Cielo provides an RPO solution for around 1,000 hires per year in the UK for O2, and also has end-to-end responsibility for Early Careers, Graduate and Apprentice recruitment.
In 2016, the mobile telecoms provider O2 wanted to address a problem now common to many organisations: Given the current and growing talent shortages associated with STEM (Science, Technology, English and Mathematics) skills, how could the company help safeguard its position as a technology leader by improving sourcing and talent pooling for hard-to-find, specialist roles?
In partnership with its RPO provider, Cielo, O2 came to the conclusion that pioneering the launch of a Career Returners Programme would not just open up a wider pool of talent - it would also support the business imperative of driving greater diversity, whilst building on O2’s success as a flexible employer.
O2’s research had found that 70% of women fear taking a career break and ‘stepping off the ladder’ simply because they feel it’s hard to get back on. When they do return, they face a huge amount of bias in terms of gender, age, and a perceived lack of experience. Overall, an estimated 96 million people worldwide are currently on career breaks, and 54 million of these are experienced leaders. O2 and Cielo wanted to make a difference (and solve a pressing business need) by creating a Returners programme that would provide candidates such as these with the means to get back into the world of work, bring their skills up to date, and provide a real opportunity to find employment following the programme.
In order to meet this challenge of filling current and future skills gaps whilst simultaneously improving diversity and creating a new way of sourcing talent, we partnered with an external thought leadership body, Women Returners, to build a bespoke, tailored 14-week ‘internship’ for senior hires who have taken a voluntary career break of between two and ten years. We used a multi-tier attraction strategy, creating a bespoke page on the Women Returners website and building up a network of personal contacts from relevant events and conferences. Social Media was also key to utilising both personal and corporate attraction channels to reach parents looking to get back into work via schools.
After telephone screening, shortlisted candidates were invited to attend an assessment day, which included a Women Returners Workshop on confidence building after a career break, a Q&A with our COO, and one-to-one interviews with Hiring Managers and Recruiters in Operations, which were designed to focus on transferable skills.
The O2 Career Returners Programme has provided a real business advantage to O2 by improving access to a wealth of (often overlooked) talent and experience.
Cielo and O2 have received a very high calibre of candidates for the scheme. In 2016, in the first year of the programme, 60 applications were received. 24 returners were invited to our assessment centres, which achieved 100% attendance. In fact, in 2016 we identified a higher than expected number of candidates deemed suitable for the programme, and we actually doubled our initial intake numbers for the programme from six to 12.
After successful completion of the programme, eight of the 2016 Returners were on-boarded into full time roles at O2 - an achievement both Cielo and O2 are very proud of. Given this success, in 2017 O2’s Operations function agreed to run the programme for a second year. We received three times as many applications as in 2016, with 100% attendance at our assessment day for the second year running, and we again hired eight returners in a range of areas including Cyber Security, Customer Service and IT.