Mike Davies:

I'm Mike, the co-founder of Haystack. Welcome to episode 2, of the Haystack - Tech Uncovered podcast, where I'll be chatting with tech leaders, disruptors, academics and innovators about all things technology, software development and culture. 

Today, I'll be speaking with Andy McFetrich. Andy is a talent acquisition campaign and channel manager of the global FinTech giant Sage. He's an expert in the field and we cover a wide variety of topics such as diversity, equality, and inclusion, the remote working trends, salary and cultural transparency and nurturing grassroots tech talent.

It was a super interesting conversation. I hope you find it useful.

Welcome to the podcast, Andy. Good to have you here.

Andy McFetrich:

Thanks Mike. Great to be here.

Mike Davies:

Good stuff. I think let's just dive right in. Would you mind giving us just a quick introduction about yourself? Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

Andy McFetrich:

Sure. So I work at Sage, in Newcastle based out of our Newcastle office.

My role is the global recruitment marketing manager. So I manage marketing campaigns to support our recruitment teams, across all of our geographies. So Sage is as you know, a bit of a North East success story, in over 20 countries around the world. I look at how we engage and attract talent, and increase the awareness of the Sage brand.

We've got a pretty strong brand here in the North East, from 40 years. We've just celebrated our 40th birthday last week. But in some of the other regions, it's looking at how we penetrate that market and increase our brand awareness.

Mike Davies:

Yeah, I think to be honest, one of the biggest themes of this podcast that I really wanted to touch upon, and one of the reasons why I asked you on, was to really dive into this idea of employer branding, talent acquisition, and the concept of recruitment marketing. But for a lot of people, it seems like quite a foreign concept. I'm quite interested to hear, how would you define those three sub genres and where do they differ?

Andy McFetrich:

That's a good question. And I think if you ask that question to 50 people within talent acquisition, you'd probably get 50 different answers.

It seems to have grown organically within the industry over the last sort of five to 10 years, really, try and break them down into each one. 

So employer brand is almost like what people are saying about you. You know, it's what the message that you want people to know about your company, in a way you could compare it to a consumer brand.

If you think about something like any high street retailer, you automatically come up with an idea about who they are, whether they're quality or lacking in quality. And the employer brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room. So it's how people perceive you and are you the sort of employer that they would consider joining for their career.

And if you look at recruitment marketing, that's more typically outbound. So how do you take that message and put it in front of the right sort of people. And again, it's very similar to how any corporation, any business would manage its own brand. You want people to know the key messages.

And just like any other type of brand, it absolutely has to be authentic. You can't pull a switch and bait and say that you’re one thing and all your advert and all your marketing, and the reality is very, very different. You know what we did, we launched our first employee value proposition last year. So to chuck in a fourth term for us to discuss at some point.

The way that is typically done as you talk to people within the business. So in a way you could compare it to when a company talks about its values. If they've come up with those with some expensive marketing consultancy that has said, these are the values you should talk about and no one lives and breathes them day in and day out, then they're no more than words on a page.

So it's, how do you take those words off the page and actually live them, you know, in the way that candidates behave. These days it’s very similar to consumers. If you think about what used to happen, sort of 20, 30 years ago, you'd see an advert in a newspaper and you'd apply for it with a written CV. I saw some research last week that suggests on average candidates look at 16 different pieces of information about a company before they decide to apply.

You look at something like a Glassdoor and there's a couple of other companies springing up a similar ilk where you can leave honest reviews, and it gives more power to the candidates. For me, that's a great thing. It keeps companies honest. It means that you've got to live and breathe the values that you talk about.

Mike Davies:

Yeah, a hundred percent.

I completely agree with that point around the, candidates go around and search various different sources before they make a decision. I was kind of sat in that chair a few years ago where I had a very clearly defined image of what an ideal company looked like for me to go through this, the standard milkround, with 16 tabs open trying to find various different sources of information.

And I thought it was really interesting that way you said it's all well and good kind of saying all these nice fancy words without actually embodying the concept. And obviously Sage is a huge organisation. I would imagine it's often quite easy to do when there's a few people in a room really working out something, but how does a huge powerhouse like Sage really embody these concepts and how do they kind of use it to, I guess, nurture the talent that was positioning.

Andy McFetrich:

 We try and put our values at the front and center of what we do. You know, the way I look at it in a software industry, particularly someone who's writing code for a living can effectively choose 10, 15, 20 companies. You said when you're on the milk round, the graduate world, everyone's going to try and tell you what they're all about.

And for me, the reason that a candidate would choose company A over company B is whether they see it as a good cultural fit. That can be very hard to assess from a candidate's perspective because in that interview, there's still sometimes an imbalance between a company and a candidate when they're looking for work.

So a candidate wants to ask a bunch of questions about trying to find out whether the values are aligned with their own. And the company is trying to assess that person to find out whether they're gonna be the right fit. So I think from our marketing perspective, we could talk about what technology we use and, of course we do some of that because typically candidates in the software space want to learn and work with cutting edge technology.They don't want to be using the old legacy stuff.

Stack Overflow always produces a bunch of research every year about what developers are looking for, and flexibility, and languages are often two of the most important things from a candidate's perspective. So we obviously talk about that, but for me, the thing that makes any company different is the people within it.

And that's when you're talking about not just the values, but the culture. And it's fascinating to be able to try and take that message out to candidates and talk about it. It is literally every interaction that a candidate has with a company when they're going through that process is indicative of their culture.

Are they asking you to come in for 7, 8, 9 rounds of interviews? Okay, well, does that indicate something around their decision-making abilities? So we try to put our values front and center, but we also hold each other to account when we're doing so.

Mike Davies:

It sounds like transparency plays a huge role.

That's kind of one of the things that we've seen, as a business and when we get users on the Haystack platform. They value the organizations and the employers that are the most transparent and willing to put themselves out there and out on the line. And that could come through salary transparency through, I dunno, various different levels of culture that goes on within the organization.

Obviously, as I mentioned, Sage is a huge player, how has this concept of recruitment marketing and employer brand. I'm assuming you're familiar with the concept in it, in the marketing world of the flywheel? As soon as something gets momentum behind it, it might be slow to start, but once you get momentum then, it kind of drives itself.

Is that concept present, do you think, as a brand scales and grows, or do you feel like it's constantly kind of this uphill battle to try and acquire new talent? Or does the brand image itself really drive it?

Andy McFetrich:

It's a bit of all of those categories. I think Mike, you know, you can never take your foot off the pedal in terms of recruitment marketing.

It's about how you engage with those candidates. And I think the recruitment market, any candidate market, is always incredibly dynamic. I spent six years as a recruiter at Sage before I moved into my current role and several years as a technology recruiter before that.

And people would say to me, we've saturated the market. We can't find any developers in Newcastle or Manchester or Cambridge or wherever I was recruiting. We've saturated the market. And I'd always challenge that because it's a dynamic market. You're not selling fridges where once everyone has a fridge, they don't need a fridge until it breaks.

You go to the market to try and find a candidate. You either hire someone or you don't, and if you do it again, six months later, there's a whole bunch of people that have joined the geographical market. You've got people that weren't looking for a job six months ago, that now they are, you've got people that are worth looking at.

And everything changes. You've got people that didn't have the skill six months ago, but they've gone in and developed themselves. So I think it's always ever changing. And also you've got to react to what's happening around you. We've just lived or we are living through COVID in the pandemic and what that means.

From what I saw companies have values around that. So one of our key values is to do the right thing. And a lot of companies have a lot of values around how they look after their colleagues, and the chips were down, right. 

You know, you've got something like this - everyone is suddenly globally working from home, schools are closed. People had kids hanging off them and it was a really dramatic experience for a lot of people. And I think that's when companies showed their true colors, because if you're not going to support your staff and your colleagues, then your colleagues are going to resign as soon as they can.

We've seen a huge uplift in the recruitment market over the last six months, once restrictions started to ease, because people are saying, well, hey, I don't want to work at this place anymore because of the way they treated me.

Sage were really good throughout COVID. Steve Hare, our CEO got an award from Glassdoor as the highest rated CEO throughout the COVID pandemic. So, you know this is where a lot of people suddenly went. These aren't words on a page, these are values that are going to guide us through decisions that we make. You know, I was at home, I had a five-year-old and a two-year-old at home for six months.

So at the pandemic and I pretty much blocked that memory out, cause it was brutal. But you know, Sage were incredibly supportive, I knew that. The full support of my manager, and the department heads. And that makes a big difference. It's psychological safety, so what we found off the back of that was people flocked to Glassdoor and left really positive reviews.

Typically, Glassdoor has got one of those reputations is a bit of a, you know, somewhere, people go with an axe to grind, right? They haven't got a mechanism to discuss some things so they go there. And it actually works both ways. People went out there and said, this is a great place!

And that happened in another company's good and bad. So I think when there's a real challenge, you know, that's when a company shows whether it lives those values or not.

Mike Davies:

There's loads of good points that I could kind of pick apart there. I think there's one of the, one of the points on Glassdoor and I think any review platform, whether it's TripAdvisor, obviously Glassdoor, a lot of the time.

Unfortunately, it's negative reviews because usually the people that go on and leave a review have a particular grade. But I also feel like it's kind of polarizing in the sense where people have, who have a fantastic experience and more likely to go out there and leave the review as well. So it's very much sort of the polar opposites, a lot, a lot of the time.

Do you feel like that that level of social proof like Glassdoor provides is beneficial in terms of acquiring new talent, nurturing? But also building a positive culture as well, because I think a lot of the times it kind of informs cultural decisions internally, as well as here. Obviously if you have kind of a plethora of negative reviews..

Andy McFetrich:

Yeah, absolutely. I think something like a Glassdoor or any review sites, or even any comment on social media, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, whatever, I think they're valuable because it's what people are genuinely thinking and how they're feeling.

You know, most companies will have some sort of colleague survey where they have a. Well, they find out how their colleagues are feeling and they're great and they give you a lot of insights, but I think, something like that, you've obviously got that caveat that you mentioned, where you do tend to attract the extremes are really unhappy and they're really happy and well actually, how do the vast majority of people feel?

Yeah. But you can still spot trends across these things. Um, But I know that senior people within our organization look at those Glassdoor reviews and we respond to the negative ones and we acknowledge what people are saying, we're listening. They inform some of the decisions that we make.

I've heard investors look at a Glassdoor reviews to find out what that pulse is like within a company. So I think if you didn't welcome them, then all you're doing is putting your head in the sand. You've got to be honest and find out what people think. And if you think everything's great, but all your colleagues are saying, hey, this sucks. You've got a problem or you've got a real big problem. Right?

So it can feel like it can be, uh, overwhelming at times, because like you say, you attract those sort of really extreme comments sometimes. But I think if you look at the trends and it's the same, everyone's social these days, everyone's got some sort of social presence or the vast majority of us have.

You're not Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn. And it's how you represent the brand day in, day out. I'd always, when I was a recruiter, I'd always encourage a candidate to look at the profiles and research the people they're going to be working with. And it comes back to what you said before Mike, about transparency.

If you put yourself in a candidate's shoes, you want to know who you're going to be working with, what are you going to be doing? Are these the sorts of people I can spend a lot of hours each week with, um, you know, and do my best work. So I think it's all about transparency and I think it's a great thing for the industry.

To find out more about Andy, listen to episode 2 of the Haystack Tech Uncovered podcast.

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