Avencia Asks: Bianca Pennington

This week’s Avencia Asks blog post features Bianca Pennington, Avencia’s Principal Resourcing Consultant.

Bianca, tell us about yourself, how long have you been working at Avencia?

I studied Law at Liverpool University, and upon graduating decided not to pursue the traditional legal path, and instead embarked on my first role in IT recruitment in 2001 and never looked back!

I joined Avencia’s parent company, Oliver James, in 2008 as their 19th employee, specialising in Risk and Compliance within the London market for 12 years. In August 2020, I joined Avencia and can honestly say the past year has flown by.

It has been a pleasure to see the business go from strength to strength and be part of an exciting new chapter within the RPO space.

You previously worked as part of a recruitment agency; how does this differ to working as part of an outsourced solution?

The main distinction is that an agency role is 360 degrees, involving both candidate interaction and business development across a specific market and vertical specialism.

When you work as part of an agency, an element of your role involves scoping out and winning new business, however, when you work as part of an outsourced solution, you have a set number of clients you dedicate your time to.

Similarly, to my time in agency recruitment, a large proportion of my time is spent meeting with clients and candidates, building relationships to ensure a consistent pipeline of placements.

I’ve found my work at Avencia to be incredibly rewarding and interesting as by working as an extension of your clients, you can really become embedded within the business and see the positive impact of your work. Often, we are placing multiple positions, sometimes whole teams, which has allowed me to expand my knowledge across a wide spectrum of requirements.

Working as one of our Principal Resourcing Consultants, what does your role involve?

My role involves meeting with clients on briefings to effectively understand the requirements of each vacancy assigned and sourcing a diverse portfolio of candidates within an agreed SLA timeframe, based upon a particular need.

Sourcing is done through a number of channels and depending upon the need/preference of the hiring manager, talent longlists/market maps are produced to provide a detailed insight into the available pool within the market.

As a Principal Resourcing Consultant, I work collaboratively with and on behalf of our clients to provide them with access to high calibre and diverse individuals who will add value to their teams.

It is vital to have an in-depth understanding in relation to each assignment to relay a compelling message to the market to attract the strongest talent.

Alongside appreciating the technical requirements for any given role, our service involves understanding the values and ethos of our clients, providing talent that is likely to thrive in their environment and bring a fresh way of thinking.

Essentially, as an Avencia Principal Resourcing Consultant, I act as an extension to our clients, ensuring that each candidate has the best possible experience during the recruitment process. I focus on building relationships with candidate pools, reaching out to them with suitable opportunities based upon their needs and aspirations.

What does a typical week look like for you?

I would typically be managing multiple vacancies across our portfolio at different stages of the recruitment process. As part of a direct sourcing team, we work with clients to ensure their expectations are met through the effective management of SLA’s.

In accordance with agreed timelines, the client will receive a progress report providing a view on the market; available candidate pools, including gender split, how the search is progressing, any challenges faced, and the numbers of engaged candidates. They will also receive a shortlist of sourced candidates.

It’s likely that I have one or more briefing meetings for new requirements, after which I’ll advertise the role, target a candidate pool, and arrange informal discussions.

I will then make applications on behalf of the candidates who are aligned and wish to proceed, coordinate interviews with the assistance of the onsite business partners and deliver/manage any resulting offers.

Avencia ensures that the offer process is as smooth as possible, making sure that candidate and client expectations are aligned, and that there is transparency through detailed discussions, enabling counter offers to be managed effectively.

How do you balance work commitments and family life? Do you feel supported to do this?

I have a soon to be three-year-old, so I’ve opted for a 4-day working week. I have been lucky enough to work a 4-day week following a 12-month maternity leave.

I find that it helps to have my non-working day on a Friday as I can maximise what I’m able to achieve in my role, whilst also having a good proportion of my week dedicated to family.

Colleagues are extremely supportive of this arrangement and I find it’s a good balance. Avencia has a great culture and is very supportive of flexible working and agile arrangements, both of which are tailored to compliment and fit around the unique and evolving circumstances of our team.  

If you could describe the part you play in the recruitment process in one sentence, what would it be?

Enabling our clients to access talented and aligned individuals who will thrive in their individual environments, whilst acting as an ambassador for their brand.

What impact has the pandemic had on the way you perform your role and how you manage candidates?

I have worked from home since joining Avencia, so I don’t have a direct comparison in terms of how things were managed prior to the pandemic.

Working in a 100% agile environment is admittedly a little different however, it is something I have become extremely comfortable with, and can appreciate that it has certain advantages.

On a personal note, given that I work a 4-day week, the extra time I gain from the lack of commute has been invaluable. It provides a great balance and increases my productivity.

Our resourcing team have a daily video meeting which is extremely helpful in terms of understanding each other’s priorities, while also providing a forum to support one another and share ideas. It’s also lovely to have the opportunity to chat on a social level.

Additionally, we have weekly or bi-weekly video meetings to discuss each specific client. It’s useful to understand where we all are with our processes, raise questions, confirm actions, and discuss forthcoming vacancies – it also really helps with time management and planning.

The sessions are efficient and largely avoid the need for individual calls and meetings with the business partners, ultimately saving time for everyone.

Both client and candidate interactions are also done virtually. Face-to-face meetings are very beneficial in building relationships; however, virtual meetings can help save time as it avoids the need to travel. I anticipate that we will revert to a hybrid approach of virtual and in-office meetings.

I find the main challenges for candidates is the inability to see their colleagues interacting in the workplace. In person ‘meet the team’ sessions can really help candidates get a sense of the company culture and dynamic, ultimately helping them to fit in.

The market is undoubtedly a candidate driven market due to the pandemic, what advice would you give to businesses on how they can keep candidates engaged throughout the recruitment process?

The key is to provide timely and honest feedback throughout the process. In a competitive market, candidates are likely to have multiple processes running simultaneously and can often receive more than one offer.

If there is a lapse in communication, it can result in a candidate’s priorities shifting, resulting in a lack of buy in, as well as difficulty in managing expectations of employers.

Even in the absence of a face-to-face meeting of the team, a virtual version is highly beneficial as it allows the candidate to envisage themselves working in an environment, enabling them to establish whether it’s the right fit.

Culture fit has never been more important in the decision -making process. These more informal sessions make a huge difference to a candidate experience, and acceptance and retention rates.

If candidates have a positive experience, it leaves open the possibility of them considering joining the business later, even if they are not hired on that occasion.

Who benefits from your expertise?

I would say it’s equally the clients to which we provide a service to and the candidates we work with. They are inextricably linked.

It’s really rewarding to see both parties excited about their new venture and we are privileged that we often get to see careers flourish and the direct benefit an individual’s knowledge and experience can bring to a business.

It’s brilliant when the candidates we place become an integral part of the business.

What are you most looking forward to achieving at Avencia?

I am at the beginning of my Avencia career and still learning a huge amount about what it takes to be a successful RPO from the talented team around me.

At this stage, I’m enjoying and embracing my role and I am looking forward to what the future brings, meeting my London based colleagues in person, and spending time on our client sites.

It’s great to feel confident that I will be supported in my ambitions, regardless of the direction that these may ultimately take, and I hope that I will be able to play a part in the continued success of the business.

I’m pleased to have been given the opportunity to join Avencia, at what is a relatively early stage of their journey, and I am excited to see them continue to grow and evolve. 

To find out more about how Bianca and the team at Avencia can assist you, get in touch at hello@avenciaconsulting.com


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