Global referral scheme is a big plus for AstraZeneca

Written by
Bianca Choudhary

28 Aug 2018

28 Aug 2018 • by Bianca Choudhary

A new, standardised global scheme called +1, has seen bio-pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca (AZ) significantly boost the hires it makes from colleague referrals, explains Bianca Choudhary, talent acquisition director for employer branding, social media, onboarding and communications.

The stats

+1 is a key part of the transformation journey that our talent acquisition team has been on. Launched in two waves across almost 70 countries, the figures already tell a great story about the success of our programme. Initially rolled out to 60% of the worldwide business in December 2017, we saw 65 times the number of referrals in the first quarter of 2018 versus the same quarter during the previous year. 

After the remaining regions joined the scheme in February 2018, referral numbers further increased. Referrals in Q2 2018 accounted for an impressive 16% of all hires, compared to just 5% in 2017. The timing of +1 was also right; supporting a recruitment drive for a key project in North America, with 50% of new hires coming from +1 recommendations.

A change of approach

Previously, AstraZeneca had 50 different local referral programmes, all with separate names, policies, frameworks and rewards. From a monitoring point of view alone, it was time-consuming and sometimes difficult for us to share insights. 

That lack of simplicity meant our colleagues were unsure of what to do to bring like-minded people on board. By simplifying the process, identity and framework into one compelling online programme, we succeeded in motivating the workforce to help build pipelines of talent for the future. In essence, we’ve put people at the heart of referrals.

As part of our talent acquisition transformation, +1 is helping reduce the business’s reliance on external partners, such as head hunters – empowering every colleague to be a recruiter themselves. Employees can now log into one worldwide job board and recommend people from their global network in just a few clicks.

Aside from establishing consistent processes, governance and reporting, +1 is making its mark in other ways. For example, the time now taken to fill a role is 20% faster than through alternative forms of recruitment.

Rolling out referrals

Workday technology and incentivised employee engagement has been vital in drawing people’s attention to +1, colleagues who make successful referrals could be eligible for a reward. 

Communications were key and we focused on a strong mix of channels to get the message across – from briefing calls and presentation packs, to social media and internal video, everything has been focused on explaining the simple mechanics of the system and the benefits to colleagues and the business alike.

Talent acquisition came together with HR across AZ’s markets to ensure the rollout landed successfully. Promotional materials were issued to local HR country teams to personalise for their own audience, ensuring the messages were consistent but also delivered with a personal touch. Those country teams, engaged early in the project, used everything from +1 cupcakes to pull up banners, t-shirts and badges to spread the word across the world.

What does the future look like for +1?

We believe that ‘A-players, attract A-players’ and +1 empowers our people to recommend others who not only have the right skills but also align with our values and our culture, regardless of their background.

The figures show that our colleagues have found this a much simpler and rewarding way to refer. And it’s thanks to great teamwork, right across the world, that +1 is now here and helping us bring even more great talent to our business.

What do our employees think of +1? 

James Donihee, global study associate manager in Canada, believes +1 makes it easier to identify people who are right for the business. That’s why he was confident recommending a friend: “They had the same traits that I do. They’re ambitious, they’re hard working and, honestly, just one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.”

Anmol Sekhon, brand manager in Australia, has also successfully referred several colleagues: “Because I talk about work all the time, friends tell me they’d like to work for AstraZeneca too. On top of that, a bit of a cash bonus is always awesome.”

Sonia Aithal is one of Anmol’s recommendations who, despite coming from a non-pharmaceutical background, felt prepared to join the business as a GP sales rep. 

“I didn’t know much about AstraZeneca,” she says. “This is where Anmol was really insightful. He not only understood my background, but told me about the culture and the sort of training and support provided – which made me feel very comfortable and excited to apply for the position."