Written by
Mary Appleton

Published
15 Sep 2016

Transforming talent acquisition with technology

15 Sep 2016 • by Mary Appleton

Just 10 years after its launch in 2006, du is the fastest-growing telecoms company in the Middle East and North Africa, employing more than 2,000 people, of at least 60 different nationalities.

In 2014, Gavin Walford-Wright joined as HR director being swiftly promoted to head of talent acquisition. This role, he says, enables him to improve business performance through disruptive thought leadership: “I’m a cloud evangelist, so was excited to be able to select, implement and leverage technology-driven HR systems.”

Walford-Wright has pioneered a change in mindset around recruitment, using insights, data and talent analytics. “Today, our recruitment drive is focused more on talent analytics provided by data points throughout the hiring process, which allows us to add value to the process in both strategy and quality control,” he says.

Transformative change

Walford-Wright is no stranger to driving strategic HR initiatives. Having begun his career with the Caudwell Group in the UK, he moved to Qatar in 2007 to become senior HR manager for the Qatar Investment Authority, where he implemented the global talent acquisition strategy for QIA and Qatar Holding.

He describes his subsequent role at foreign exchange business Travelex, as head of HR and administration for the Middle East, India, Africa and Turkey, overseeing seven countries and 1,000 employees, as “transformative”. “Travelex defined me as a strategic HR and business change digital native and gave me an international portfolio of responsibility to deliver value through transformative change across the employee life-cycle and people change spectrum,” he recalls.

Competitive advantage

Recruiting around 500-600 people annually for positions in commercial, operations, support and new business and innovation, du aims to create a competitive advantage when hiring top talent, explains Walford-Wright. He was keen to align the talent acquisition function with the strategic initiatives of the company.

Meeting with UAE companies with the highest head counts enabled him to gather international best practice benchmarking used by organisations of various sizes. He then looked at du’s brand proposition to establish how this could be leveraged to attract top talent. “We knew that focusing on innovation, digital technologies and engagement could help us attract some of the best talent in the country,” he says.

“The needs of the younger generation have evolved, there has been a shift towards innovation and complexity. So we had to work out a way to capitalise on this to become an employer of choice.”

Together with his HR team, Walford- Wright assessed how du could turn the HR process into a value-added business unit.

“We wanted to improve the capabilities of the acquisition team as a whole, so we could recruit directly for the majority of our roles,” he adds.

Millennials prioritise workplace culture, teamwork and community, so the team looked at how social media and an internal talent community could assist recruitment. The result? A referral scheme dubbed “#TalentKnowsTalent” to encourage staff to  exploit their friendship networks and refer candidates to the organisation. 

It was launched internally, and in the first 12 weeks, more than 600 referrals were received. “It highlights how invested in finding the right people our staff are,” enthuses Walford-Wright. The scheme was rolled out through social media channels, to help du leverage its community of more than 2 million brand advocates (customers) to help fill particular roles – something which had never been done before in talent acquisition. “We know Gen Y is on social media, so to recruit the best technology candidates from this age group, it’s imperative that we are meeting them on the channel that they are most likely to interact with,” says Walford-Wright.

Pre-screening assessment

Because du recruits a high volume of candidates, Walford-Wright was keen to reduce costs, while ensuring the quality of candidates. Through du’s revamped career portal, candidates are invited to undertake a pre-screening assessment. The aim is to promote the du story and experience, align expectations of the job to reality and manage candidate experience.

“Not only does this remove any bias in the original selection process as prescreening is completely anonymous, it ensures only candidates who have shown exceptional talent are considered,” highlights Walford-Wright. “This has reduced lead times for recruitment and improved internal and external relations.”

‘TalentLine’ is another initiative which was created in response to internal feedback.  “It’s a direct line to me and the number is only shared internally; any line manager or candidate can WhatsApp, iMessage, SMS, email or even call with questions about talent acquisition generally or their recruitment specifically. It’s been incredibly well received,” he says.

Existing talent

Capitalising on existing talent will be central to talent acquisition in the coming years, argues Walford-Wright. “Listen to your community and align this to the recruitment strategy and business – this will only become more important.”

He believes having the right systems in place from the offset is integral to driving a sustainable future talent pipeline. “The user experience has to be on a par with that of any popular app; it needs to have an attractive look and feel,” he advises.

Ensuring the HR technology and tools being used all work in one core system has given du the edge, he believes; rolling this out is a focus for 2016. “Often, HR departments try to place one system on top of another when new software emerges, but these methods are not always compatible,” he points out.

“Instead, we have a core system in place which incorporates additional plug-ins and allows us to generate real-time data on what we are doing, which is all stored on one system.”
With one integrated system in place, the entire department can access the precise data they need and streamline processes. “This has minimised costs for our team and allows us to focus on what we do best: finding the top talent for their perfect roles at du.”

Comment: Ibrahim Nassir, chief human capital and administration officer, du

Our people are at the heart of our business. We make every effort to increase engagement and foster excellence, from the top down. Our vision is to create a competitive advantage in hiring top talent, through a transformed talent acquisition function, aligned to du’s strategic initiatives.

Globalisation, and the need to be agile and achieve scale advantage through seamless operations, inspired our recruitment strategy. We use international best practices and benchmarking, and data-driven six sigma, to support talent acquisition, and deliver 85% of roles internally, reducing costs.

Pre-screening assessments, plus Gavin’s ambitious talent transformation programme #TalentKnowsTalent, have shifted our organisation into the digital age and nearly trebled anticipated cost savings, decreased time to hire, and improved hire quality and internal satisfaction.

Our priority is the wellbeing, progression and engagement of colleagues and providing an environment that allows people to reach their potential.”