Thanks for joining us! I guess a good place to start would be by giving us a little bit of a background to the Dunelm brand story and how it’s developed over time?

So we started to look at developing an employer value proposition probably two years ago. Before that, we didn't really have a strategy or direction as to how we want to talk about ourselves as a business or an employer. We decided to pull together everything and just figure out what our different candidates and our different colleagues wanted. We started that two years ago, and we did loads of internal and external research, we looked at our competitors for talent, we looked at other retailers, we investigated different areas. For example, in tech, we looked at specific companies that are doing employer brand well to get an idea as to how they're attracting people. We then pulled together what we thought our employer brand should be. We've got a key set of values and shared purpose for the business, and that's ingrained already into lots of things that we do, so it made sense for the EVP to feed into that. But we then added in messages and nuances and what we call ‘pillars’ to make sure we're giving ourselves a set of messages that resonate with different groups of people, so depending on their life situation and circumstances, where they are in their career, what type of role they do, they would get a message that is nuanced for them. It's not one size fits all, but it still fits in with how we want to tell our story as an employer. 

That's how we came up with our employer brand, which is Find Your Happy Place. The meaning behind that is we are the home of homes and we feel like home should be your happy place, so when you're working, you shouldn't feel any different. It should be somewhere that you feel supported, that you feel that you can collaborate, be challenged, have autonomy, and that you're in a secure environment. We created that two years ago, and since then we've just built and built and built on it, and it's something that's really ingrained now in the business. We're finding that we're getting a lot of engagement and a lot of people resonating with how we're talking about ourselves, and also more importantly, we're getting people to stay.

What challenges did you face when developing your EVP for a tech audience?

We've got three key pillars in the EVP. One is believing in our long-term thinking and ambitious plan. The second one is be empowered to take opportunities every day. So that's around progression, training and development, autonomy within your role. And the third one is to contribute to our caring, friendly and supportive atmosphere. All the different audiences that we have resonate with different pillars in different ways, but the tech audience is the only one that resonates with all three. So it just shows you that it's definitely not a one size fits all and you can't talk to people all in the same way and just expect that they will resonate with one certain message. We've found that it’s a great jump-off point and then layering on the nuances for tech talent is the most important part. 

We also as well know that we have a perception challenge with people not necessarily seeing retail as a destination for tech talent. We have to make sure that we are getting across exactly what it's like to work here and making sure that we're not selling people an experience that they're not going to get, but we're also bringing to life everything that we do. We know that retail is not going to be for everyone, but we just want to make sure that we are talking about ourselves in the best light. It's definitely a journey that we’re on, but we are seeing a difference in terms of people recognising us as an employer and not always us having to go to them to convince them that it's a good place to work. People have seen and engaged with what we’re putting out there, they’re understand our tech stack etc.

What was your approach to getting your brand in front of the audience? Where did you go to find them and what kind of channels have you used?

We revamped our careers website in the last six months, so that was a big project for us. That was the whole piece, not just tech, but we made sure we really personalised the information that people get when they go through to apply for a job. So in our tech, digital and data section, we talk lots about the tech stack. We give lots of information around what training and development opportunities are available just for tech, because it's set up as a separate entity to the rest of the business in terms of learning and development because of the advancements in tech that we need to keep up with. We made sure that through the stories we're telling that we're really bringing our colleague experience to life and those personalised additions to the stories really make a difference. We also have our tech newsletter that sits on a tech engineering platform and LinkedIn. We talk through the different things that we're doing - some of that is highly technical , and some of it is a bit more about the culture and thought leadership and that goes out weekly. 

We also need our partners to reach those people that might not necessarily think of us as a place to work. So especially with our Haystack profile, we've made that as in-depth as possible in terms of trying to give people a proper insight into life at Dunelm, and specifically life at Dunelm Tech. 

The homepage of Dunelm's revamped tech careers site

Can you share how your company is integrating learning and development initiatives to support both technological advancements and diverse talent growth, in order to enhance overall brand awareness?

We've got a big learning and development team and different areas of our business have a specific L&D partner. There’s a specific strategy for our tech colleagues in terms of learning and development, as technology is changing all the time. That’s treated a separate entity in terms of the rest of L&D, in terms of the things that they need for tech. As well as that we offer training programmes for people that are in their first job or second job, right up to leaders within the business. So, there's coaching and mentoring available for different schemes and different things, no matter where you are. If you're a new line manager, if you're part of our leadership team, if you're identified as strong growth potential, there's lots of different opportunities to have support network and develop your skills while you're here as well. 

We get a lot of colleagues that are really engaged with those programmes and as, part of their colleague experience, it's something that they really value. We want to make sure that we keep doing that for different colleagues. We've recently just launched a programme called Reach, which is available to colleagues across the business, retail and distribution to head office. The aim of it is to empower colleagues from underrepresented ethnic groups to reach their potential. It’sthe first project or programme of its kind but we’ve got big plans to expand what we’re doing for our different colleague groups. We've been oversubscribed with the amount of people that have wanted to get involved. It’s something we're really keen on doing more of, making sure that all of our colleagues can feel part of what we’re achieving.

As you reflect on your journey with employer branding and talent acquisition, considering the successes and challenges you've encountered, what pivotal insights or lessons would you share with yourself from three years ago? How have these experiences shaped your approach and strategies?

So for me in terms of employer brand, I would have liked to moved a little bit quicker with some of the projects that we've done, but we've taken a lot of learnings that we've got along the way to mobilise our EVP. We're going focus on colleague advocacy this year. We know that it's so much more authentic for our colleagues to be talking about their experiences versus us talking about it from a corporate perspective. We've got a couple of leaders in our tech teams that are brilliant at talking about their leadership styles, what’s important to them and the culture of their teams we want more of that.  One thing that I would say is alsofocus for us this year is how do we tell those stories to our own people, but it's easier said than done. Some people aren't necessarily that comfortable with talking about things from their perspectives or they don't really know how to share, so we're trying different training programmes and support for different people to get them more confident in personal branding.

Thinking about yourselves and the challenges you face, how has Haystack helped you in your own roles throughout our partnership?

I think it gets us in front of people that wouldn't necessarily have found us otherwise. We might not be at the top of their list when it comes to researching companies they want to move to, so it broadens the type of people we can engage with and we can tell our stories to. Anything that we can do diversify our talent pools is really helpful.

Regarding your outlook for 2024, you've mentioned several key priorities, such as encouraging your employees to tell your brand story. Are there additional areas you plan to concentrate on or are you building on the work that you've already done?

We’re looking into understanding our multi-generational workforce a little bit more. We have our EVP and that's been created by the nuances of people in different jobs and departments. What we now want to do is try and understand the motivators and drivers of our different candidate and colleague pools better. Understanding where people are in their lives and what's important to them, and what they need from an employer and why, and how we can support them to be their best. We could always make improvements to get better, but I think it'll be interesting to look at tech as a whole through the lens of the multi-generational workforce and make sure that we understand why people join us, why they stay and what they need from us to make that experience even more personalised.

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