The pace of change

23 September 2021
5 minute
Gavin Smith blog header v3

From the use of targeted social media posts to psychometric profiling, the HR team at Brompton are committed to ensuring they attract and retain the best employees for their brand. For Gavin Smith, who has been the company’s People Director since 2017, honesty and clear communication are what lies at the heart of their success. 

Here we talk to him about the ways technology has impacted recruitment processes over the years, and the changes we can expect in the next decade.

So Gavin, tell us about yourself and the Brompton brand 

I have more than 20 years of experience in HR, working with a wide range of companies including retail brands and charities. In July 2017, I joined Brompton and since then the business has grown significantly. For instance, when I started, there were only 230 employees and by the end of next year, we expect to have around 1000. As well as increasing our headcount, we’ve also expanded the business in Asia, the US and Europe, particularly in Germany. 

I chose Brompton because I have always loved working for organisations that are going through a period of change. Innovation allows businesses to stay fresh and prevents ideas and systems from becoming stale - which is something that should also be carried over to recruitment processes.

Why is psychometric testing important for Brompton’s recruitment processes? 

In 2018, we introduced psychometric profiling at the final stage of the interview process for senior management positions. It helped us streamline and speed up our recruitment processes, and we were incredibly impressed by the results. We decided to implement this method of hiring more widely, to maximise the benefits. Now every job description we publish has a personality profile built-in and testing is offered at the first round of all interviews. 

As a company, we have a very low annual turnover for staff, which I believe is partly attributed to the success of psychometric assessments. They enable us to get a true picture of whether a person will be right for a specific role, which is beneficial to both the candidates and Brompton as a company. We’re also able to offer candidates detailed feedback after an interview, which can help them find a more suitable role if their application is unsuccessful. 

How has the recruitment industry changed throughout your career? 

Working in HR for two decades, I’ve noticed an increased focus on the importance of ‘cultural fit’ during the recruitment process. While hiring managers used to search for a person with the specific skill set needed for a job, companies have begun to recognise the importance of running cohesive teams, where people’s goals, ambitions and values reflect those of the brand. To avoid bias and the risks that come with decision making based on ‘gut feeling’, companies need to be transparent about their values from the offset. Honesty is key, and at Brompton we ensure that we fully explain the recruitment process to candidates, as well as why we do it this way, and how the feedback process works. 

Any rising trends you’ve seen?

In the 1980s, it wasn’t common to work with more than one or two companies throughout your career. But the growth of freelance working, the gig economy and portfolio careers have completely changed this dynamic, leading to more movement in the workplace than ever before. Despite this, there are still large numbers of people who feel trapped in a specific niche, because they don’t have the confidence to branch out. It’s important that companies recognise how transferable skills can be, to ensure that we’re making the most of people’s talents and passions. 

Another important trend has been social media, which has boomed in recent years. When used properly, it can be a useful tool for both recruiters and candidates. At Brompton, I’m passionate about using creative writing, videos, Instagram campaigns and other mediums to bring our brand to life and encourage applications from a diverse range of candidates. If we can use exciting stories from within our business to inspire people’s career choices, then I know we’re doing something right. 

What challenges has Brompton faced for recruitment? 

Like many other companies, diversity is one of the biggest challenges we face. In 2017, only 5% of our workforce were women, a figure we’re on track to increase to 40% by 2025. In addition to using technology to support hiring processes and encourage diversity, we work with schools and colleges to try and inspire young women to consider future careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). We offer work experience and internships too, which are helping us to encourage more women into the business. 

Another recruitment challenge has been the changing rules around apprenticeship programmes. We design programmes for school leavers but often find these are out of date before we’ve had a chance to implement them. It would be helpful if there was some consensus on what these programmes should include so that we can commit to a long-term hiring process. 

Final question - what do you think the future holds for recruitment and the world of work in general?

While flexible, work-from-home policies have been popular across all age groups, not everyone is equipped with a suitable office where they live. As we emerge from the covid crisis, I predict that pubs and cafes will start offering more co-working spaces with food, drinks and Wi-Fi included, for those who need a change of scenery.  

I’m also a huge advocate for psychometric profiling, and I believe it’s being well utilised in recruitment processes. The next stage will be to expand training in behaviour profiling across every aspect of a business so that it becomes part of the organisation’s culture. It’s a crucial tool for helping people to understand where their skills lie and I feel it will become a core part of learning and development in years to come. 

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