Video interview with Ashley Thomas, talent and organisational development manager at BHF

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At Symposium Event’s Graduate Recruitment and Development Conference 2020, HRreview spoke to Ashley Thomas, talent and organisational development manager at British Heart Foundation (BHF).

HRreview: Are there any real differences when recruiting in the graduate marketplace for a charity organisation?

Mr Thomas: I think the key difference is for recruiting in the charity sector is that the charity sector has a really great purpose, we appeal to millennials who want a career that is connected to something more than profit. So I think the sector appeals to people, wheres there’s a marriage really of profit and purpose. So for instance at the BHF, we raise money to spend on life saving research and it really appeals to people. The second thing is we cannot always compete in terms of brand power in the graduate market, the traditional big names and career paths that are associated with graduates. So I suppose what’s really different with us is that we have had to harness more than just our own brand. We work very closely in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support where we have created the grad unique programme which straddles across both organisations because we have two brands working on behalf of us and on behalf of the sector. We are starting to see a real attraction and penetration in the grad market.

HRreview: Most graduate recruitment now also incorporates apprenticeship attraction; do you think that these two different markets will merge in the future?

Mr Thomas: I think we are already seeing signs of that happening, for instance with the BHF we are looking to grow our portfolio of graduate programmes, particularly around finance and accounting. Also within fundraising and the intention, there is to use the apprenticeship frameworks as a way of attracting and developing people on a structured programme. Particularly for our sector, resources are paramount we need to use them as effectively as possible and it’s a way for us to make sure we can provide really professional support, underneath the great pastoral care and great development we can offer within the charity sector.

HRreview: Most graduates CVs can look very similar, how do you identify talent and what process do you use?

Mr Thomas: We do have a combination of things, we still use psychometric profiles, we do ability testing as part of our essential criteria that we use to make sure we are picking someone with a good brain. The charity sector needs people with good creative fast thinking brains, but more than that for us, what we really look for is some sort of genuineness, some form of real clear purpose about why individuals want to come work in our sector in particular. I think we are relatively flexible at BHF and Macmillan in thinking more broadly what does talent mean, we try to challenge the idea because we have a sector which is predominately white, middle-class and well-educated. We want to look for just little points of difference when we look at CVs or when we are looking at video interviews. We are trying to tap in to the thing that might not be so obvious but its really personal to that individual and reflects what they were capable of achieving in their given circumstances.

HRreview: Does psychometric testing still play a part in your recruitment process?

Mr Thomas: We do not use personality profiles as part of our selection process but we do usability tests. Previously we have used Watson Glaser, SHL and Talent Q particularly in the grad unique programme which we share with Macmillan

HRreview: And how do you use it?

Mr Thomas: We use that in two ways, one is a big sift initially to help us identify our long list and shortlist, but we do not use psychometrics as a deal breaker. So where people might show different dimensions of talent in their own particular way, we do not tend to use psychometrics as a tie-breaker situation. It’s very much just part of a rounded discussion and a rounded reflection on who do we think this person is and what do we think they might be capable of. So, yes we use it, but it never decides if ultimately someone can fulfil a role in either of our organisations.

HRreview: You spoke about harnessing two brands to create a super brand and collaboration, could you see this approach working in the commercial sector?

Mr Thomas: Our partnership with Macmillan rests on having shared purpose, shared values and also needing to use a great talent for the same thing which is to improve and save lives. So that may be different for organisations in the commercial sector but I think the same principles apply. I think whether it’s through your supply chain or whether its a client partner you might work with, its almost looking for the sweet spot. It’s the Venn diagram of what your both trying to do. What’s the problem that a partnership can help you solve. I think that probably supports any organisation in any sector if there’s the right question that a partnership can help you solve, it is just trying to find the right partner.

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