2013 and the exercise has been so successful it has since gone global.

As part of the project, workshops are held with Thales training entrants on how to use Arduino. Teams are then given two weeks to create a project (encompassing three criteria – the projects must be creative, innovative, and relevant to Thales) and also to create a video showcasing it.

Next, showcases take place at universities as well as on the Thales website, where winners are subsequently chosen. The competition has won numerous industry awards and is now in place across six countries.

Gemma Minish, global employer marketing manager, events, at Thales, says part of the project’s appeal and success is that there’s simply nothing like it being used in the talent space. She adds: “Students who take part have to use their creativity and imagination, and we’ve seen some great work arising from it. One example is a helmet made using a 3D printer, which included temperature controls and orientation facility – all delivered within two weeks.

“And external recognition has also been great,” she adds. “The project has won a RAD Award for Best Candidate Interaction, as well as picking up the Best innovation On Campus award at the 2016 TARGETjobs National Graduate Recruitment Awards. It’s also been recognised internally within Thales, and has given rise to some great internal stories – an Arduino intranet has also been really successful.”

Minish also points out how AIA has helped Thales to explore new channels to increase audience and reach for the project. “We’ve had over 1,500 public votes on the current competition,” she says, “and we expect that increase further next year. Meanwhile, the ‘#thalesarduino’ hashtag trended worldwide during the competition. We’re also looking for new groups and societies at universities and in engineering groups so we can take it even further.”

The competition has also played a role in helping to address the gender imbalance in the engineering sector, with around a quarter of participants being female – above the average 18% representation of women in the sector.

Another key element in the project’s success, says Minish, is that Arduino complements the Thales brand so well. She emphasises how the technology itself is closely aligned with what Thales does as an organisation, with innovation at its heart. Furthermore, all the project materials carry the Thales brand, as do all literature, presentations and manuals.

Minish says: “Thales might not be a household name, but the work has helped to get us on the radar of relevant pockets of our audience. And this will continue to be the case as the AIA and Thales relationship moves into the future.”

Poole adds that Thales’ journey from those early stages to where it is currently positioned, as a globally-recognised brand, couldn’t have been done without AIA.

“There are three strands at the heart of our successful work together,” he says.

“First, AIA’s overall outlook and approach have helped immensely from the start. Second, for Thales real engagement takes place online; that’s where we want to be as an organisation and AIA has helped to raise our online profile and they’ll help further with that in the future. Finally, we strive to be different achieve new things in what we do. Our partnership approach with AIA has been at the heart of this, and has really paid off.

“Together we explore a world of opportunities – we think that speaks volumes about the AIA and Thales relationship.”   

Sunday, 11 December 2016

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