The importance of brand fit - an interview with Daniel Eley

Daniel Eley (then head of people at Jamie Oliver) on the importance of brand fit

On Thursday March 27th, I was delighted to be the invited guest at handle's “Brand fit for recruitment” event.

The venue: Portman Square’s stunning Home House, with guest speakers Daniel Eley from Jamie Oliver, Andrea Pattico from ASOS, and Carrie Bedingfield.

Brand fit at Jamie Oliver

“There are people in the room who are far more qualified than me… but I know more than you about Jamie Oliver, so that’s what I’m going to talk about”

daniel eley

Daniel was keynote speaker, and took the mic like a seasoned pro.

One sentiment underpinned 30 mins of witty chat about what employer brand means to him – “be nice”. At Jamie Oliver, the values that prevail are– “keep it simple”, enjoy yourself”, “grow with us”, and “spread the love”.

“We’ve turned “Jamie” into a verb. People say ‘this needs to be a bit more Jamie’ or ‘we need to Jamify this’.”

Employer Brand

Daniel’s thoughts on employer brand are not uncommon – it is “what people say about you when your back is turned”. A bad experience someone has at work will pivot his or her view of your brand. If they choose to share that, and others share the experience, then that becomes part of your brand, and is very hard to shake off. It’s often about things you can’t control, like a really good (or bad) cup of coffee, or the newly refurbished toilets, or the receptionist’s welcome.

The 40:60 recruitment rule If you have responsibility for hiring the right people within your organisation, then you do have some control over the employer brand. If you recruit, as Daniel does, 40% on skills, and 60% on the person, then you have a much better chance of finding people that will fit in well, be engaged and happy -  and those people will become your employer brand. Daniel has the ultimate tool in his recruitment armoury – the people on his team. This means that candidates are filtered on who they are, and not purely on a list of skills and qualifications. The focus is always on the person. “As our recruitment partner, part of what handle does, is they chase the wrong people away”

The panel discussion: (from left: host Aryn Hurst-Clark from handle, Andrea Pattico - ASOS, Daniel Eley - Jamie Oliver, Carrie Bedingfield - Onefish Twofish)

Question: how do you use social media for recruitment? Ange from ASOS explained how ASOS uses social media a lot for recruitment. “Because almost all ASOS team members are also customers, what this means in reality is that most people that work there were customers first”. In this type of organisation, very visible and growing fast, social media is a critical tool to help find and recruit the right people.

Contrast this with Jamie Oliver. A number of years ago, Jamie himself decided that to recruit a new young designer, they should use Instagram. So Jamie designed an Instagram ad himself, asking for a young, passionate graduate designer to join the team. Now if you know how many social followers Jamie has, you won’t be surprised that the poor person whose email address was on the ad, was having a nervous breakdown by 9.30am, with IT furiously trying to stop the deluge of CVs

Question: What have you done to kick off a referral programme?

Daniel: “We have a real family feeling, and people seem genuinely excited to introduce roles and opportunities to their own network. Although there is no formal referral programme, we use internal job postings, and encourage people to share them, even creating 140 character links that people can copy into their own social media accounts,. That’s where a lot of our new team members come from” Ange: “At ASOS, employees are almost all “Gen Y”. They are very active on social media, and this really helps. There is a formal referral programme, with generous financial rewards for the referrer, and that works for them. We are growing so fast, and recruitment needs to keep up with that”. Carrie: “What if you don’t want (for a whole host of reasons) to pay for referrals? In all our work on engagement, we try to unearth “Urban Myths” – so for example, the urban myth that Ange shared, that the CEO of ASOS shared £2 million of his personal money with staff. Or that handle recruitment sometimes takes the team on holiday at the drop of a hat – once they went to New York.”

The brilliant thing about urban myths is that they perpetuate themselves. They start with a truth, but as it is shared, the story can become exaggerated over time almost to the point of legend. I love the idea that you can give your employer brand enormous value in this way. Not only is there the promise of a tangible reward, but there is this great emotional hook, and as brands get bigger, this emotional hook will be the thing that makes the different between recruiting competent people – and recruiting great people.

Question: What do you think of direct recruitment? Peter Tafler (handle): “If you can do it yourselves, then do it”.

For recruiters, this was one of the key takeaways from the evening: the role of the recruitment agency is changing to something much more consultative, and relevant, especially for brands that want their employer and external brand to fit closely together.

Daniel and Ange echoed this sentiment. “handle works best with the ‘too difficult to source’ roles”.

Question: How do you establish an employer brand in a varied company? Ange: “Be authentic, tell the truth, talk as if you’re their friend, work closely with the marketing team. Work on content, engagement and retention – ensure even leavers tell a good story.” Carrie: “Find something brilliant that everyone buys into, and use this as a hook. If you are a publishing house, with titles ranging from academic, to fiction, children and cookery, then find something that spans all those genres. One thing that works, for example, is a story. Firsts make a great story. So for example, the first publishing house to create an eBook for every single current title, or the first ever carbon-neutral publishing house. “

The final word: quick tips for creating “brand fit” Daniel: “Be kind” Carrie: “Find what you get A grades for in relation to everyone else, and place that at the heart of your brand” Ange: “Put employees at the heart of everything you do. They’ll tell the story for you”

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