Together, The AA and TMP are ready for anything too

 

Meet Craig Morgans – Head of Talent Acquisition, Learning & Development for The AA and Colin Barnett – Client Partner for TMP. Often finishing each other’s sentences, it’s clear they share a great working partnership, with business talk and banter in equal measure.

Craig, do you want to share a little bit about your background?

Craig: I've grown up within HR or ‘personnel’ as it was known back in the day, working my way up through the ranks. It was during my time at Yellow Pages where I caught the recruitment bug. The pace and focus on delivery really excited me and I’ve never looked back.  Over the years, I’ve learnt I’m at my happiest when I’m creating something from scratch, or fixing something that’s broken. I love change. It’s what motivates me.

What brought you to The AA?

Craig: Our HR Director – Helen Hancock – approached me via a head-hunter. I had no insight into the organisation or brand at the start, just that this was an opportunity to start something from scratch. If you look at the AA from the outside, people tend to focus on the yellow vans. But we’re so much more… financial services, commercial, driving schools, DriveTech, contact centre environments… all very different in terms of proposition and challenges. At the start, it was all about getting out and about to understand the business to map out the way forward. I joined in late October 2015 and by Christmas, there was a paper on the Chief Executive's desk laying out what recruitment at The AA should look like.

What was your focus?

Craig: Everything was a bit archaic – from standard process and policy, to the way we attracted talent and the branding. The team didn’t have a long-term recruitment strategy and it was holding the business back. As a business we were at the start of a period of transformation and both the quality and quantity of candidates coming through the door just weren't cutting it for the organisation. It was obvious that we needed to tackle both road operations and contact centre recruitment as a priority. And that’s when the real conversations started to happen with TMP.

How long have you been working together?

Colin: TMP have worked with The AA for about seven years, although I joined TMP about three months before Craig joined The AA. Prior to Craig coming on board, there was a reticence to try new ideas or implement new initiatives. And there was resistance to measuring the effectiveness of attraction channels so we really didn’t know what was working and what wasn’t. A lot of this stuff started to get fixed very, very quickly after Craig's arrival, and we were able to partner with him to deliver some much-needed influence across the business.

What made you stick with TMP Craig?

Craig: We had some very frank conversations and I understood that, in the past, we’d treated TMP as a supplier and not as a partner. I could see they’d been knocking on the door and tried to put forward solutions that would assist us, but we hadn’t been in the right place to listen. It was now the right time to change this.

What’s your relationship like?

Craig: I feel incredibly lucky. I have two hugely talented and dedicated teams that support me internally. And then we have the team at TMP who are truly an extension of my own brilliant team. But, actually, I don't see them any differently. Our Basingstoke office is TMP’s office and when I’m in their Tottenham Court Road office, we joke that there’s not a team who we’re not currently working with! We’re one team and face up to challenges together. This is certainly true where their Bristol office provides a full volume resourcing service and the candidates can’t tell us apart. Together, we’ve delivered some exceptional work and real results in a business which is undergoing significant transformation.

Colin: We recently did a presentation to the whole AA Talent team around the journey that we've been on in the last two and half years and we highlighted two AA requests that were two and half years apart. The first was, "Can I have an ad in The Sun, please?" And the second was, "How are we going to enhance all aspects of the end-to-end candidate journey?" That nicely summarises for me just how far our relationship has moved on.

Craig: And you put up with my random 2am thoughts! But I value your honesty. You guys ground me and tell me if they’ve got legs or not.

Colin: And we like that Craig challenges us. He’ll throw ideas at us and then we try and work out whether it's realistic and implementable. As a partnership, we bring out the best in each other. The great thing for me is that it gives the whole TMP team the opportunity to really live our values, like honesty being at the heart of what we do, looking outwards and forwards for improvement and – of course – always focusing on the customer.

What did you work on first?

Colin: When Craig joined, the career site was overdue a substantial redevelopment. Technology had advanced significantly, the way in which candidates searched for jobs had changed completely, and the way in which potential applicants expected to engage with an employer was very different as a result. It was very high on the list to get fixed.

Craig: Our bounce rate was astronomical. The site wasn’t mobile enabled, and the content was 3½ years old. It wasn't representing our brand, nor was it supporting the team. I always say if I could have turned it off when I first joined, I would have turned it off. It used to attract 9,000 candidates a year for about a thousand hires. Now we’ve turned that around and we're going to hit about 35,000 applications this year.

Where did the ‘ready for anything’ line come from?

Craig: The business is in a period of transformation, so we always knew that our corporate values and messaging were going to change… yet we needed something to hang our hat on for the immediate future. Did we do a full EVP project? No. But we did enough to know that ‘ready for anything’ is right for us, right now. It resonates all the way through the organisation, from roadside, to our contact centres and head office.

Colin: Everybody involved at TMP felt confident that ‘ready for anything’ authentically reflected the whole organisation. The next step is to look at re-validating that.

How did the AA Chatbot come about?

Colin: TMP is always looking at innovative ways in which we can help clients enhance the candidate experience, increase engagement, increase advocacy…..and, of course, technology is a huge enabler. We have one member of the TMP team whose role it is to look at what the future holds for recruitment technology and what is the next big thing – not for the sake of it – but how it can be incorporated into clients’ strategies going forward. And when you combine that with Mr. Early Adopter, as we affectionately call Craig, you have a partnership that’s looking to push boundaries.

Craig: We sat around the table at TMP’s offices and thrashed out what we needed to cure on our website. The core issues were stickiness, getting our message across to candidates and bringing what the AA is all about to life. We all wanted to do it differently. So many websites are content heavy. If you jump on to Chatbot you can find almost everything you need. Our old website had a bounce rate that was high (60%), and Chatbot has played its own part in helping fix that.

Can you tell us about the podcasts you’ve done?

Colin: Heather DeLand, our Executive Creative Director, was keen to do a series of podcasts and Craig was the natural choice to kick this off. So earlier this year Heather sat down with Craig and talked through key topics, challenges and initiatives we had partnered on, which we recorded. And that's been launched as part of a series of three, with more in the pipeline, as they’ve gone down really well.

You mentioned an increase in applications. How are you dealing with that?

Colin: The relationship evolved and we now provide a full resourcing service for all the volume areas driven out of our Bristol office.

Craig: With the major successes of the website and new strategy, we found ourselves on the back foot. Firstly, because of the number of candidates coming through. And secondly because the business had asked us for 1,000 hires, but we ended up delivering 2,000+ due to changing business needs. We were getting about 3,000 / 4,000 applications a month and weren’t turning them around quickly enough, which was unacceptable in terms of the candidate experience. So, we talked to TMP about candidate management…things then progressed from there and also encompassed new and more effective assessment processes.

Colin: And your timescales were a nightmare! As far as I can recall we got this up and running in about six weeks!

Craig: And now our offer ratio has more than doubled in our contact centres. Road operations is still relatively new but we're seeing attendance rates in the high 90%s for assessment events. We were averaging 30s and 40s beforehand, so we’ve made incredible progress. TMP now manages probably 80% of our monthly candidate traffic. The only area that they don’t work on is across our head office, because it is so niche.

What else have you been up to?

Craig: Well, there’s been lots going on in learning and development too. There’s been onboarding and induction packs…

Colin: Yes, and apprentices. We're also talking about graduates next year…

Craig: We had the apprenticeship levy coming and we needed to provide the people coming into our organisation with the right frameworks to work within. We started by partnering with a national UK provider and scoping our programmes within our Oldbury contact centre. We now have the framework to lift and shift into other areas of the business. Due to land in the next few weeks is our new emerging talent programme and we’re developing a leadership programme as well.

Are you up for any awards?

Colin: On 15th November we won our first award for the careers site – Best Major Employer at the National Online Recruitment Awards. We’re also looking at the FIRM, Recruiter and RAD awards in 2018.

Craig: And the awards we’re up for are mainly focused around innovation, careers website and partnership.

What about the future?

Craig: Chatbot is due an upgrade! That said, people are spending more time on average in Chatbot than they did on our old website.

Colin: Although our yellow friend is going to develop a broader range of conversations and emotions within the careers site, we always planned to take Chatbot outside of the site. We’re also going to let him loose on social media. He is a permanent personality within the talent attraction, learning and development team.

Craig: Beyond Chatbot, we’ve started planning for 2018. From media planning and getting smarter with our decision making, to improving the candidate experience, we’re going to strengthen the work we’ve done. We’re exploring everything that’s got the potential to enhance the candidate experience – from candidate assessment, to social and augmented reality. We need to continue to differentiate ourselves. In the volume space, we’re up against some big names and competitors. So how do we connect beyond the salary we’re offering? For us, it’s about seeing us behind the scenes.

Colin: Absolutely. Virtual and augmented reality could really help in the assessment process. We’re looking at taking a potential employee through a virtual reality assessment exercise that measures them against the core AA values. It gives the applicant greater engagement with the environment that they're going to be working in.

Craig: And then from a learning and development perspective we’ll be looking at our emerging talent programme. This programme is going to help set people up for success. We're also looking at our apprenticeship programmes – particularly an outdoor apprenticeship scheme. As a trade, the talent pool for mechanics is getting smaller and smaller, so we’re working on a scheme that will start growing and building our own – partnering with local garages.

Looking back, is there anything you’d do differently?

Craig: Future-proofing is one thing that I've learnt from the last 12 months. And critical-thinking. To have a plan B for when things change. Also, don’t be afraid to take time to put our foot on the ball, and reflect. We’re very good at ‘what's next?’ Sometimes it’s good to say to ourselves, we've done a damn good job there. What else can we learn from it?

Colin: That’s so true. With so many different projects on the go, it’s good to reflect occasionally. Now time for that beer we’ve been promising ourselves for six months!

 

 

Thursday, 23 November 2017

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Together, The AA and TMP are ready for anything too
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