Crusher manufacturers raise profile
Having the right people with the right skills is essential in times of growth
Having the right people in the right place at the right time can be key for a rapidly growing business. ABE takes a look at Extec and Fintec's alternative approach to recruitment
Salary and location may be part of the decision process of whether to take a new job or not but the reputation of the company can often be a bigger deciding factor. But how can you be sure that your company's reputation in the employment marketplace actually truly reflects the reality? Outdated public perception was a problem for Extec
and one that needed to be rapidly turned around following their acquisition by Sandvik
in order to meet the expected growth. Instead of contacting hundreds of recruitment companies, HR director Steve Powell took an alternative approach which has helped get some key positions filled with high calibre candidates.
Powell took the decision to bring in a third party to talk to the companies' existing workforces and find out the good, the bad and the ugly about working for Extec and Fintec. The consultants - Schofield Britten - were then charged with the task of getting this message out to the local communities and potential recruits by raising the profile of the company through the media.
"Previously both companies had grown rapidly in a competitive and dynamic market," explained Powell. "In the early days of private ownership there was a real entrepreneurial spirit and the companies were fast moving but this did not always create the best company to work for.
"However, this changed with outside investment - from 3i in the case of Extec - but the reputation of a poorer employer remained in the jobs market even though it was five to seven years out of date. With Sandvik now fully onboard the position of the company in terms of future growth and opportunities for employees has further improved, so changing perceptions was even more important.
Schofield Britten's Pete Schofield talks to Extec senior design engineer Nick Hall about working for the company
"Due to the specialised nature of the business there are a very small number of people with the right skills and technological knowledge, so having the right 'employer brand' to attract them is essential.
"There was clearly a need for new people to keep the growth on track but the kind of people we were looking for were likely to have the pick of several jobs, so we needed to make sure that Extec and Fintec were the first choice and not lower down the list." Powell is himself a relatively recent recruit to Extec having joined from foundations specialist Roger Bullivant in early 2006. He said he was attracted by the challenge of the role and the prospect of greater job satisfaction.
Through is previous role, Powell had worked with Schofield Britten managing director Pete Schofield before and felt that the consultancy had the right skills to make a step change for Extec and Fintec.
The consultancy combines Schofield's recruitment expertise with the journalistic skills of Nick Britten to - in Schofield's words - "get under the skin of a company". With this knowledge, the partnership then work to communicate that to the outside world through local newspapers and national media as well as work with recruitment in a more conventional way.
Sandvik is now looking at using a similar approach to recruitment in other parts of its business
"Most companies want to improve their business performance and when you analyse the issue it can be traced back to having the right people," explained Schofield. "There are two parts to making any business run better - first you need to understand the business case and what the organisation wants or needs in terms of skills and then you have to look at the obstacles to achieving this." Schofield started by doing market analysis on Extec and Fintec to establish what the general perception of the business was in the job market place. "Essentially finding out if people have heard of the companies and, if so, would they work for them and if not, then why not," he explained. "Results from this showed that perceptions were 10 years out of date and did not reflect reality, so there was a real need to improve the employer brand.
"But an employer brand is different from a corporate brand - an HR department is tied to toeing the company line and will tend to present a sanitised version of what the company is really like and put a gloss on things. Understanding the employer brand is a key to not just attracting new staff but motivating and retaining existing employees." Schofield Britten has four members of staff working out of Extec's Swadlincote offices in the UK but they are independent. "Their role is to gather information from the workforce about why they work for Extec or Fintec and impart this to the labour market through the eyes of the people," explained Schofield. "It's like deciding to buy a product but reading an online review of it first to make sure it fits with your expectations." Some of the positive messages that have come out of the process include that the nervousness that existed at the time of Sandvik's takeover had gone within six months and been replaced with a much more positive attitude.
"It is a brave step to let an outside firm in and open up access to staff," said Schofield. "Carrying out an in-house employee survey just wouldn't have the same effect as they often turn into a whinge list from which people expect quick changes." Powell added, "A key part of making this approach work was having a strong partnership between Extec and Fintec and Schofield Britten. Using a third party organisation added credibility to the process but in additional they needed strong internal support to make sure they could get the trust and understanding necessary." As part of the process a website has been set up that gives a list of the current opportunities along with information about the factory, a formal job description and also an informal one based on information provided from existing employees.
The site can be accessed by either potential candidates or recruitment agencies. "Having sufficient real information about the job will help someone decide if it is the right one for them at an earlier stage, so the candidates who come for interviews are serious about joining the company," said Schofield.
As a result of the initiative Powell said that the companies have already managed to recruit some key personnel with a senior buyer and design engineers already in place and several others about to join the business.
Once a new recruit is in place, Schofield Britten will work with them to ensure the new role is living up to expectations and that they are happy. According to Schofield, this approach allows them to head off any problems at an early stage and offer advice and assistance to help retain new staff.
"What we are seeing now is that instead of using traditional recruitment organisations to fill roles, we are now seeing significantly more referrals from recent recruits," explained Powell.
"The other benefit we're seeing is that having quality staff is really boosting morale among the rest of the workforce, which combined with the referrals means that this approach is more cost effective than a conventional approach."
- Now absorbed into a division of Sandvik
- Now liquidated into a division of Sandvik