Winner: Toby Babb, CEO, Harrington Starr

Sponsored by: Flexr

Toby Babb has been the driving force behind creating the Harrington Starr brand. He has put together an outstanding leadership team and set the strategy and vision for the business. Babb runs the Financial Services Technology Breakfast events and has launched Harrington Starr TV. He hosts Fintech Focus TV, interviewing fintech’s most innovative leaders, and Recruiter 360 TV, driving excellence in the recruitment industry by interviewing recruitment experts and performance specialists. Between October 2016 and October 2017, under Babb’s leadership, the company launched and grew its US business by more than 142% year on year. The company expanded with the formation of the Harrington Starr Group, encompassing Harrington Starr (fintech), The North Starr (data, security, software and sales), Harrington Starr Executive Search and Harrington Starr Technology Consulting, as well as Harrington Starr Inc in New York.

• Babb has driven the recruitment strategy and written a training plan to develop those staff in the business. He has written a ‘playbook’ of how to deliver a best-in-class recruitment service and created a modular programme (The Harrington Starr University Programme) that has developed people who have never worked in a professional environment into top recruitment performers.

• He believes in ‘the aggregation of marginal gains’ and puts kaizen –continuous improvement – at the heart of the company’s values. His use of publications, events, video and networking creates a community that allows Harrington Starr to sit at the heart of clients’ minds.

• Many of the 800 companies who the Harrington Starr Group work with were brought on board by Babb’s extensive client network. He continues to be a focal point of many of the company’s leading clients.

• He has spoken at numerous events and on podcasts in the recruitment sector and has been keen to give back by helping to coach and mentor start up businesses in the sector. He has written in numerous publications – including for Recruiter, City AM, Evening Standard – and has spoken on BBC television and radio about the future of the industry.

Judges’ Comments:

“What impressed us most were his engaging communication style, his passionate commitment to raising standards in recruitment, his personal commitment to advancing the skills of his team of recruiters, and his compelling vision not just for his business but for his clients and candidates, too”

Winner: Katrina Hutchinson-O’Neill, Director of Resourcing, Nationwide Building Society

At the start of 2016, Nationwide Building Society faced a talent acquisition challenge. The increasing volume of hard-to-fill technically specialist roles represented a concern for a company with no employer brand presence in those labour markets. The then CEO cited the company’s ability to attract and onboard talent as one of the primary threats to delivery of its corporate strategy. The company needed an expert in resourcing who would be able to lead a restructure of the function and transform its resourcing strategy to create a modern and fit-for-purpose model, and Katrina Hutchinson-O’Neill was recruited as director of resourcing. October 2016 to October 2017 was a period of intense activity – directed by Hutchinson-O’Neill but with her leading and engaging every member of the team to support delivery of the vision.

• Hutchinson-O’Neill has clear accountability for the budget, delivery and strategy for all aspects of resourcing – permanent and non-permanent.

• All these measures collectively enabled the company to deliver a £2.14m improvement on the planned resourcing budget position for this fiscal year – despite demand coming in on target for the year. This saving now equates to a reduction of almost £6m, or 60%, of the cost of resourcing to the organisation over the space of Hutchinson-O’Neill’s two years in the role.

• Achieving these results has required not only application of deep resourcing expertise and change leadership skills in the resourcing and HR department, but also well-honed expertise in commercial knowledge, business knowledge, stakeholder engagement and influencing skills to get the senior leadership of the organisation to buy into the new approaches and models.

• These results have made a sizeable contribution to the company achieving its cost:income ratio for the business, reduced risk in these areas, and enabled it to free up money to invest in other initiatives, both inside and outside HR.

• Hutchinson-O’Neill is active as a senior leader representing Nationwide externally – as a spokesperson for recruitment, and also covering diversity and inclusion topics for journalists.

Judges’ Comments:

“Katrina has transformed the resourcing function, delivering savings while improving performance… She demonstrates passion for her team and for the wider resourcing profession, has clear ideas on how to promote the profession, and is taking action to progress these, often in her own time.”

Winner: Steve Beckitt, CEO/Founder, SourceBreaker

Sponsored by: Irwin Mitchell

Steve Beckitt created a new category of recruitment product – end-to-end search, with his application finding recruiters’ candidates, leads and decision makers all in one system. The desired outcomes were to change the way recruiters search, helping them make better matches between candidates and vacancies and do it faster, and to drive improvements in standards across the industry, with easy-to-use technology. Between October 2016 and October 2017, SourceBreaker brought in more than 250 customers in 18 months, along with seven-figure revenues. Beckitt embedded a culture of promoting from within and allowing those promoted to innovate in running their team. He provides external mentors to help new managers develop, and every staff member has had external training or qualifications funded by the company. The entire leadership team has worked their way up into their roles – since launch, no one has been hired in above existing staff.

• Beckitt has led from the front, personally billing more than £400k, implementing 53 customers, planning and testing 22 product sprints, conceiving and launching three new products, hiring 10 staff, training three team managers, managing and scaling up an offshore development team from two to 10, building a website and raising £350k of investment.

• Between October 2016 and October 2017, revenue grew 280% while
monthly recurring revenue grew 172%. The number of customers went up 167% within 18 months of the launch. The headcount rose from seven to 17.

• In just 18 months since Beckitt started selling SourceBreaker, it is now serving more than 4,000 users across 280 agencies worldwide.

• SourceBreaker has also innovated in the selling and onboarding areas – such as the three-month break clause for new customers to limit their risk, and the high-touch implementation and training process.

• The platform has now started to change the standards within the industry. High-performing recruitment companies now ask other suppliers to follow the SourceBreaker onboarding and training processes, as they have yielded such strong results.

Judges’ Comments:

“Steve exudes energy, enthusiasm and innovation…. He has quickly moved the business to a revenue-generating model.”

Winner: Out of This World Candidate Experience: Mars in partnership with Amberjack

Food manufacturing giant Mars aimed to ‘be the company millions want to join, stay and grow with’. To meet this ambition, it realised it needed to tackle candidate. Through partnering with future talent expert Amberjack, Mars was able to make its candidate messaging clearer, personal, more consistent, and authentic. The company has also simplified recruitment into four phases, making the process easier to understand. The entire recruitment process sits on an immersive digital platform called Ambertrack, which provides a continuously branded, fast experience that delivers campaign visibility and measured experience. Candidates have personal mobile-enabled account areas that house all their correspondence, graphically show where they are in the process, and allow them to select interview or assessment centre slots that suit them. The results have been outstanding.

• Last year, Mars’ recruitment campaign comprised seven early careers streams that totalled 41 hires from 2,635 applications.

• Candidates are more likely to share their recruitment experiences on social media and with family and friends. Because Mars recruits young people who are more likely to use and share their views on social media than older audiences, exceptional candidate experience was imperative for the company.

• The company’s new approach is built on insights and feedback captured from candidates in previous campaigns. These outputs translated into a strategy that focused on delivery of an improved candidate journey through an engaging process supported by clear communications. Mars managed candidate expectations, delivered a fair and honest process, and provided fast feedback. The honest and friendly human engagement during the recruitment process kept candidates fully up-to-speed with their progress, knowing what was going to happen next and what they needed to do.

• Independent quality assurance ensures exceptional delivery, consistency and fairness.

• The entire recruitment net promoter score (NPS) was +61 (where a score of +60 is exceptional), underlining the class of the experience delivered in just eight weeks. Time-to-offer is just 60 days, there have been 2,635 applications, 41 hires, no reneged offers, and 100% retention of the first-year intake.

Highly Commended:

Go North East Bus Driver Routeway: Go North East in partnership with Jobcentre Plus and Gateshead College

Judges’ Comments:

“Our winners were clear that retention of people is a clear business benefit and the right thing to do, and stood out for their marriage of automation with a human interface.”

Winner: What Makes You: Babcock in partnership with Blackbridge Communications

With its 2017-18 graduate attraction campaign, Babcock International Group needed a strategy that would provide a strong pipeline of candidates across both its engineering and its business management programmes. The engineering services organisation had an ageing workforce, so it focused on engaging with a broader range of candidates to attract new talent into the business at an early stage. Working with its marketing agency partner Blackbridge Communications, Babcock launched the ‘What Makes You’ campaign in September 2017, which made individual graduates the heroes. The new campaign’s segmented use of double-exposure photography allowed the materials to celebrate the diversity of personalities, professional and personal interests, and the ‘Being Babcock’ values that make up each graduate.

• The fresh approach called for a creative reinvention of the company’s five key channels: website, print, video, social media and on-campus presence. Campaign content focused on personable and engaging stories about Babcock’s people, principles and projects. Blackbridge filmed fun interviews and used video clips of graduates to create profile films specific to each of their roles.

• The channel strategy enabled Babcock to reach a female audience more effectively. By November 2017, 31.5% of all Babcock’s applications were from women, compared with final female percentages of 24.1% in 2016/17 and 19% in 2015/16.

• The campaign has allowed it to engage people with the right candidate profile to go on to have a successful career at Babcock. A much more targeted media strategy has seen the company receive fewer applications, but of a much higher quality, allowing the company to consistently fill more roles week-on-week than in previous years.

• The new recruitment messaging has been effective on Babock’s social media channels, and this has enabled it to extend its reach beyond its main target universities.

• The ‘What Makes You’ concept has been crucial to the success of Babcock’s graduate recruitment. It has built employer brand equity, rising in the ranks in the Guardian UK 300 from 155 to 134.

• Positive candidate feedback at all stages of the recruitment process, with 91% of candidates saying they had a good or very good experience on the company’s graduate microsite, and 96% saying they had a good or very good experience at the assessment centres.

Highly Commended:

Beat the Game Changers: Vodafone in partnership with Pink Squid

Judges’ Comments:

”This was a compelling proposition that sent a powerful message. It succeeded in demystifying the engineering sector… by breaking through stereotypes associated with engineering.”

Winner: Morrisons Makes It: Degree Apprenticeships – Morrisons in partnership with Amberjack

Morrisons has developed degree apprenticeship programmes in four areas – manufacturing, corporate, logistics and retail – delivered in partnership with the University of Bradford and Sheffield Hallam University. To ensure it recruited the right school leavers for its business, Morrisons partnered with future talent specialist Amberjack, and the two firms defined a strategy to recruit 60 degree apprentices. The strategy targeted two audiences: school leavers and influencers (parents and teachers). Candidates said that they felt Morrisons went the extra mile for them.

• The creative approach developed content that complemented and enhanced Morrisons’ new careers website with key marketing headlines. The focus was on what makes the environment, people, career opportunities and interesting initiatives unique to Morrisons.

• Messaging covered three key areas: industry insights, about Morrisons, and the world of its employees – tapping into existing employees and providing platforms to showcase their talent. The strategy targeted school leavers with ‘earn whilst you learn’ messaging, while influencers received messages that focused on tackling the concerns and worries of a school leaver’s parent.

• The targeted marketing mix included web content enhanced with videos, supported by paid media, social media, job boards engagement with local schools and live chat events. Morrisons supplemented external efforts with a huge internal push, engaging colleagues with events, leaflets, dedicated Facebook pages and emails. It held one-to-one conversations with all colleagues aged 17-21 about how they could build their careers in the business.

• The recruitment process includes a short registration, situational judgement test and video interview, where role-specific case studies featuring Morrisons colleagues provide an interactive and realistic experience. Finally, ‘discovery centres’ are held relating to the specific scheme for which candidates applied.

• Morrisons made 60 hires from 1,329 applications for its degree apprenticeship programme.

• The attraction strategy was specifically efficient in delivering a cost per applicant 97% less than average. Reneged offers were 3.33% against a market average of 15%; none of the new apprentices has left the programme. Morrisons has achieved 100% apprentice retention against an average of 79.6%.

Highly Commended:

Aldi apprenticeships campaign – Aldi in partnership with Penna

Judges’ Comments:

“This was a great end-to-end campaign that is embedded in the business and built for the long term. There was a clear focus in every step of the strategy.”

Winner: Go North East Bus Driver Routeway: Go North East in partnership with Jobcentre Plus and Gateshead College

A need for new bus drivers and a local unemployment crisis led the North East region’s third largest employer, bus company Go North East (GNE), to partner with Gateshead College and Jobcentre Plus to launch an innovative training and skills development programme, aimed at supporting people back into work, with the opportunity of securing one of 250 driver jobs. Running until July 2017, the Go North East East Bus Driver Routeway programme was completed by 99 local people. Of those who took part, 45 – almost half – secured driving roles with Go North East, compared with just 9% of traditional route applicants.

• Unemployment in the North East is higher than anywhere else in the UK. Meanwhile, the bus and coach industry is facing a national skills shortage, and there are concerns about the regional skills gap. GNE employee attrition is below the national average, but this critical role requires a constant recruitment cycle.

• The bespoke nature of the training programme ensures that candidates meet the specific needs of the role and business, and are provided with the best possible chance of success throughout each stage of the recruitment process.

• Jobcentre Plus helps to recruit applicants and covers their expenses. The programme provides high-quality support to all, from the start of recruitment. Unlike the standard GNE application process, which includes an online application form, those coming through this process receive intensive expert training and mentoring right through to interview.

• The free four-week programme combines professional training courses, 99% of which are delivered by Gateshead College. Tyneside Training Services conducts practical driving assessments and tuition. GNE delivers a driver skills training course, plus depot tours, a company induction, and health & safety and occupational health training. Those who do not secure a GNE role now have transferable skills to support them into alternative employment.

• Feedback from participants who have been successful or unsuccessful in gaining employment with GNE has been overwhelmingly positive, with many sharing that they have benefited personally as well as professionally.

Judges’ Comments:

“Not only was this partnership a solution to a need for drivers, but it filled roles for other local businesses and helped local residents get back to work”

Winner: The Home of Proper Jobs: Charles Tyrwhitt

Clothing retailer Charles Tyrwhitt was suffering from popular misconceptions that it was a stuffy business that made ‘shirts for dads’. So its three-strong recruitment team decided to bust the myth. The team developed a recruitment website, ‘The Home Of Proper Jobs’ and moved to a new recruitment philosophy – treating candidates in the same way the company did its customers. They built a transparent and engaging recruitment process with different, enjoyable interview techniques and tools. They made the company’s people into ambassadors, and championed its founder, Charles Tyrwhitt, as the face and voice of recruitment – in an animation. The new social media strategy provided a quirky view of what it was like to work for the firm. Charles Tyrwhitt now has a consistent and seamless experience for candidates coming into the business.

• The recruitment team featured many of the company’s people in its employer branding. ‘The Home of Proper Jobs’ website became a connector – everyone felt they owned a bit of it.

• The team culled old recruitment practices and developed fun and engaging assessment centres across retail. They reviewed the internal recruitment process and developed a transparent and easily accessible internal application process, refer-a-friend process and promotion/relocation policy.

• Having a strong employer brand has given people confidence to talk about the firm with pride. The team has seen a shift in ownership of candidate attraction from being an HR role to a business-wide role. Line managers have the confidence to recruit in new ways and tackle biases. The company now recruits for potential and behaviour rather than only experience. Candidates are more excited, informed and engaged from the start of the process, so the company is winning talent over its competitors.

• As a result of effective development of the employee attraction brand, the team has influenced the development of the entire employee life cycle. It has highlighted areas that seemed shabby when compared with the new recruitment experience, and drive process improvement.

• Two of the company’s business goals are growth and ‘putting people first. The development of the employer brand has improved recruitment’s ability to support both of these goals.

Highly Commended:

Clearly Hastings Direct: Hastings Direct in partnership with That Little Agency

Judges’ Comments:

“We were impressed at the achievements being delivered entirely by a small in-house team, on a shoestring budget… They did a great job engaging their senior leadership team on the journey.”

The AA (Talent Acquisition Team – TMP Worldwide)

Motoring association the AA previously had a recruitment function that was fragmented, traditional and driven by people who weren’t talent attraction experts. The function has now changed its internal structure, processes and policies, selection options and operating model – implementing a strong, direct sourcing strategy focused on longer-term employee value rather than short-term reactive hiring. It has appointed talent experts from client-side roles, agency and job board backgrounds, giving an excellent spread of experience, culture and approach, and is now known as the Talent Acquisition team. To enhance its screening process, speeding up the turnaround time to ensure it didn’t lose candidates, it partnered with TMP Worldwide for all its candidate management and candidate communications.

• The AA developed and launched its employer brand, encapsulated by the slogan ‘Ready for ANYTHING?’, which underpinned all of its recruitment communications, from job postings to the careers site.

• The comprehensive redesign of the careers site launched in February 2017. This gave the AA the perfect vehicle to combine all of the attraction and engagement elements to emphasise the brand, the breadth of career opportunities, and a fantastic candidate journey.

• In early 2017, the organisation moved to a strengths-based interview process. This was a massive change for the business and required training and upskilling of more than 100 hiring managers.

• Candidates are now more informed. The new careers site, featuring the ‘AAbot’ chatbot, provides candidates with a realistic view of the AA and its culture.

• Turnover has decreased from 45% to 24%; the offer to acceptance ratio is now 98% – it was 88%; candidates arriving on induction is now 97% – it was 75%; candidates passing probation induction is now 98% – it was 81%; turnaround time for candidate screening (from application) is now under two days – it averaged five; average time to first contact for a candidate is 0.6 days (it was 2.5); average time to offer is 26.4 days (it was 37).

Highly Commended:


Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police

Judges’ Comments:

“This application stood out as an exemplar, delivering transformational results across all areas with clear supporting data.”

Winner: Acorn Recruitment

Recruitment and training company Acorn has a team of only six marketers, but their output is huge. Their responsibilities include candidate attraction; generating warm sales leads, and developing long-term relationships with clients; and reinforcing positioning and strategic planning. The majority of candidate attraction is carried out online and comprises bespoke material for social media activity, emailers and branch posters/flyers. The firm works with a PR agency to ensure Acorn is represented on various media channels. During the past year, the team have run two campaigns to increase applications, which boosted applications by almost 30%. Overall, the company’s permanent and temporary placement figures increased last year by 30% and 7% respectively.

• All members of the marketing team contribute to each candidate attraction campaign – from content, web development, design and delivery – so the cost is only for print and potential gift incentives, which can be only a few hundred pounds yet raise applications between 30% and 100%. The biggest spend for candidate attraction is on job boards.

• The two candidate attraction campaigns the team ran during the year in question were Make Monday Rock, which ran from September to December 2016, and Want More 2017, which ran from January to April 2017.

• Two examples of bespoke projects created for individual clients during the year in question were an agency worker attraction campaign for print agency Harrier and a peak period candidate attraction support campaign for multinational company Tata.

• The team carry out a lot of client entertainment to develop key relationships, and attend jobs fairs and exhibitions to ensure they are speaking to jobseekers at every opportunity.

Judges’ Comments:

“The winner demonstrated a variety of channels and routes to market, with linked return on investment.”