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RPO: Inside the HR Director’s perspective

1st July 2022

Seven is very proud to have been the outsourced talent partner to Hovis for the last four years, but the relationship actually predates our RPO partnership; we have collaborated for more than fifteen years to provide innovative talent solutions for this iconic brand. Our In-house Talent team is embedded into the Hovis business and is responsible for all aspects of the candidate lifecycle, together with providing additional services of employer branding, Apprenticeship recruitment and training of hiring managers.

We spoke with Pete Hill, Hovis HR Director about the benefits of outsourcing the Hovis talent acquisition function, to discuss the decisions he has made and his thoughts on the challenges currently faced by HR and recruitment.

Hi Pete. Let’s begin by going back in time to the decision you made four years ago. Why did you think an outsourced recruitment model could work for Hovis?

Well, there’s two answers to this; why outsource the Talent team and why Seven, in particular? We were using agencies for 100% of our recruitment, which not only was incurring a significant cost and diluting our Employer brand, but they also didn’t necessarily have a good understanding of the Hovis business and our industry. We had also inherited a recruitment PSL that wasn’t necessarily fit for the Hovis business. The world of recruitment was changing, and I knew businesses that were starting to bring the Talent team in-house. I wanted a dedicated Talent team, and I wanted a partner who didn’t need to start afresh with Hovis and the industry. The reason I chose Seven is that you had not only the awareness and the expertise of the industry that we required, but also the knowledge of the Hovis business.

Trying anything new is always going to bring challenges and teething troubles. What were the pros and cons of introducing this team and concept?

The biggest problem is always going to be changing existing behaviour. Hiring managers might have been used to picking up the phone to other recruiters after so many years of the PSL. Then add to that the fact it’s ‘outsourced’; the biggest message I communicated was for the business to see the team as part of Hovis. It was about making them part of the internal team so that our managers didn’t regard them as an external resource. I do sometimes hear people refer to them as the Seven team, but they are the Hovis Talent team. Also, they bring so much more to the Hovis business than a recruitment function; they play a key role in other projects including our Apprenticeship assessment process, and they drive Employer brand development through the candidate experience in addition to further initiatives. That’s the key to the success of the team for me.

Another reason I went with this model was to build a connection with candidates. For me, if a business is working with ten recruitment agencies who in turn are working with twenty clients each, you’re not going to get the same candidate journey and candidate feedback you get from an internal team. That’s been a key indicator of success for me; the feedback we’ve had externally from candidates and internally from the business which is overall very positive.

Do you think it’s a concept that is Hovis specific, or would it work well in other businesses?

I don’t think it’s just for Hovis. Whether it’s an internal team or an outsourced team, the model is the same. The two should function in the same way. It could work anywhere but you’ve got to put the work in from the outset in terms of communicating to the business, making sure the Talent team have presence at the sites and the visibility that is necessary to success. You’ve got to engage with line managers and ensure the training is constant and relevant. If you get that bit right first, it continues to evolve and deliver.

There’s a lot of names for outsourced recruitment; RPO, embedded talent, outsourced talent, in-house Talent team etc. Why do you think it’s exploded as a proposition across multiple sectors?

For the same reason that it’s such a success with us; the candidate experience and the hiring manager experience. It also provides a cost saving which is never a bad thing especially in the current climate! The superior search process, the qualifying and screening you do, the ongoing weekly engagement calls, the onboarding process you are involved with…once the offer is made it doesn’t just stop there. So, I think it’s become more popular for all the reasons it’s a success for us.

Can I ask you about life as HR Director now – what’s the biggest challenge facing you?

Trying to think outside the box in terms of how we attract talent. Some of that responsibility sits with the Talent team, some is more of an internal focus. The current concerns around cost of living are central to our priorities as a business and an employer. Then the national shortage of drivers and engineers is obviously a huge challenge in the Consumer sector.

When it comes to retention you have to honestly ask yourself why are people leaving? Is it purely about salary? Are the benefits relevant? What is missing? It’s a jigsaw of pieces that need to work together and we prioritise this work because the war for talent and skillset gaps aren’t going to go away.

What are we doing as a team to confront these challenges?

For me and my team it’s about making sure that we can offer the best package, which isn’t just about salary; it’s training and development, defined career paths, shift patterns and so on. Our shift patterns are considered favourable by many, but you can’t tick every single box or please everyone. So the challenges are around where we go to attract those people and we work collaboratively with the Talent team to figure out what methods are the most effective.

Hovis Apprenticeships have been very successful so far across functions, haven’t they?

Apprenticeships are key for us in tackling the challenges we face. We are a business that has a wonderful, long length of service profile which has huge advantages in terms of expertise in the business, but it’s essential to ensure we keep inviting new talent and developing the talent we already have at Hovis, and really offer them something worthwhile and special. The Engineering and the Hovis Business Apprenticeships have been very successful and remain an important focus for us.

Apprenticeship recruitment has been one of the highlights for the whole team over the last few years, it’s something we all enjoy being involved in and the recent Assessment Day was a big success also, so it’ll be great to meet the new cohort of Engineers when they join us in September.

Thank you for your time, Pete.

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