Animesh Mukherjee, Head of HR Centre of Expertise at Digi.
An Unconventional Idea:
The CXO Apprenticeship is an unconventional management trainee program, so Digi needed an outstanding recruitment campaign to attract extraordinary young Malaysians. What differed this management trainee program from others?
“If young people were to learn what it meant to take a decision in the real work environment, the best way to teach them was through experience”, shares Animesh Mukherjee, Head of HR Centre of Expertise at Digi.
“We didn’t organize any mass career fairs, go to campuses or list positions on any job portals. Instead, we addressed the millennial generation who is social media oriented. The fastest way to engage them was through Facebook. We created a campaign – it was all about giving young people freedom to learn, develop and influence the decision-making process. “This is what freedom looks like” was our campaign tagline.”
“We ran the campaign on Facebook and we got almost 900 applications for 8 positions.”
To apply for the program candidates had to try a bit harder than just attach their CVs. Each applicant had to share his/her life story and vision of digital Malaysia in a 3-minute video. Not only did that help to filter out candidates with low commitment, but it also allowed recruiters to get to know candidates’ personalities at the very beginning of the recruitment process.
On top of that, going digital enabled Digi to target young Malaysians graduating from Universities in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK. The company shortlisted 50 candidates from 900 applicants. But before selecting final 8, they prepared 3 more unconventional selection rounds for candidates.
The 50 shortlisted candidates went through a “Freedom Challenge”. Spending the whole day in Digi HQ, 12 teams of candidates worked on developing and prototyping a digital product for young Malaysians. Supervised by a coach from Digi each team had to ideate, validate, prototype and pitch a product the company could introduce to a young demographic. During that day, coaches got to observe candidates “in action” and suggest the best candidates for the next round.
25 candidates who made it to the next round were then sent to work in Digi stores for one day. “Our customers are important to us”, says Animesh, “so we wanted to see how candidates would interact with them. It was a test of their values”.
Finally, candidates went through interviews with CXOs who got to choose their apprentices. But remember, this campaign for Digi was all about freedom, so apprentices also got a say in picking their mentors. The HR team then matched pairs.
Return of investment:
“The campaign might seem expensive, but let me challenge this assumption”, says Animesh. – “We went digital first, it allowed us to flip the cost structure for this campaign. Most companies would undertake some physical efforts to recruit graduates. They would go to campuses and participate in career fairs. In our case physical activities were just complimentary to the digital promotion, not the other way around”.
Without revealing any numbers, he says that the campaign has proved well worthy of investment. After completing the campaign, Digi filled an additional 30 positions with candidates that initially applied for CXO Apprentice Programme.
It’s about values:
1. No CGPA cut off point for applicants
Animesh noticed that this decision surprised many students and faculties. Normally, management trainee programs are strict about the expected grade level of applicants. But this decision was clearly based on values for Digi: they would not limit anyone’s chances in the program just because of their grades.
“We believe that today the most talented young people acquire their life experiences very early: through platforms like AIESEC, socially oriented projects and so on. This life experience matters to us just as much as academic credentials”, explains Animesh.
You can find multiple examples of disrupting traditional recruitment practices in this campaign. From the promotion on Facebook to video applications and the “Freedom Challenge”. Every stage of the process demonstrates to candidates what the company stands for. Going through the recruitment process is the closest insight people could get into the company; what they see through all the stages creates a strong impression of what company is really like. Digi would like to strengthen their HR brand as a place where young people are given freedom to learn and create.
3. Time spent in hiring is an investment
Some may argue that even though the monetary cost of the campaign might not be that high, executing the campaign was rather time-consuming for some of Digi’s top people.
Animesh explains that the company believes that time spent hiring the best talent is an investment, not a cost to the company. 12 coaches and 8 CXOs have personally observed all the candidates fully immersed into the final stages of the selection process. Animesh is sure that putting energy and time into hiring the best people is a worthy investment.