Shop Direct reveals how to gain a competitive advantage in talent attraction

Helen Miller, Talent and Communications Director at Shop Direct joined HRD Connect to discuss how the company gained a competitive advantage by attracting high calibre talent. She also revealed what companies can do to make the hiring process a more collaborative one.

What strategies have your put in place to allow your company gain a competitive advantage by attracting high calibre talent?

We share our unique culture in an authentic way. It’s about bringing out the personal stories and experiences across our different teams and locations through a range of channels. We tell these stories through targeted digital marketing, a strong presence at the right events, immersing ourselves in new networks and showcasing Shop Direct.

We’re more visible than ever before in the tech, retail and ecommerce communities. We’re the second biggest pureplay etailer in the UK, so it’s where we need to be to attract best in class talent.

Where can organisations start when building a brand awareness strategy for recruitment? 

We’re still learning, but I’d say take stock of what makes you different and decide on your messages. Then test your messages with your different audiences, whether that’s people internally or candidates. Do your messages make these people want to talk to you, and want to work for you? What turns them off?

We spend time with our teams to understand what resonates with them and then apply what works to our own targeted activity. It’s a test and learn process, but we’re making great progress.

What can companies do to make the hiring process a more collaborative one with the hiring manager and how will this affect the recruitment process?

It starts and ends with a shared responsibility and a shared mindset. The questions we ask are; what gives us the best shot of hiring the best candidate? How can we create a truly candidate-centric experience? How do we assess people with rigour and pace, whilst maintaining engagement?

Hiring needs to be personalised. A lot of the talent we’re targeting either have lots of offers on the table or aren’t even be looking, so it’s about making that emotional connection.

We try and give candidates a realistic job preview, whether that’s through the marketing they see before they apply or we approach them, the discussions and interviews they have with various experts across the business, and their discussions with the hiring manager. This approach makes sure it’s the right fit for everyone involved.

The experience must be exactly that – an experience, and it must be consistent from start to finish.

Shop Direct has been exploring new ways of not just attracting, but also accessing skills and people. Can you tell us a bit about this?

We’ve revamped our candidate experience so it works for the people we want to hire. And we’re moving to a world of testing tools, technology, interactions and events. From CRM for hiring, gamification, online video interviews, peer assessment and much more – the experience is vastly different to even a year ago.

We’re working hard to develop the digital skills we need from grass roots by sharing knowledge, becoming better networked, and collaborating more effectively with other businesses and organisations. If we and others get it right, the next couple of years should see a shift when it comes to digital talent in areas like Liverpool, where we’re headquartered.

We’re also working closely with our partner universities and schools to ensure that the right courses are on offer, the right skills are being developed, and that digitally-focused careers are getting good airtime. If we can attract early stage talent to study for a career in the etail and digital industries, we have a great opportunity to retain these young people in our regions.

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