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How big consumer brands can attract engineering talent

How big consumer brands can attract engineering talent

Listen to more of Matt’s thoughts on effective recruitment in the tech sector on the latest Behind the Headlines podcast.

Everything is tech. Tech is everything.

I’ve been at Ocado for 15 years. We’re a retailer and a technology company. The two go hand-in-hand, although it’s safe to say that perceptions of our business are dominated by the online grocery retail service our customers enjoy from us.

Behind that public persona, defined by the name Ocado Technology, we are a 1,000-strong team of technologists, researchers, developers and engineers who are exploring some complex and extremely exciting new fields. Our team is always growing and, with this, we face an ongoing need to add new talent to our ranks.

When popularity becomes a vice

Being well-known in the consumer sphere can often work to our advantage. Because grocery retail is tangible – everyone shops for food and everyone understands the industry – it’s easier to visualise how complex technical solutions like artificial intelligence and robotics might be practically applied.

But, when we’re recruiting, it can be a challenge to properly communicate the difference between the two. We’re not asking people to join a traditional retail organisation—we’re asking them to join a large technology organisation within a digitally-minded retail company. As a business that wants to attract the best talent, we have had to work very hard to make other engineers know we’re here and doing all this—otherwise people subconsciously see us as the delivery driver who turns up with their groceries.

Companies across all sectors are recognising the need for innovation which is baked-in rather than outsourced. Brands – established household names in particular – are facing a hefty public relations task in making sure that people recognise them as a technology leader as well as whatever they’re already famous for.

This not only means getting the word out that these new roles are there for the taking but it also involves stretching their brand far enough to become attractive to those candidates who might otherwise end up at pure-play technology companies.

Changing language; shifting perceptions

Perhaps industries need to develop a new, more diverse language to better describe what they do. Of course, it doesn’t help that we have tech companies employing Digital Prophets and Dream Alchemists, but communication and language can have a huge impact on the desirability of a career or job role.

If our employees are to be advocates – whether that’s at the pub with their friends or at industry networking events – we’d do well to provide them with a straightforward, positive way to talk about what they do and the company they work for.

Again, much of this falls to better public relations. The more stories there are in the public consciousness about big brands being a hub of innovation or at the vanguard of change in their sector, the easier it will be for engineers and technologists at, say, McDonald’s to talk up the importance of their roles in the same way they might – for example – talk about working at Google.

Matt Soane, General Manager

Behind the Headlines is developed and produced by Eulogy, a top 20 independent comms agency based in Clerkenwell, London. Eulogy’s popular weekly podcast – The Headliner – reflects the conversation in the agency’s daily editorial meeting: topical media intelligence put in the context of smart brand communication.

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