npower discuss how online engagement tools, peer driven engagement and enhanced engagement and data capture has all positively contributed to their graduate engagement strategy.

How can we provide a better way to engage with graduates and encourage them to talk to us to find out more about our schemes without increasing our on-campus event schedule and, simultaneously, reducing the large volume of unsuitable applications? That was the question npower’s Group Graduate Recruitment Manager, Becky McVittie, had at the start of the 2017 graduate intake cycle. She was after a way of engaging with graduates at multiple points during the recruitment process that would allow her team to offer information, support and advice relevant to the stage the graduates were at.

npower as a business employs over 8,000 people in the UK and each year looks to recruit dozens of graduates into one of their five tailored graduate programmes – for which they can receive around 2,000 applications. The initial sifting process is outsourced to a third party which, whilst it has its benefits, also meant that the first-time Becky would have any interaction with a candidate was often at an assessment centre.

“We found that we were often getting red marks from candidates when it came to communicating with them and we knew this lack of engagement was something we had to address,” she explained. “Graduates frequently had questions which our outsource partner wasn’t equipped to answer and these would be forwarded on to us. We wanted to provide candidates with a way of communicating directly with our team. This was particularly important as the application process opened in October and you could have a candidate applying then but having to wait until February for an assessment centre date. We needed to keep these candidates engaged with the business and the recruitment process.”

Online engagement tool

npower had also recently conducted a piece of research which indicated that only 2.5% of people they spoke to at careers fairs went on to complete an application. The number of campus careers fairs they attended needed to be reduced. Becky was interested in seeing if there was a better way to engage with these graduates using an online tool to hold virtual careers fairs. The online switch also dovetailed nicely with the business’ overall strategy of increasing digitalisation wherever and whenever possible.
After an extensive evaluation and review process, npower decided to partner with the online moderated chat platform, Meet and Engage. “It allowed us to engage with candidates right at the start of the recruitment process which we hadn’t previously been able to do,” explained Becky. “It also provided us with a way of communicating with students at universities we were no longer attending in person.”

Peer driven engagement

The other aspect of the platform that Becky felt really enhanced the candidate experience and engagement was the ability to invite other moderators to join the HR and resourcing team on the chats. Around 60% of the questions they get asked are directed at the HR recruitment process, but the other 40% are about the programme itself. Becky invites the appropriate business sponsors to join the chat sessions along with, crucially, current graduates on the scheme to give their first-hand experience of the application process and the programme itself. “Feedback from the participants really showed that being able to ask a current grad a question was hugely beneficial and, as the platform is so easy to use, it takes literally 10 minutes to train a new moderator. What’s also been nice is the engagement we’ve had with our colleagues who’ve used it – especially the current grads who all want to participate in future chats.”

In addition to running general Q&A chats for each of the different graduate programmes, Becky and her team have added further value to the engagement process – and helped to calm nerves in the process – by also scheduling chat sessions for candidates before they attend the assessment centres. Following selection, npower will also now run onboarding chats with those candidates who have been offered a place to keep them warm before they start. This will allow the new recruits to engage not only with their programme development team but also with the other graduates on the schemes and business sponsors. In fact, Becky will be using the platform to run chats for the onboarding of their summer interns too.

Enhanced engagement and data capture

Looking ahead to the 2018 graduate intake, Becky is planning on increasing their use of live chat engagement. “We started using this technology just before our recruitment campaign for 2017 graduates started and, in hindsight, I believe we could have seen higher numbers had we promoted it more from the outset. For our 2018, campaign we will not only be promoting the link on our website and on all third-party marketing, but we’ll also ensure its front and centre on everything we do at the careers events we attend.”

From a candidate engagement perspective, participants register in advance so the team can communicate with them prior to and after the event when they send them a transcript of the chat. The response to date has been very positive with many adding that the ability to see other people’s questions and subsequent answers really insightful. Continuing the positive engagement process, npower will be scheduling reoccurring weekly slots for in-process candidates to get in touch with one of the resourcing team directly. “It should reduce the number of inbound enquiries,” Becky hopes, “and the resource intensive time it takes to respond to each one.”

And now that the graduate team have successfully tested the platform, other areas of the business are interested in using it too. “My German graduate recruitment colleagues are testing it with their candidates and the experienced hire team here in the UK can see the benefits too,” concluded Becky. “I really see this as a technology that will allow us to add significant value and boost engagement with candidates at all levels and throughout the whole recruitment journey.”

Becky McVittie is the Group Graduate Recruitment Manager at Innogy, which owns the npower brand in the UK. Becky looks after all graduate, internship and apprentice recruitment and strategy at npower and sister companies Innogy and RWE Generation UK. Prior to joining the Group, Becky worked in Experience Hire Resourcing after finishing an HR graduate programme herself at npower.